Tips with Trish – Demystifying Magic Loop

If you’ve never tried the Magic Loop Technique for knitting small circumferences, you’re probably wondering what is so magical about it.

For a long time, I avoided trying alternate techniques to double pointed needles, believing that if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. I was fine with my trusty dpn’s; I had mastered ladders, why switch now? Then one day I was working the decreases on a hat pattern and the first stitch was a yarn over. Have you ever tried to keep a YO on a dpn with no other stitch to anchor it in place? Frustration ensued. My yarn was a black fingering weight and my pattern was lace – finding the dropped YO was not happening. After repeated unsuccessful attempts I decided it was time to learn Magic Loop.

I slipped all my stitches onto a long circular needle, counted to the centre stitch, pulled my cord through and gave it a shot. It took a while to get used to it, but do you know what? That YO had nowhere to go! It simply couldn’t fall off the needle because the cord saved it. My life was eternally changed! Fast forward ten years and I only use Magic Loop now. For socks, hats, sweater sleeves – everything I knit in the round I knit Magic Loop.

I would recommend to anyone who is new to Magic Loop to try it for the first time on existing knitting, for example, when you start the decreases on a hat. Because this is such a different way to manipulate the needles it’s much easier to get your head, and hands, around it when you’ve got some fabric established than by starting from scratch with the cast on. Learning Magic Loop mid-project gives you the opportunity to better see what’s happening with the needles and the cords to magically allow you to knit in the round.

Once you understand how to move your needles and stitches properly it’s time to cast on and join in the round to work Magic Loop. The only criterion for Magic Loop is that you use a long circular needle, at least 32″, or 40″ if you’re doing two-at-a-time socks. Any number of stitches can be joined to work in the round which makes Magic Loop perfect for projects that have you cast on just four, six or eight stitches to join in the round. Cast on all your stitches as you would normally. In the picture below I’ve cast on 64 stitches for the cuff of a sock on a 40″ circular needle.

While we’re on the subject of Magic Loop, let’s talk about circular needles. I’m a bit like Goldilocks when it comes to needles, I had to try them all to find the ones that were just right for me. Some were too dull, others were too pointy, and some had stiff cables. I found my happy place with ChiaoGoo Red Lace Stainless Steel Circulars. Made of surgical-grade stainless steel, they have a smooth, satin-sheen finish and a memory free cable that is out of this world. The spectacular lace tips and joins are precisely machined and are lightweight and strong.

Once you have all your stitches cast on, count to the halfway point – in my case that’s 32 stitches. Pinch the cable of your needle so that you can pull it through at the halfway point as in the image below.

It looks a bit crazy, but you can begin to see how the stitches will become one continuous circle. The bottom needle contains the first 32 stitches that were cast on, and the upper needle contains the last 32 and has the working yarn attached. Pull on the tip of the upper needle until about half of the cable is pulled through, the other half is still at the midway point. Using the needle with the working yarn attached, simply begin knitting across the stitches on the bottom needle as shown in the picture below.

In this picture, you can really see why it’s important to have a circular needle with a memory-free cable. Because you are essentially making ears with the cable of the needle, twisted and kinked cables can be frustrating and time consuming. Once you’ve knit across the first 32 stitches, turn your work to knit across the remaining 32 stitches in exactly the same way you did above. You may find the first few rows are a little fiddly, but they are with dpn’s as well, and as knitters, no one is better at fiddling than we are! Continue in this manner, knitting across half the stitches on one needle, and then across the other half. You must knit across both needles to complete a full round.

Be sure to check your local yarn shop to see their selection of ChiaoGoo needles and accessories. Available in steel and bamboo, in every size and length imaginable, you won’t be disappointed.

And check out our website to view the full range of products from ChiaoGoo including crochet hooks, dpns, fixed circulars and interchangeable sets. ChiaoGoo even make interchangeable needles as small as 1.5mm (US000), and as short as 9” (23cm) – ChiaoGoo has all your needle needs covered!

Here’s hoping that these little tricks will help you on your circular knitting journey. Remember, there’s no right or wrong way to knit in the round, it’s all about what works best for you.

Happy Magic Looping Knitters!

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