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November 25, 2021

The Magic Loop is a technique, not a needle! Using one long circular needle, you can knit different circumferences of project using the Magic Loop technique. It’s a great alternative to double pointed needles for working small circumferences in the round, such as socks, mitts, hats, and sleeves. You can use magic loop for any project that doesn't have enough stitches to fit comfortably around a circular needle. 

a gold swatch on a long circular needle and a pink one on double pointed needles

Compared with DPNs, there’s much lower risk of dropping stitches, and since it’s just one circular, you can’t misplace or lose a needle. Learning Magic Loop is also a good way to purchase fewer needles, since a long circular can be used for both magic loop and larger projects.

Needles for Magic Loop

A circular needle for Magic Loop should have a very flexible cable - it will be very frustrating to use one that twists on itself or refuses to bend. You can use any needle material, but when starting out with Magic Loop you may want to choose a less slippery material such as wood.

a rainbow striped sock and the beginning of a top down blue hat on long circular needles. Loops of cable can be seen on either side of each project

The length of the needle will depend on how large your project is. For socks and mitts a 32” (80cm) needle is likely long enough, but for sweater sleeves you may want a longer one such as 40” (100cm). These two lengths will cover most of your Magic Loop needs. Keep in mind that circular needle length is measured from needle tip to needle tip, not the length of the cable itself.

How to Magic Loop: Cast on and Set up

stitches cast on onto the right needle tip

Cast on all the stitches onto your needle using your favourite method, or the one called for by your pattern.

Once you’ve cast on, push all the stitches down onto the cable.

a loop of cable pulled out to the right halfway along the cast on stitches, which are all on the cables

Fold the cable in half, with the (approximate) centre of the stitches at the fold. Between the stitches, grab hold of the needle’s cable and pull it out, dividing the stitches into two sections.

Slide the two halves of the stitches up onto the needle tips. Depending on how large your project is, the stitches might be all on the needle, or some on the cable.

both half of the stitches are on the needle tips, which have been rotated so the tips are pointing to the right

Before you join to work in the round, ensure that the cast on isn’t twisted - the bottom edge of the cast on should be continuous across all the stitches.

Join in the round 

the bottom needle is gripped in the right hand, as though they're about to pull

Hold the needles parallel and pointing to the right, with the working yarn coming off the back needle. Holding the stitches in place with your fingers, pull the back needle (the one with the working yarn attached) to the right, so that the stitches slide back onto the cable. This now-empty needle is your right needle. 

the first stitch being worked

Insert the right needle tip into the first stitch on the front needle, and knit it (or purl if that’s the pattern). Your work is now joined! Mark the beginning of the round between the needles with a locking stitch marker.

Knit in the round with Magic Loop

Now continue working across the first half of the stitches on this needle. When you reach the end of the stitches on this half, the right needle will have stitches on it and the left needle will be empty.

the first half of the stitches have been knit and are pictured on the right needle tip, the other half clearly rest on the cable behind
the work has been rotated so that the needle tip with stitches on it is now in the left hand, with the stitches on the cable in front

Flip the work so the second half of the round is facing you. 

the front stitches are being slid onto the empty needle tip

Slide the second-half stitches up to the empty needle tip, ready to be worked. 

about to work the second half of the stitches

Pull the back needle (with the working yarn attached) to the right so the worked stitches are on the cable, and use this needle to work across the second half of the stitches.

the swatch is shown mid-knitting with the loops held in each hand so they can be seen more clearly

You should always have two loops in the needle’s cable: one attached to your right working needle, and one halfway through the round.

the swatch after a couple of inches have been worked

Continue in this manner, working each half of the round by sliding the stitches up the working needle, pulling the back needle out to create a loop, then knitting across the front needle.

The Magic Loop technique is a useful and versatile skill to have in your circular knitting toolkit! What will you knit with the Magic Loop?

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