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The Magical Magic Loop

Sep 16, 2009

I started knitting circular objects—socks, gloves, mittens, hats, and so on—on double-pointed needles (DPNs). While I enjoyed knitting the pattern, I didn't particularly like the finished object because I always ended up with ladders where I switched from one needle to the next. I guess I wasn't knitting those stitches tight enough, but as much as I tried to tighten them, the ladders remained. And who likes to think about tightening stitches all the time, anyway?

Because of this problem, I simply didn't do as many "tube projects" as I wanted to.

Enter the Magic Loop! I was at my LYS one Saturday afternoon and I saw a gal knitting a sock on the oddest looking contraption with loops sticking out of each end of the knitted sock. I asked her about it and she said she was using the Magic Loop method—which uses just one, long circular needle. I quickly found a class on this technique, thinking that I might enjoy it more than DPNs. I was right—the Magic Loop brought me back to sock knitting!

Now I use this method for almost all of my small, circular knitting projects. I also teach it when I teach sock classes. The students get two classes, really: sock knitting and the Magic Loop technique!

And Now, a Lesson for You

Most people really take to the Magic Loop method, so I thought I'd share a lesson with you, too. It just takes a few rounds to become familiar with the process and by the time you're halfway through the leg of a sock, you'll be a pro.

I recommend at least a 32-inch circular needle for socks and a 40-inch needle for hats, baby sweaters, and other larger-circumference projects. (The neat thing about using the Magic Loop for hats is that you don't need to change to DPNs to finish the crown.)

A Note About Circular Needles: Your knitting life will be so much easier if you relax the cable of your circular needle before you begin knitting. I do this by microwaving a large mug of water for a couple minutes, dipping the cable into the hot water for about 30 seconds, and then straightening it out and running it under cold water for a few seconds until it's cool. You can also steam the cable, or if you're using a metal needle, you can boil a little water in a skillet and put the whole thing in. It's amazing to watch it loosen up! Be sure and use hot pads or tongs, though, because that metal gets hot!

Here we go, step by step!

Step 1
On a circular needle at least 32 inches long, cast on the required number of stitches (I've cast on 40 stitches). Slide the stitches onto the cable part of the needle.

Step 2
Hold the needle so that your working yarn (and tail) is to your right. Bend the left part of the needle toward you slightly (but don't put a crimp in it!), making sure the bend is halfway through the total number of stitches—so, if you've cast on 40, bend the cable between the 20th and 21st stitches (photo 2a). Grasp the cable and pull it out of the stitches until your stitches are on the needle portions of the circlular needle; you'll have half your stitches on one needle and half on the other needle (photo 2b).

IMPORTANT TIP: Make sure that your working yarn is hanging off of the back needle. What's the back needle? If you hold your needles parallel to each other, the "front" needle is the one nearest you and the "back" needle is the one farthest from you. If your yarn is hanging off your front needle, slide your stitches back onto the cable and divide them again, this time making sure the working yarn ends up at the back. If you start with your working yarn and tail to your right and bend the left end of the cable needle towards you, your working yarn should end up on the correct needle.

Step 3
Make sure your stitches aren't twisted: all of the stitches should be "hanging" downward; the cast-on edge sits at the top of the needle. (Some people like to place a marker to mark the beginning of the round, but I just use the yarn tail as my marker.) Slide the stitches on the back needle to the cable part of the needle, thereby freeing up the back needle.  This back needle is now your right-hand needle—you'll be knitting onto it just as if you were using straight needles (photo 3).  


Step 4
Knit the stitches on your first needle (photo 4a). When you've knit to the end of the needle, you've knitted half a round (photo 4b, and in this photo the back needle is the needle showing on the bottom). Turn the needles so both tips are pointed to the right and slide the now-front needle into the stitches that are on the cable (photo 4c).

Step 5
Slide the now-back needle out of the stitches that you just knit so that those stitches end up on the cable. You're now ready to knit the second half of the round.

And that's it! You keep switching sides, pushing the stitches on the cable onto the front needle, and pulling the back needle out of the previously knit stitches. Remember that you need to knit both sides of the work to complete one round.

Some Pattern Ideas

I'm recommending three sock patterns here and one sock and mitt pattern. These are lovely patterns in general, but also good patterns for practicing your Magic Loop technique. Once you're two to four inches into one of these projects, you'll be Magic Looping without even thinking about it.

His and Hers Socks by Ann Budd. This is a good advanced-beginner project, with options for men's and women's socks. Ann Budd is a sock pro, so you'll be happy with any pattern by her, but because of the two versions this one is particularly valuable.

Knotty or Knice Socks by Chrissy Gardiner. This is an intermediate, toe-up sock pattern. I love the twisted stitch pattern on these socks—it's a Bavarian pattern but it almost looks Celtic to me. The Magic Loop works equally well with top-down socks and toe-up socks.

Rustic Ruffled Socks and Mitts by Ann Budd. This is also a toe-up pattern, with the added challenge of short-row heels (these heels are easy, really, and fun to work). You'll get a nice, simple sock pattern with a touch of romance in the ruffle, as well as a simple but useful mitt pattern. Who wouldn't like a set of these?

Comfy Socks by the Knitscene Design Team. This is an easy, free pattern knit from bulky-weight yarn (it's also one the free patterns in our free downloadable Sock Knitting eBook,. These socks are perfect for fall lounge-around-the-house-days. And they knit up really quickly, too!

Have fun practicing your Magic Loop technique!



P.S. Special thanks to Sarah Hauschka, who invented the Magic Loop method, and to Bev Galeskas and Fiber Trends, who published the first book on the subject.

Featured Products

His and Hers Socks Knitting Pattern

Availability: In Stock
Price: $5.00


Two pairs of ribbed socks


Knotty or Knice Socks Knitting Pattern

Availability: In Stock
Price: $5.50


Bavarian twisted stitch pattern socks.


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zacksok wrote
on Dec 27, 2013 6:40 PM

I think you have a great tutorial for ML

I teach this class at my LYS and it is very popular

I have tried a few methods to do the first join so there is not that "gap", especially for learners who tend to be a bit loose when doing this.

I have come up with a couple of methods, not perfect but workable.

Does anyone have a method they use that they could share?

If i  knew how I would def do a video about this as I think it is an imperfection in the technique we could fix. Thanks

on May 4, 2013 1:44 AM

I think I just realized what is happening. Haha. I think because it's just the beginning of the round I can barely tell but that it's flipping on it's own as I am scooting the stitches forward and their is room for it to do so with the other stitches on the cable. When I move it up to the needles it seems stiff and difficult to flip because they are not on a flexible cable at that point.

on May 4, 2013 1:31 AM

I knit my first sock recently and I really enjoyed it. Although at the ribbing in the beginning my working yarn kept getting turn around to the front needle so I kept flipping my work to the other side to fix it. It made the stitches a little bit awkward but that might be all in my head, Anyway the rest of the sock was mostly in st st and I didn't have the problem again. I figured I had gotten good enough at it that I didn't need to worry about that problem on my second sock but it keeps happening and I just can't figure out why, even if I try and tink back it stays on the front needle unless I flip it inside out.. Any help on why I keep doing this?

nconley83 wrote
on Sep 26, 2012 11:29 AM

What kind of circular needles are you using here?  I haven't found any that I particularly like.  I'm new to knitting and still trying to master magic loop.  The needles you're using seem like they would work better than others that I've found :)

on Nov 6, 2011 3:59 PM

I am always unhappy when specific people are attributed as being the inventors of this technique. I unvented it for myself  'way back in the 1960s along with travelling loop and using 2 circs. To me they were just very obvious solutions to a problem. I'm quite sure that many other knitters have done the same thing. Thanks are due of course to the people like Sarah and Bev who publicised the methods.

bee51490 wrote
on Apr 9, 2011 4:29 PM

I LOVE MAGIC LOOP! I had picked up knitting one day a work when my supervisor was bored. I quickly tired of flat objects and really wanted to knit mittens. I searched tons of youtube videos and finally saw something that looked SIMPLE. I bought my magic loop, interchangeable needles from knitpicks same day and I've been knitting mittens like a feind.

Socks are my next item to tackle.

Also if any one knows of a good video tutorial for fingerless gloves (not mitts) with magic loop, I'd be much obliged to a link!

on Feb 7, 2011 12:03 PM

I saw a comment on Facebook about the magic loop, so I "googled" it and found your instructions.  Thank you so much!  I am making several sets of fingerless gloves, and have trouble with the first rows getting twisted.  Have found that it is easier for me to knit the first few rows on DP needles, then transfer to the circular needle.  

tey wrote
on Nov 2, 2010 6:26 PM

I just learned the Magic Loop & am using it for a pair of fingerless gloves, but NOW I'm getting ladders, which I never have with DPNs. Is there anyway to correct this or at least eliminate it? I've tried tightening my stiches, but it's still there. The gloves are for me so I'll probably just keep working & not tear it all out, but I'd certainly like to avoid this in the future. Thanks for any suggestions.

on May 11, 2010 2:06 PM

Trying to find Eunny Jang's demo on how to do two socks at a time on Magic Needle. Help!  What episode # was it on Knitting Daily or have I dreamt it?

RoseAnneB wrote
on Nov 30, 2009 6:09 PM

I want to know where I can get the yarn, the pink, gray and black one, in the first picture! Now besides that I love doing my small stuff using the Magic Loop method. I have made one pair that way then I tried the 9" needles. I like both but I think I like making two at a time with the Magic Loop the best! Thanks for bringing us all these great tips!

mlt@2 wrote
on Oct 2, 2009 8:46 PM

I also took a class using Magic Loop at my LYS. My first try at socks were done by using DPN's. What a huge difference!! I am definitely a sockaholic with Magic Loop. I have knit approx. 26 pairs for mysel f using various patterns, about 10 pairs for my husband, and as Christmas gifts to various friends and relatives. I also use this method for knitting caps, fingerless gloves, cases for eyeglasses, etc. Magic Loop is the best!!

cstamand wrote
on Sep 22, 2009 8:59 PM

Nice and simple...great photos....I can do it!!! Thank You!


gaelic wrote
on Sep 22, 2009 8:46 AM

This tip saved me.  I've been trying to make a hat for my teenage son (who specifically requested a certain one-because not just any old hat would do) and I was struggling with dpns.  I had restarted his hat three times before getting the newsletter with this tip in it.  Magic Looping is an awesome way to knit in the round.

on Sep 21, 2009 2:55 PM

Kathleen Thank you! I have been looking for this method without knowing it existed... I desperately wanted a way to use circular needles without having to buy the right length cord every-single-time and for smaller tubes. This allows me to use by Boye Needle Master by connecting the two longest cords. Presto... now I can knit everything! :)

on Sep 21, 2009 2:55 PM

Kathleen Thank you! I have been looking for this method without knowing it existed... I desperately wanted a way to use circular needles without having to buy the right length cord every-single-time and for smaller tubes. This allows me to use by Boye Needle Master by connecting the two longest cords. Presto... now I can everything! :)

JoyH@2 wrote
on Sep 20, 2009 8:01 PM

Question about the turning of the heal....I'm confused about how to work back and forth to work the heal flap and still keeping the instep stitches on the needle?  Also, can you use any pattern to magic loop, it doesn't have to be written specifically for magic loop does it?

EstherV@3 wrote
on Sep 20, 2009 9:56 AM

I share your aversion (is that too strong a word?) for knitting with dpn's.  Along with the ladders, I always manage to stab myself.  I discovered the Magic Loop when knitting sleeves for an in-the-round sweater.  I use KnitPicks circular needles with flexible cables - they are ideal for this technique.  They eliminate the need to relax your cables.


laluna wrote
on Sep 20, 2009 9:11 AM

Would love a photo on joining the round and thanks to everyone for the additional tips. I tried DPN's a couple of times and just cannot get into handling them, maybe at last I can knit smaller items in the round.

on Sep 18, 2009 5:39 PM

Thank you Kathleen for the great lesson and clear pictures.  I heard someone talking about the magic loop technique the other day and couldn't image how to manage the stitches.  It's a technique I will practice and master so I can try my first pair of socks!  Michele Fanner ACT Australia

KathyS@30 wrote
on Sep 18, 2009 6:44 AM

Now take it one step further, knit toe up using Magic Cast-On and knit two at a time. I am starting classes for that method next month. I have gathered information and developed a simple method to knit both at the same time, knitting the heel and gusset as you knit the top of the instep. No flap and no picking up stitches. You can use any pattern and adapt it to this method. The Magic Cast-On and Magic Loop have revolutionized sock knitting! I never wanted to do it with DPN's, YUK! But now I knit socks all the time, and can get a pair done in a few days. (And I work out of the home, so don't have as much time as I would like to sit and knit.) Anyway, you should check it out.

on Sep 17, 2009 7:31 PM

With DP needles, when you come to the end of a needle finish by  knitting the first stitch of the next needle.  By advancing one stitch every needle you omit the "ladders"...

BarbaraG wrote
on Sep 17, 2009 12:19 PM

There is a good video tutorial on U-Tube also to supplement Kathleen's pictures. Just search U-Tube and you'll find it.

BarbaraG wrote
on Sep 17, 2009 12:16 PM

Irene - yes, you can make fingerless gloves with the magic loop. I made a pair for my sister for Christmas with a lovely shell pattern. I even used the loop for the thumb.  My 14 yr. old great-niece saw "Grammy's" fingerless and immediately had me make a pair for her too!  Fast and easy!

JayelF wrote
on Sep 17, 2009 9:50 AM

Thanks for clearing up a misconception.  I never had the desire to try Magic Loop, because the notion of pulling out a loop of my cable between stitches never appealed.  Now I'm going to print out your tutorial and give it a try!  Wonder if I'll miss he suspense of the first few rows on dpns!

(And thank you for using the terms "front" and "back" needles --much more lefty friendly than "right" and "left"!)

Irene@4 wrote
on Sep 17, 2009 8:53 AM

I learned how to do the magic loop for socks and I love it. What I want to know is ...can you do the same magic loop knitting for fingerless gloves?

Thanks, Irene

BarbaraG wrote
on Sep 17, 2009 8:16 AM

I did my first pair of socks (kilt socks actually for my Irish Band member niece) after knitting for 40 years. I took a class using the Magic Loop from my LYS. It was nice, but then there was that 2nd sock to do (sigh).  THEN my LYS taught the toe-up, 2 at a time method!  I've made 2 more pairs of kilt socks and about 6 regular pair in the past year. I watch other knitters using those DPNs and think how I doubt I'd ever have made socks that way.  I also use the Magic Loop to make sleeves for sweaters (I hate sewing seams), and caps.  Its easy to adapt the increases/decreases from a flat pattern.  RUN, don't walk, to your LYS when they teach this method. It will revolutionize your circular knitting projects technique.

JoanieD@3 wrote
on Sep 17, 2009 7:21 AM

Dear Kathleen,

Thank you so much for this magic loop post!  I love knitting socks, and I'm happy knitting them on DPN's, but I'm always curious about new techniques and this is one that I've been wanting to learn for some time.  Now that I'm enlightened on this new technique, can you please teach us how you knit 2 socks at a time on circular(s)?  That would really be cool since after I knit one sock, I'm ready to move on to a new pattern and new yarn and that second sock is never as exciting as the first. In fact, my tension is always a little tighter on the second sock, so it must not be as relaxing and enjoyable as the first sock.


Joanie Davies

Miss K wrote
on Sep 17, 2009 7:11 AM

Once you have mastered "The Magic Loop"  Sarah Hauschka's magical Unvention by Bev Galeskas  you might want to try using this the magic loop method to knit 2 socks at the same time.   It is just wonderful that your socks and mittens are identical and when you are finished  you have a pair of socks not one sock and then have to start the second sock.   I learned how to do this using Melissa Morgan-Oakes  book "2 -at -a-time socks".  I would never go back to using DP needles or doing one sock at a time.   It is easy to adapt any sock pattern to this method.   Hope you get a chance to check this out.  Miss K

JillF wrote
on Sep 17, 2009 7:02 AM

I use the Magic Loop mostly because dpns are too hard on my arthritic hands. As a side bonus, it's easier to keep track of one needle than 4-5 short ones dangling all over the place. One thing I do, that you didn't mention, is to transfer the first stitch of each needle to the opposite needle before I start that first round. It makes for a tidier join, in my opinion.