Magic loop: yes, it is!

After my success with two-colour brioche for the It's New To Me KAL back in October, I decided to keep up my upskilling momentum and try another new technique that I've been vaguely meaning to try for years: magic loop!

If you're not familiar with it, magic loop is a method of knitting a small circumference in the round; an alternative to using double-pointed needles (which I'm prone to dropping). My favourite thing about it is that the 'ladders' which can appear between needles are a little easier to control - at least for me! And I also like switching needles twice per round instead of three or four times, which keeps things flowing nicely. Another benefit is that you can use the same interchangeable needle tips when switching between standard knitting in the round and magic loop - reducing the danger of a tension mismatch. I have a jersey with visibly different tension in the sleeves where I switched from metal circular tips to wooden dpns...

Candide designed by Noriko Ho, my first magic loop project

I picked a simple hat for my first attempt, thinking it would be easiest to focus on one tricky thing at a time. I got the hang of it pretty quickly, with the help of this photo tutorial on the Tin Can Knits blog: Magic Loop Technique. If you'd like to see magic loop in action, I've included a video below. :)

For good measure, I followed up with another simple hat, this time in reverse stockinette, and then jumped in the deep end with a pair of stranded mitts.

obsidian designed by ash alberg, knit in Malabrigo Rios

Underwing Mitts designed by Erica Heusser

If you followed the saga on Instagram, you'll know the second mitt went missing for a couple of nail-biting days before it was discovered stowing away in some clean laundry! Talk about relief...

It was this pair of mitts that really hooked me with magic loop. This kind of design, with a clear front and back, just makes sense to knit on two needles rather than dividing it up further.

My current magic loop project is a pair of scrappy socks, using some pretty leftovers from a couple of different projects. Because I was knitting at a tight gauge, I found I needed to upgrade my needles to a pair with smoother joins between the cable and the needle tips. I settled on a pair of HiyaHiya Sharps from my LYS Maker Maker, which, true to their name need to be handled with a bit more care than I'm used to.

Simple Socks designed by Emily Bolduan

The gist of the technique is this: you'll begin with half of your stitches on one needle tip and half on the other, with the cable looped between them. Then arrange your needles so that you have one free-floating needle tip in your right hand, and knit across the stitches on your left-hand needle tip. When you run out of stitches, rearrange the cable and start again.

If you'd like to try magic loop for the first time, my top tip is to do what I did, and knit a hat on circular needles, switching to magic loop for the crown decreases - this way you won't need to get to grips with a new technique while you're trying to cast on.