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Dear Patty,

Let me start by saying that I love magic loop. I love it so much because it brought circular knitting back into my life. (I had quit when I couldn’t deal with dpns—which I HATE). But there are two things that totally baffle me.

One is, whenever I turn I have so much trouble tucking the needle back into the front stitches. The problem seems to be the last stitch, but I swear to you I didn’t knit just ONE stitch too tight (I know to size them to the shaft of my needle thanks to your class), so what gives?

The other even more baffling mystery is I sometimes find I have YO and I have to rip back. I am a continental knitter and I never drop my yarn, so I SWEAR I did not black out and move the yarn over my needle—so what is happening?? Hoping for a magical solution, because I REALLY don’t want to go back to dpns.

Denise (save me from dpns)

P.S. I also don’t get why I still get ladders sometimes. Not as bad as dpns, but they’re still there.

Dear Denise,

First of all, I totally feel you. I myself am not a big double pointed needles fan. From the moment I discovered magic loop, my dpns became hair sticks, plant stakes and back scratchers. However, some knitters LOVE dpns. I remember teaching magic loop to my pal Penny many years ago. She mastered it and then kindly said, “Very interesting. Can I have my dpns back now?” So . . . different circular strokes for different knitting folks.

Don’t despair. Since your love is magic loop, let’s look at three simple, yet magical, solutions to improve it.

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Fixing the dreaded ladders

I’ll address the easiest one to fix first, the ladder. I find that I get no laddering at all in magic loop, but they can crop up if you have space between the front and back needles.

Some knitters hold the front needle separate from the back needle. This means that working yarn has to make a much longer trip, right across your hand, to reach the next stitch.

Notice in both pictures (for picking or throwing), how far away the working yarn is from the next stitch to be knit.

If, however, you hold both needles together as if it were one needle, then your working yarn is so very close to your next stitch, so you will not get a ladder.

Sometimes you might be using a circular needle with a cable that is just not flexible enough. You might start seeing a gap in the spot that you pull your cable through because the non-flexible cable is pushing the stitches apart. Easy fix!! You can move that gap around by pulling the cable through a different place each round.

The issue of the ladder is directly connected to the too-tight stitch issue. To create perfectly spaced stitches, we must control the path of the working yarn. Since our stitches are all connected by one magical piece of yarn, when that path is too long, we get a ladder. But, sometimes one of the fixes for a ladder, entering the second stitch and giving the yarn a firm tug, will cause another problem in magic loop. The overly tight stitch.

The Mystery of the Tight Stitch

 What about that mysterious tight stitch? You say you are knitting perfectly formed stitches. You are sizing them to the shaft of the needle, carefully using your needle as your measuring cup, and yet, every time you turn you find that last stitch sooo tight you can barely slide the needle in!! HOW you might ask? Simple, because when you work magic loop you have to remove the back stitch from your measuring cup!

Here we have the bizzaro world problem to the ladder. Since your stitches are connected, when you pull on the working yarn, guess what happens to that (formerly) perfectly formed stitch.

Notice in this picture that when I slide out the back needle to work with it, there you see the perfectly sized stitch on the cable. What could go wrong?

The trouble comes when we pull on the working yarn and compress that last perfectly formed stitch, down to the size of the cable!

Now that we’re aware of the issue, we can knit that first stitch carefully without pulling too hard on the yarn. If you are a puller and find this a hard habit to break, I have a little knitting hack for you.

Where Did That YO Come From???

First of all, you did not black out and in some kind of trance wrap your yarn over your working needle. You did however, wrap your yarn around the back cable.

It all has to do with the turn. When we work magic loop, we work across the front needle, turn our work, tuck the new front needle in and pull out the back needle as our new receiving needle. If our working yarn is coming from behind the back needle, we will get a yarn over.

Notice here for both picking or throwing, the working yarn is coming from behind the back needle. That means the yarn will wrap around the cable.

The yarn needs to come between the two needles just as if it were coming from behind the next stitch you were going to work.

Remember, if you end up with an accidental YO, when you turn and work across that needle, you’ll see it at the very end of the needle. No need to rip back, just kick that off the needle — it was never meant to be there. Don’t worry too much about that little bit of extra slack. It will work its way in over the next few rounds and you’ll never even notice it.

So don’t despair. If you are a magic loop lover, no need to break up now. With a few simple adjustments, as Bogart said in Casablanca, this could be the start of a beautiful friendship.

And then, there’s always two circs, but that’s a story for another day.

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About The Author

Patty Lyons is a nationally recognized knitting teacher and technique expert. In her pursuit of training the mindful knitter, Patty is known for teaching the “why” in addition to the “how.” She specializes in sweater design and sharing her love of the much-maligned subjects of gauge and blocking.

You can find Patty at her website and on Ravelry.

Do you have a problem you’d like Patty to tackle? Write to her at



  • I’ve had every single one of these issues and have somehow (intuitively?) resolved them. But the science, physics, hows, whys, and Patty’s way of teaching them all is spectacular!!

    • Thanks for the help with magic loop. I have two knitting friends just starting to use the magic loop method. I’m forwarding this article to them pronto.
      I prefer magic loop for all my knitting, even straight, as the weight of the knitting is carried on the cable/cord.

  • I’m new to magic loop so this is timely – I had solved the yos but what I love about Patty is I always have a deeper, clearer understanding of my knitting with her explanations. I really enjoy knitting with my dpns but she may have converted me to magic loop (though I’m about to start on a two circular journey with socks for my son…)

  • Thanks so much for Patty! If I keep reading her and watching videos maybe someday I will learn to love magic loop. Or at least stop hating it. What a wonderful teacher!

  • I am a two circs lover so I am looking forward to those tips!

  • Have never used the magic loop, prefer two shorter (20”) circulars instead of double points.

  • Just what I needed! How to avoid those icky ladders! Thanks, Patty!

  • I prefer dpns over magic loop (too fiddly and my flow is interrupted) but my favorite is very short-length cable needles, no bigger than 12” in diameter. Only for a few small wrist circumferences or the top of a hat are they still too big. But I have them in virtually every size from 00 to 8s and find them so much easier, and I do not have small hands. Addi makes great ones and they’ve been a very worthwhile investment.

  • I still like DPNs, but I’m warming up to magic loop & find myself reaching for my circs more often than the DPNs. That said, I’m turning into a serious Patty Lyons groupie. I haven’t watched a tutorial of hers without learning tons of new stuff! Thanks for getting Patty on board, MDK!

  • I must point out that there is a third method of knitting small circles which is to use two circular needles. I learnt this technique many years ago from Cat Bordhi’s book ”Socks Soar on Two Circular Needles” (first published in 2002) When Magic Loop became popular, I tried it successfully, but was already so used to the two circulars method that I couldn’t see any point in changing. I’ve never had any problem of the kind you describe here. I suppose the drawback for some people might be that it necessitates owning a larger number of needles than Magic Loop, but I’m sure I’ve used the needles so many times over the years that the extra cost was justified a long time ago.

    • Yep, you might not have gotten all the way to the end of the column where I write:

      “And then, there’s always two circs, but that’s a story for another day.”

      I can address the pros and cons (like trying to do it when you have cats! ) another day.

      • I would welcome a tutorial on two circs. Is there a tutorial on magic loop on your web? I’ve tried it thru YouTube (not your channel) and it just seems so cumbersome – I’ll presume it’s me and not the technique. So two circs might be the answer. I wish there was an index on your site, listing all the tips and tricks to make it easier to find what I’m looking for. You are a veritable font of knitting info. Much love,

  • I definitely have the “too tight stitch” problem, because I am a notorious yanker. Everything must be tight! But with practice I am getting better. And since my yanking habit comes from an absolute existential dread of ladders, using your tips to avoid ladders may help me feel less of a need to yank quite so hard.

    I like Magic Loop! And I like DPN’s! I haven’t tried the two circular needles method yet. But I’m interested..because I think I’d be able to handle two socks at a time on two circs. That’s the goal, anyway!

    I am so grateful for all the tips and tricks and knowledge you’ve shared here and on Instagram. I feel like I have learned SO much in the last few months that has really improved my knitting!

  • I knew I could count on Patty to solve the tight stitch issue, but special thanks to Denise for actually asking the question. I wasted a bunch of time scouring YouTube trying to find someone who would mention this problem in their magic loop tutorial, but no one did. I couldn’t believe it. I have a category I call “there are 7 billion people in the world so I can’t possibly be the only one who…”, but it sure seemed like I was the only one until Denise piped up with her question. Thank you, thank you, thank you, both of you.

    • I for SURE mention it when I teach magic loop live, and in my video class. That fall into the category of “it’s not you it’s them . . . it’s the stitches fault”

  • Thanks, Patty! I just did my very first magic loop knitting this week, and that simple trick of holding the cable against the needle when starting the next section is exactly what I needed. Mine turned out okay because the part of the pattern where I was stitching was yarnovers so the extra space is fine . . . Or maybe I would have been able to correct my technique earlier if it had been straight knitting? Hmm. *wink*

    I just found MDK a few weeks ago and have already gone back and read all your posts and learned a ton. Thanks! I’ll be purchasing one of your sweater classes at some point!

  • Hahaha I love that parting shot! I magic looped for years, until I tried using two circulars! I’ve never looked back (although I do still pull out a loop of cable somewhere around if I’m too lazy to change needles as I’m decreasing). Your advice is always so on point Patty, I still sometimes find I’ve not paid attention and have made that accidental yo as I’ve turned to use the opposite needle. Luckily it’s easier to spot when working on two circulars. Thanks for sharing 😀

  • Thanks, Patty! You’ve helped me with 2 problems, the tight end stitch and ladders. I’ll stop tugging and pay attention to the position of the back cable when I start with the front needle.

  • Thanks for your insights. I use a slight variation of your method for preventing ladders and keeping the first stitches on the new needle from getting too tight. (Continental, BTW) For the first stitch or two, I hold the cable (from the right needle) under the left needle with my left thumb. This keeps the last stitch on the cable quite close to the new stitch on the left needle. Then I pin the first stitch to the right needle using my right index finger while making the next couple of stitches. This keeps it from being pulled too tight or loosening up.

  • When I do magic loop, I don’t knit over the cable. I pull the loop a few sts back and then knit needle to needle, which assures consistent st size.

  • I dont know where to begin with crocheting??

  • Why use so many acronyms it spoilt what could have been an interesting article. .

    • I wonder what acronyms you mean? DPN=double pointed needles, YO=yarn over, and I didn’t notice any others. Why not just ask what those mean, if you are interested in pursuing this topic and are unfamiliar with these basic shorthands?

  • Wow these videos are super helpful! I’ve yet to have success with magic loop because of these very issues. Thank you Patty!

  • I just started trying magic loop last week because it was recommended for double strand knitting (also new to me) by Andrea Rangel in the Alterknit Stitch Dictionary. I’ve successfully knitted with two colors before (not holding both yarn at the same time, not magic loop) and didn’t have trouble with bunching. Unfortunately, when I did my swatch on magic loop I had lots of trouble with bunching even though I tried to be very careful with my floats. I think the hardest part was floats that went across the gap between the two needles. Any advice on how to fix that? I want to keep trying but I’m a bit discouraged.

    • YES!! The float has to travel the normal distance between two stitches, so when you are holding your back needle flat with your right needle (to prevent ladders) if you have a float going across the back, it will take that tiny short path that the working yarn of your active color takes. When I am doing color work in the round, I make sure that I’m trapping my float on the last stitch of the needle before the turn, then all is right with the world

  • I love magic loop and occasionally the three needle flex set . Cannot remember last pair I did on dp needles. Great tips.

  • I recommend trying Magic Loop to anyone who knits in the round, and Patty’s videos are so clear, informative, and helpful.
    In fact, I use ONLY 40” circular needles and Magic Loop for all my knitting, whether it be a mitten, glove finger, hat or sweater—and also use the circs for flat knitting. It has drastically reduced my needle collection.
    Also, HiyaHiya circs have the best cables. I grew fed up with other brands (including some otherwise excellent needles) constantly looping and getting in my way, and have slowly invested in the HiyaHiyas.

  • I can see any difference between the way the needles are held in the illustration of avoiding ladders. But the whole thing sounds so finicky, I’m glad I don’t mind dpns a bit.

  • I can’t save this article. I can’t even find my other “saves”. I am in my account but the “icon” for saving is missing. Is anyone else having this problem? I just have to flag the emails:(

  • Fantastic! I had missed the original Magic Loop post. I must admit I’m. I’m not a fan of this method that I feel like is the lesser of 2 evils. Some day there will be a better way to knit circular. Yeah, I hear folks saying 2 circs. Maybe I’ll try it one day…

    Wishing everyone a HAPPIER & HEALTHY New Year!

  • I just did a hat with the magic loop knitting. I would like to make it longer, therefore I need to undo the rows where I did the decrease stitche…about 12 rows. How do I do it….can I just unravel 12 rows and then pick up the stitches…I did it on straight needles before, or should I just live with the shorter hat?

  • Thank you so very much for info on laddering when knitting magic loop.

  • Thank you so much! As to the small stitch on the cable ánd the possible ladder: It brought me to the idea of putting the pin of an interchangeable needle (1 mm smaller than the one I’m knitting with) between the last stitch(es) on the cable before knitting the first stitches on the other needle. It works fabulous.

  • I am so happy to have found this! I was struggling with tight stitches and puzzled by the yarn overs- 1 quick read and all fixed! I didn’t understand why it was so hard to get the stitches onto the front needle- simply not pulling the first stitch tight has completely changed the whole experience from frustrating to effortless. I cannot thank you enough!

  • Hello Patty, I have a question. How do you join a new color of yarn without leaving a ladder

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