Little Lessons: Magic Loop
When you immerse yourself in a skill you have to learn a new language, and sometimes the terminology of that language is particularly intriguing. I’ve been glued to Netflix series Blown Away, as well as The Great Pottery Throw Down on Channel 4 here in the UK, and I’m finding it hard to quell my desire to experiment with a punti or to try naked raku!
[Editor’s Note: this is naked raku. Just What did you think jen meant?]
When I first started to stretch my knitting wings, I went on a visit to a local yarn shop where I met with other knitters (remember how fun that was?), and one kind lady showed me a few different ways to knit socks. The most tantalizing method she talked about was the Magic Loop …
Show me this thing! If ever there was a bit of jargon that intrigued me it was this most magical of loops. What was it all about?
In the MDK Shop
Magic loop is a clever way to use a long circular needle to knit a small circumference in the round. It is absolutely brilliant for knitting socks, sleeves, hats, mittens—basically any bit of smaller knitting that you like.
It’s particularly brilliant for things where the circumference changes—the toes of socks or the crown of a hat. You can just use one set of needles throughout, without changing (to dpns or a smaller circumference circular needle) as the number of stitches decreases.
This is the launch position for magic loop: both needle tips pointing to the right, with a loop of cable pulled out between the stitches roughly half way around the round. From this point, the magic happens
In The MDK Shop
In the following video I’ll take you through how to set up to start working with the magic loop, and show you how it looks once you have worked a bit more fabric. You simply need a circular needle approximately 80–100cm [32–40in] long, in the correct size for your yarn.
Video notes: If you are watching on YouTube, you can hover over the time bar to see the different sections of the video, which is handy if there’s a particular thing you want to re-watch. The video also has subtitles which you can display by clicking on the CC button.
People sometimes find it a bit tricky to maintain an even tension at the change between needle tips. It is quite common for a ladder to form at that point, where there is a bit of excess yarn between the last stitch on one needle and the first stitch on the next.
A common variation on Magic Loop—the Travelling Magic Loop—will eliminate that problem. Is it just me, or does Travelling Magic Loop sound even more entertaining? It has a hint of medieval about it.
This is my preferred method—it’s just a matter of personal preference, but I do like a system that means I always start knitting with the previous stitch on my right needle tip, rather than on cable.
There isn’t a right or wrong though, it’s totally up to you!
Magic for Everybody
Finally, I’d like to note that, although I’m singing the praises of the magic loop today, that doesn’t mean I dislike other ways of knitting small circumferences! I love my double-pointed needles, and I am totally happy on those itty bitty tiny circulars—I even enjoy dabbling with those new-fangled Addi FlexiFlips (CraSy Trios here in the UK) from time to time. Each method has its uses in my book.
Here’s how I mix it up: I use double-pointed needles for finer knitting (up to an including US 3 / 3mm) and magic loop for anything larger. And for Judy’s Magic Cast On, in my opinion the FlexiFlips can’t be beaten.
I’m a huge believer in trying everything, and then using what works best for you—or just what you have to hand in that moment! I think a bit of variety is more fun. And probably better for your hands.
Happy magic looping!