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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
For magic loop sock knitting, Ann likes the 32″ length, size 1 or 2 depending on how tightly you knit. Thanks for your purchases. They make the magic happen at MDK.

Everyday Magic

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
Put your magic loop skills to happy-making work on Mary Jane Mucklestone's Destination Scarf in our bundles for gradients or for color-shifting motif sampling.

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.

Even Magic

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!


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About The Author

We think Jen Arnall-Culliford is flat-out brilliant. Jen is one of the knitting world’s superb technical editors and teachers, and the star of the tutorial videos.

Cheerful. Cool headed. Supersmart. To take lessons from Jen ups our knitting game, every time.


  • Great videos – I’ll try the travelling (especially as that’s the only traveling we get to do right now!).
    Personally my preferred method is the two circular needles method because being separate cables, I can get a really snug join at the ladder point.

    • Two circulars is my chosen method for small circumference too. And always two at a time for socks and sleeves, the beauty of knowing that increases and row counts will always match just makes me so happy.

  • Magic Loop is the only way I know how to work small circumference! I tried to learn dpns but, more than 2 sharp pointy things in my hands is dangerous;) The key is a very pliable cord. I use a 50″ cord. Once my knittin kitten walked thru the loop on my right and lay down halfway through it while I was knitting

    • Absolutely agree that a very pliable cord helps! My beloved Tulip interchangeable set (from the MDK shop) totally changed my mind about magic loop since it was the first time I used a cord that was flexible enough!

  • Well! Traveling Magic Loop sounds great. In the middle of my Destination Scarf, with edge stitches often either a little too loose or a bit too tight, this TML is a great new lesson for me. You learn something new every day…

    • Yes, I just saw the video on the traveling Magic Loop and am simply blown away! A simple, yet effective method for avoiding ladders at the sides of the garment. Pure genius. Thank you Jen.

  • Thanks for this article and videos! I have tried ML a couple of times and just found DPNs easier, but not easier maybe? I’ll give ML another go.

  • Perfect timing for the traveling magic loop lesson! I’m halfway way through a sampler version of the destination scarf, and I was having trouble getting the correct tension for my floats across the gap. It’s my first try with stranded color work, so I’ve gone from too tight to too loose. Hoping my second half will be just right!

  • I like using three 16” circulars. It is like using slightly longer flexi-flips, (which I like for mitts and socks, but seem too short for the top of sleeves or a hat circumference.) I get a better rhythm with the three circulars.

  • As a complete aside-it is a what to listen to item, but still MAGIC…Jon Batiste on Fresh Air. Listen. Be awed. Be inspired.

    In terms of knitting. I love the magic loop technique. Though I do have to re-learn it every time I use it. So thank you for the excellent videos.

    • Thanks. A wonderful link.

  • Don’t forget how handy it is to use a smaller tip for the needle in your left hand, since the right hand tip determines the size of the resulting stitch. It’s easier to dip into the stitch, when the needle tip is slightly smaller.

  • I always have a magic loop (or two) loaded with a project.
    I tend to drop double pointed needles (not good when passenger in a car or airplane-my daughter has been under seats on the airplane to find a dropped needle for me).
    I too like the flexi-flips.

    • Same here! I like DPNs fine, but I stick to Magic Loop for travel or car rides. I never seem to make it through without losing a needle or two. Of course, that’s less of an issue these days…

  • Thank you for the great tutorial on Magic Loop! Outstanding!

  • I guess I have always intuitively done the Traveling Magic Loop, without knowing it was called that! Thanks, Jen.

  • Thank you so much for your videos! I am working on my first sweater and was trying the magic loop but not completely happy with it. The Traveling Magic Loop method has now changed my knitting life! Thank you so much—I’ve already gotten things well underway with my sweater just since I watched the video yesterday!

  • Thanks for the refresher course! I still often have trouble joining the circle without twisting because I often DON’T FOLLOW DIRECTIONS when provided verbally. The visual is much more effective. Also – when a particular combination of yarn and needle is a bit “sticky” I think I have accidentally lapsed into the traveling method as well. Otherwise just giving a tug at the join usually suffices. I once watched, fascinated, a knitting group member zipping along on a complex Fair Isle sweater in the round while vehemently talking. Her tension was perfect. I’m not there yet.

    • I’m not there yet either — I couldn’t even watch a work video and continue on my parallelogram shawl – did I mention I was doing the double wide?? 201 stitches a row — 2 rows had to be tinked. I sat in a class once with a visitor to the LYS doing a lace pattern and chatting away. I also need to be careful of just how thick the accent is on my British TV to decide what I can safely knit while it’s on 🙂

  • traveling magic loop is brilliant!!

  • LOVE travelling magic loop method! This has solved my “ladder” issues! Thanks bunches Jen!!! Where have you been all my (knitting-small-circumference) life?

  • I ◀️ be magic loop and I will never go back to dpns. And I mean never!

  • I like double points. I tried the flexi flips but I didn’t see much difference between them and double points, except in the cost.

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