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Dear Ann,

Confession: I tend to resist learning new knitting techniques. This is a source of irritation, especially to me. I think it comes from a misdirected longing for efficiency—why stop for five minutes to learn something new when you can do it a way you already know, even if the whole world is shouting that there is a better, faster, more attractive way to do something?

That’s why I solemnly swear to you, on all that is Icelandic and nonsuperwash, that when it’s time (very soon!) to knit the sleeves on my Daytripper Cardigan, I will learn the Magic Loop and knit them that way. I know I’ll love it. I will be tolerant of smugness from longtime Magic Loopers: you were right, I was wrong, and I did know that the whole time.

When I can really see that a new technique is superior to the way I’ve been doing it, I’m willing to spend the time to learn it.


A Case in Point

Here’s my second Marlogram, a design by Cecelia Campochiaro for MDK Field Guide No. 19: Marls.

My first Marlogram was a scarf (which I’ve been wearing daily, even indoors, on these cold days). For the second one, I cast on provisionally so that I could make it into a cowl.

I knitted nearly all the way to the end of my two skeins of Freia’s Ombré Merino Lace, leaving enough yarn to work a three-needle bindoff that would join the two ends into a long loop.

And then I stopped. My Marlogram has been sitting on the needles and on various surfaces, in my way instead of around my neck, for many weeks.

All because I needed to learn the modified three-needle bindoff technique that designer Cecelia Campochiaro recommends.

I’ve linked to the video by P. Ricci, up top. This video is excellent, both at explaining why this technique is different from a standard three-needle bindoff, and showing you how to do it.

So, this past weekend, after one too many re-locations of my unfinished Marlogram, I finally sat down and learned a new thing.

This is Freia’s Ombré Merino Lace. I’ve marled together two colorways: Melon and Coho.

My rating for the modified three-needle bindoff: 4.5 out of 5 stars. I deducted a half star from a perfect score because this technique is fiddly, and it didn’t get less fiddly for me with repetition.

But it’s worth it! It makes such a lovely join: tidy, flat, and elegant. And the logic behind it is clever—instead of knitting two together to join the two edges, you are knitting on the RS of one side of the join, and purling on WS of the other side of the join. (This will make sense with the needles in your hands.) I’ll use it again because it looks so nice.

Tidy, flat and elegant—you hardly notice that it’s a little bit fiddly to work.

It turns out that I’m strong for new techniques, even slightly fiddly ones, when they make such a difference.




  • OK, forget the “kitchen” stitch, this is how I’m finishing the toe of my socks, now and forevermore

  • After 20 plus years of knitting socks on double pointed only, I finally paused long enough to learn magic loop, and I must admit the smug are correct— it is way better!

    • Well, well you learn something new every day! And in this case, it’s kind of amazing!

      With regard to magic loop I’m glad that you decided to try it. It is a great technique to know to have under your belt. I found that whether the needle’s cord Is very flexible or just a little flexible it can still work, as long as it’s a good length.

      My one real secret though was that every time I turned the work to begin the next needle I made sure that I always turned it in the same direction. For some reason this saved me a lot of tsuris. When I mentioned it in a group of knitters someone said that everybody knew that already. Well obviously I hadn’t, but then I felt sort of stupid. So, at the risk of looking stupid again, I am passing this information along just in case (it really does work and I still often smile when I’m doing it).

      • Well, here’s something that I don’t know, what are “tsuris?”

      • There is nothing that everyone “already knows” and you’ve just prevented a lot of knitter’s frustration. Thanks for pointing out that one should always turn one’s work in the same direction. I tend to “always forget” that.

    • Well, “de gustibus non est disputandum”, as they say. I’ve tried magic loop a couple of times and did not like it at all. Give me DPNs every time!

      • Same here.

      • Instead of magic loop, I use two circulars. It’s a great way to make socks or sleeves two at a time. Thanks to Cat Bordhi for that one!

        • Yep, two circus two at a time, always!

        • Yes, two circulars for me as well.

        • 2 circulars! I’m a diehard DPN knitter (I don’t like magic loop and don’t see a need to change to a new technique when I like the one I have already! and am good at it!) but this is intriguing. Thanks for the tip!

        • I have always used ML, and this is one of those things like Kay described – I think I might like 2 circ’s more than ML, but yet haven’t bothered to make the switch. I should, I know.

        • I agree. I have done Magic Loop, and I want it to be in my arsenal. But two circulars works really well and I think it’s faster.

      • I agree. ML is NOT less fiddley and I find it no less likely to give me ladders yet the cost of the needle to do it on is soooo much more than dpns.

      • I too had to try a few times before Magic Loop worked for me, the secret being that your needle has to be long enough and then you can use is right to the end of your hat. BUT Kay sleeves are best worked on short interchangeables, you don’t need ML!

        • Agreed! I use my 9” fixed circulars for all sorts of evasive opportunities to learn A New Thing or avoid a Fiddly Thing I Already Learned to results of ooohs and aaaahs and howdidyoudothis. Short interchangeable cables work their magic in the same way.
          I have yet to find any magic in the magic loop and end up converting the ML zealots to my methods.
          It’s important to do my part in building the knitting community. *wink*

        • An advantage of using the magic loop, or any interchangeable needle tips when you’re knitting in the round, is that the needle tip in your left hand can be smaller than the required size of needle in your right hand. Thus it is easier to dig in to each stitch.

        • Yes, switching needles is so much faster than hauling the cable from side to side and two needles distribute the weight better.

  • I love this joining technique! Yay for new tricks.

  • Couldn’t agree more. This is a much much much much much better three needle bind off

  • What a beautiful bind off! Why haven’t I seen this before? I’ll never do it the old way again!
    Also I’m a double-point needle fan (for over 50 years I think), it’s muscle memory now, I can do it with my eyes closed. I tried magic loop but it felt less efficient for me. It’s good that there are multiple techniques from which to choose.

  • Wow, those colors are so fabulous together, I might have to knit this for myself! I actually love learning new techniques so I have many to choose from to get exactly the look I want. I have Cap Sease’s book “Cast On, Bind Off” so I’m never missing the possibilities!

  • While roaming YouTube I came across the Rizzo Variation of 3-needle b/o. I used it and never went back to the other method which IMO should be retired. I’ve used this version to join seams on the outside of shoulders, sides of sweaters, and the back neck of bandana cowls. P.Rizzo should be given full recognition just like Emily Ocker and the famous Judy, both of cast on fame as well as Jenny of the stretchy bind off.

    • I think it may be a riff on a machine knitting technique where one fabric with an open set of loops is “hung” one loop at a time onto the open set of loops of the second fabric. The bind off then is done on only the single thickness.

  • I like this modified 3 needle BO, but am wondering if you can take the stitch OFF the rear needle when the purl stitch is complete? That would make it slightly less fiddly with moving the yarn back to complete the knit stitch?

  • What a beautiful scarf/cowl. As to magic loop – I have tried it, but for sleeves I love using 16″ or 12″ needles. I can work with those pretty quickly!

  • I don’t seem to retain any new stitches for very long (thank God for videos) so I’ve learned to embrace the adventure! Beautiful cowl.

  • I’ve been trying to learn a new technique or stitch about once a month but I’m relatively new to knitting (only learned to read a pattern last year despite knitting for 10).

  • Kay I just love the colors you have chosen for this beautiful cowl!

  • Wow that modified three needle bind off is amazing. Fiddle yes but sooo neat. Thank you Kay because I would never have bothered watching the video had you not been so honest about avoiding new techniques.

  • Take lemons and make lemonade.
    This join is a statement as well as a solution.
    Sheer magic!

  • What a great bind off. So clean and neat. I will might try it on a sweater that I need to seam.

  • What a coincidence. I just finished knitting my second marlogram last night. Your cowl is beautiful and the bind off is really nice. I wish I could do it.

    When I made my first one, I tried and tried to use the 3 needle knit purl bind off. I watched the video over and over. The needles are small and I was working with doubled fine yarn. I dropped so many stitches and had to rip back so often I was really frustrated. I stopped and did my traditional three needle bind off and it looks great. I will do it with this one too. I plan to try the 3 needle knit purl bind off when I making something with larger needles and heavier weight yarn.

  • It was a very informative video and excellently explained. I feel confident that I could do it. Thank you.

  • I’m a lifelong MLer, though I first used dpn’s and they seemed much more fiddly to me. But, sleeves and ML are rather fiddly too. I like ML best for making top down sweaters. At the neck with a smaller circumference, I use a 40″ cord. Then, I switch to 60″ as the circumference grows. Yay interchangeable needles. The trick for me on ML is to always use a very long cord, so plenty of room to slide the fabric around.

  • I love the way you joined your mailgram, looks beautiful! And your letters always give me a chuckle, thanks for that.

  • For me, the Magic Loop is the worst of all options and I avoid it whenever possible. First choice? Very short cable needles, although holding onto them takes a bit of getting used to. Second? DP needles. A close third? Two 16” cable needles, which is how I learned to knit sleeves in the round. It means having duplicates of whatever sizes you might need but, hey, can a girl have too many needles?!

    • With interchangeable needles you technically only need one set of the gauge size needle. Only the knitting end (on each of the two circulars) needs to be the correct needle size. The other end can be any smaller size. For sleeves on two circulars, I use the gauge size needle on the knitting ends and a needle two sizes smaller for the knitting off of ends. Each time you come back around to the next needle, the correct size is waiting for you.

    • No. No, she cannot.

  • I love this trick! TOTALLY taking the time to learn it!

  • I like ML for socks and sleeves two-at-a-time (it is easier for me to have them match) and for hats. I’m looking forward to this bind off on my Spectra sweater, which I won’t be able to finish until May. I think it will be a great sweater for Spring in the Pacific Northwest.

  • Now I’m gonna have to take what’s left of my Frei balls and make a little cowl……

  • I am trying out new tricks now that I have more time….family grown, pandemic, etc. I am sure this will be my new 3 needle bind off. Thanks so much for posting. Your cowl is beautiful and worth the effort of learning a new technique!

  • Congratulations and thank you for reminding me to learn new techniques

  • Ok, ok. I will try the magic loop. sigh.

  • Easy and beautiful! I saved this article, and will apply it to the socks that I am knitting, my portable work project.

  • OMGwhere have you been all my life modified 3-needle bind off?!?!

  • This is one of those duh, why didn’t I think of that type of genius innovations. Love it!

    I do throw generally, but am comfortable with two handed colorwork and picking (being a crocheter is helpful in this regard, and in general I am a bistitchuality advocate). I’m totally going to try this the continental way to avoid all that back and forth of the yarn.

  • Modified three needle bind off is a game changer! Love the neat finish! Thank you MDK for including the link with the Marlogram! Love your colors! And as for the Magic Loop debate, I’ll take two circulars or magic loop over DPNs any day! Favorite sleeve island method calls for a long circular for knitting two sleeves at a time. Instant matching and best, no second sleeve! Winner winner chicken dinner!

  • Count me a smug magic looper! But only with Chiaogoo red cables. My LYS helpfully hinted that the mini size cables can be attached to any size Chiaogoo needles with adapters. I do find other cables significantly more difficult and not worthwhile except for two circs.

  • L-o-o-ve your Marlogram colors, But unfortunately golden yellow is not flattering on me, personally, so your bold combination has given me the courage to go a few steps away on the color wheel with Lemon yellow and purple, something I rarely see these days.
    Kay, learning Magic Loop on sweater sleeves sounds to me like an invitation to disaster if you are knitting from the sweater armhole down, especially if you are a ML beginner. You are not only turning the sleeves but also a big heavy sweater. Who wants that? However it seems doable if you are knitting the sleeves separately. Although, of course, sleeves are famously long no matter which method you use. And I also strongly recommend a 32” or longer cord for sleeves. Maybe even 40” for a sweater body and probably 24” is enough for baby clothes. And I am also a big Chiao Goo fan but addis have worked just fine too. Thanks for the modified 3-needle bindoff! I’ve been nervous about trying that. Chloe

  • this reminds me of kitchner closing in a way. i love this seaming!!

  • This new bind off looks really nice but I need a chant to remember how to move my yarn around.

  • oh, we all may dither about some new tricks and then those tricks often turn out So Stupendous! Thanks for that

  • Thanks for bringing this technique to our attention. I have never really liked the 3 needle bind off because it always looked a little messy. I will definitely try this technique the next time.

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