Knitting Little Tubes: Why You Should Try Magic Loop

By Ann Shayne
February 18, 2019
Bang Out a Sweater! Start with Norah Gaughan's designs, add yarn, and you're on your way

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83 Comments
  • Hate loath detest Magic Loop…..but glad you like it

    • I’m with you—I used to work in my LYS and practiced ML so I could teach it. Even thought I used the technique to knit a few pairs of socks, I still hate it—it just feels unnatural.

      • Same here, have tried it but just didn’t take with me. Still prefer DPNs always for socks and sleeves.

    • Me too! But last week I too couldn’t find the right DPNs and succcumbed to the Glorious Magic Loop! How silly I’ve been all these years. Try it!

    • I’m with you, Deborah!

    • Absolutely in this camp – love dpns. For all the ML acolytes out there…yes, we’ve tried it…no, don’t care for it. But if it works for you, knit on with joy and wonder. I personally love the old-fashioned click of wood or bamboo dpns.

  • Learned Magic Loop several years ago and have never looked back. I use it for any size tube I need to make. So glad you are warming to it.

  • LOVE magic loop for all things tube-like. It’s particularly good for doing two sleeves at the same time! Enjoy!!!

    • Exactly! No more row counting to make sure sleeves are even!!

  • Also a Magic Loop devotee, and especially embrace doing anything that can be done two-at-a-time that way: socks, sleeves, sweater fronts and backs. That way I know I’m doing the same shaping or whatnot on the same row of each piece.

    • Here! Here! I am also a devotee of using the Magic Loop method in 2-at-a-time items.

  • My knitting career would be nonexistent if it were not for the Magic Loop! Seriously. And my preferred needle/cord (the Magic is in the cord) is ChiaoGoo Red Lace. The cords that come with the Mini Twist Set are even better.

    • Absolutely! Those little adapters to use the delightfully flexible cables with larger needles are genius!

    • I agree that these are the best cables for ML. Addi cables are the absolute worst, IMO. But I bought the mini twists and they’ve broken on me. I don’t think the joins are strong enough in the smaller gauges.

    • Ditto! I bought a set of ChiaoGoo red lace interchangeables because I do so much Magic Loop. I also have a set of Addis, but their cables are not as nice/flexible for Magic Loop.

  • Not wild about magic loop. One, I seem to get a huge runner between the two cable parts, way worse than with DPNs. And two, I find those big loops of cable annoying, particularly when one of the cats swipes at one and rips my knitting out of my hands when I least expect it….

    • Thanks for the morning LOL!

    • AND that’s why I knit only in my office with the door closed.
      I love my cats but I really don’t need their “help.”

  • OMG I adore Magic Loop and abhor dpns (so fiddly and not very mobile..) I even got the idea to knit two sleeves at a time on one long circular to make sure they were exactly even (could work well with self striping yarn with a long repeat like Noro too!) I did it with a top down sweater that had two sleeves on scrap yarn. I figured if you can do it with socks, why not sleeves?

    • Yep, I do this too, why knit one when you can knit two 🙂

    • Brilliant idea! I love magic loop on two circs and also learned them from Very Pink doing toe up socks. I look so competent doing them two at a time, too! My little secret is that doing two of anything at the same time is the one way I know to make sure they turn out identical instead of approximate. Wish I had read this before doing my last sweater. Thanks for the revelation!

  • Glad you found out how to love magic loop. I prefer 2 circular over magic loop, but it’s almost the same concept. I agree better than DPNs.

    • I’m with you on two circs. I find it less fiddly than magic loop. Maybe it is my cables, but this works fine for me.

    • Yes, I agree. Two circular are my favorite. I use them for socks, mittens, etc.

    • Yup..2 circulars for me too. And Turkish cast on for socks and Pussy Hats!

    • Yes – Two Circs! I don’t like the loop and I love working on two circulars.

  • Learned magic loop several years ago from #katalinbeth who gave 5 day learn toe up sock challenge. Never looked back. Now I use my circs for all my knitting, straight or in the round, and occasionally use my dpns.

  • You are not going to believe it but you and Very Pink have convinced me! The sleeves on my #BangOutaSweater sweater are going to be magic looped.

    • The flexible cable is the key!

  • I’m convinced too…once I get to the sleeves after the miles of stockinette that I am currently in!!!!

  • DPN’s are still magic to me , maybe i’ll Try magic loop someday but your sweater is Beautiful!!!!

  • Ok! Makes more sense now! Will try on next hat! Thank you!

  • You may have convinced me to try magic loop. It has always seemed rather fiddly to me when I’ve read instructions on it but the video made it seem less so.

  • Magic Loop was a revelation for me too. Go forth and make tubes!!

  • I had a set of DPNs once but ditched them because the unattended ones kept jumping out of my knitting. If knitting is s’posed to be fun, how does that help? I love Magic Loop because the needles never fall out, there’s only one long needle to keep track of, and I can knit any size round on it.

  • I love using Magic Loop… and Staci Perry of VeryPink Knits is a wonderful teacher.

    • I agree, I’ve turned to her many times to learn new things!

  • I agree— the only way sleeves get done in this house is via magic loop! But I do find my gauge changes—I get tighter than if I’m working just plain in the round. I have yet to do anything about it, but I have noted it. And my tip for ladders is to snug up the *second* stitch when starting a new row.

    • Exactly, Aubree! I love my DPNs, and I have never had a ladder since I learned about snugging up the second stitch. It’s an easily learned technique and became totally automatic pretty quickly.

  • I’ve tried Magic Loops and haven’t enjoyed them. However, I’ll watch the video and give them a second chance! I’m making a hat and mittens, all on dpn which i enjoy, but every technique needs a good trial. Magic Loop! Onward!

  • I do my sleeves on two circs. They are a nice compromise between dpns and magic loop. I do my socks on dpns – Momma taught me that way and I’ve never looked further. It took me years and years to realize that two circs would work better for sleeves for just the reasons you’ve given.

  • Love your new sweater. The cabling is just a nice touch for this sweater. I went from dps to two circulars a long time ago and then to the magic loop when it was first described. I haven’t looked back. No chasing down needles on the bus or airplane and mostly always having the correct needle. I always had a problem with laddering between the dps but not with magic loop, although I am always careful to tighten the yarn after pulling the cable through. I always thought that I needed a really long 40″ cable but now use a shorter one that is about 30″ for this.

  • Welcome to the magical land o’ loop! The Chiaogoo red cables are heavenly for it. My LYS turned me on to going with thinner cables, which make it even more easier and flexible – they have little adapters to attach them to the larger needles!

  • It IS all about getting the hang of it, a flexible cable, and probably easier to knit finger puppets and toy animal limbs (in which case a shorter cable would work) if you are so inclined. Thanks Ann for spreading the word. Chloe

  • Well done! I love me some Magic Loop! Been using it for years. Coincidentally, I think I learned it on Addi Rocket needles – so, that confirms your theory. Also, I find that if I move around where the excess cable pops out it eliminates the threat of any ladders forming.

  • AMEN Ann!! LoveloveLOVE Magic Loop! I took a class a few months ago to learn dpns, two circs., and Magic Loop and I just took to the Magic Loop method right away. It’s what allowed me to knit hats last Christmas. And the magic is definitely in the cable; has to be nice and flexible are it becomes fiddly and annoying 😉

  • I have been wanting to learn Magic Lopp for a long time. I think I am sufficiently inspired to make it happen! Thank you.

  • Your sweater is looking beautiful! Secret: I’ve never been able to figure out how to use DPNs – too much shit going on! When I started knitting, in Toronto, I went to the long-defunct Lettuce Knits to learn how to knit a sleeve in the round and its owner, Megan, told me that DPNs were for wusses (just joking!) and taught me magic loop in approx 5 minutes. So I never actually learned how to use the DPNs, only magic loop! That’s my brush with knitting royalty and I’ve been rocking the ML ever since.

    • Ditto K-Line More than 2 pointy objects in my hand overloads my brain!!

  • About 15 years ago I bought Cat Bordhi’s book ‘Socks soar on two Circular Needles’ and immediately began using her method to knit socks, sleeves etc. Some years later I first heard about magic loop and tried it out quite successfully. However I’d already got used to the ‘2 circs’ method and found it easier, so I’ve stuck with it ever since.

  • I love magic loop! I hate DPNs so magic loop is my savior.

    Now I just have to learn how to do two at a time socks on magic loop, and I’ll be knitting ALL the socks!

  • Tiny circulars are my favorite. 8 inches for socks and they work for sleeves as well. Zero repositioning of needles or stitches, no laddering, just go! I can start and finish a sock on a cross-country flight with this method–I really don’t think there’s anything faster for me.

  • I prefer 9” and 12” Chiaogoo fixed circulars.

  • I remain skeptical about Magic Loop. But maybe I’ll give it another try.

  • DPN knitter here, but slowly finding that I’m liking magic loop, especially for travel. No DPNs to drop & have roll away on me! I don’t like 2 circs though – too many floppy bits for me!

  • Good for you a new skill. I detest magic loop. I am working on a pair of socks with my dons.

  • Love your sweater.

  • One of the nicest things about knitting is that there are so many ways and tricks and tweaks and options 🙂 And one of the nicest things about knitters is their excitement about sharing discoveries with others 🙂

    • Nicely said Quinn!

  • BEYOUTIFUL FOODLADY, THANK YOU FOR ALL THOSE DPN CAT TOYS!

  • Maybe you should carry the booklet sold by Fibertrends called The Magic Loop, working around on one needle. I wrote it in 2000, and it was published in 2002. Bev Galeskas put her name on it as author. She edited the book. She wrote one of the two baby sock patterns. However, I wrote the book and have the rough drafts to prove it.

    My main interest was in getting the technique into the hands of knitters. There was a lot of discussion on the Knit List back in the day which was the early equivalent of ‘going viral’.

    I’m glad you like the technique. I see you are doing it correctly. It is not that hard! Thanks for talking about it. I get no payments from Fibertrends for sales; I just am happy to have contributed to the knitting world.

    • Also – now having read the discussion before reacting – I should say that one of the delights of the knitting world is the variety of techniques and traditions there are to make knitted objects. I would never say that there is a “right” way to accomplish what you want. I am happy to have added to the options available.

  • Learned ML years ago because of aforesaid ladders and because I was always dropping a needle somehow. (Also why I love cabling without a cable needle). Love it.

  • Having had massive gauge failures knitting sleeves on different needles than I used for the body of a sweater, I came to magic loop. Even though I was using a Denise interchangeable set at the time (with horribly inflexible cables), I got gauge on the sleeves. And then I got a set of interchangealbles with more flexible cables.

  • Love Magic Loop. I learned from a KnitPicks tutorial many years ago (2007 or 2008?) when I was knitting socks during my train commute and was so worried about losing a DPN. Now I may use ML or DPNs depending on project, mood, or what’s handy. Only Addis for me.

    The sweater is looking so fine!

  • First of all, your sweater is beautiful! That pale green just seems to shimmer! I was taught the magic loop technique with my first pair of socks, back when I felt that working with dpns was like wrestling with a porcupine. I’ve come to embrace dpns, and sometimes prefer them to magic loop, depending on the project. I don’t like two circs, though. As another commenter said, “too floppy.” I also love Very Pink Staci’s tutorials. They are well-lit, she gets to the point of her tutorial quickly, her hands and manicure are beautiful, and her voice is soothing. (No two minutes of fondling the yarn swatch in poor light and talking endlessly about what the technique is rather than showing you! Sorry. It’s my pet peeve with youtube demos.) My one quibble with her video is that she is making a hat! WHY use magic loop for a hat when there are 16 inch circs in the world? Hats on 16 inch needles are my favorite projects. So quick, so easy, with lovely rows and rows of stockinette without purling. I’ve got one on the needles now!

  • This might seem obvious to everyone else but it took me a while to figure out how to deal with the marker placed at the joining of the first round. If you just slip it on the needle then if you want to stop your work at the beginning of the round the marker falls off. So I work the first round using the tail as the marker then when the first round is complete I use a pin type marker to mark the beginning. No more lost, or dropped markers. As I get further in the work I move the marker up so it is close to the rounds I am working on. I always like to stop at the beginning of the rounds, especially in a complicated pattern so I can find my place when I pick it back up.

  • I resisted magic loop for years, even tried it a few times and found it slow. Then was caught out with a project finished and a long Addi circular needle kist the right size for the sock yarn I had just purchased and no dp’s with me. Halfway through the first sock I was a believer. Now I have a “knitted emergency kit” in my car with sock yarn and a circular needle so if I’m caught out sans knitting I can at least work on socks.

  • I hated Magic Loop the first time I tried it, too. Years later I tried it on my HiyaHiya circulars, and I love it. For people who hate dragging cable through the knitting, try a 32” cable instead of 40”. Much better. And dividing stitches by 2 instead of 3 means fewer interruptions between needles.

    One more benefit to Magic Loop: When I pull the cable through, I feel like an archer. So athletic!

  • I’m a Cat Bordhi two circulars knitter, with one exception – no one else has mentioned it, so I will. For tiny tubes, like thumbs and fingers in mittens, try flat double knitting with a couple of small DPNs. Years ago I did a week-long double-knitting workshop with Lucy Neatby; fascinating all the way around, but the best thing I took away from the week was an easy, simple way to knit thumbs and fingers.

    On YouTube search Lucy Neatby’s “Double Knit Single Yarn Tubes.” (Sorry – I can’t figure out how to link it for you!)

    • Thank you! I found the video and can’t wait to watch. I took a class with Lucy years ago on socks and her sock toe chimney. What a great teacher she is, and truly the best at reading knit stitches!

      • You’re welcome! I think you’ll like it for thumbs – better than anything else.

    • This idea is genius. I never knit gloves because I hate making the fingers!

  • All of Staci Perry’s video tutorials are brilliant!

  • Magic Loop will ladder just as much & just as easily as any other technique for knitting small tubes. Depends on how you hold your needle tips relative to each other & whether your tension is consistent. I don’t hate the technique, but consider it a last resort if, for some reason, neither DPNs nor Travelling Loop will work. Or Addi FlexiFlips. Conventional 2 circulars is not even in the running. That technique I do dislike.

  • I get Magic Loop, and in fact I used it this weekend to finish off a hat. But I hate it. I really hate it. It feels so fiddly to me, and I’d much rather battle with a bunch of DPNs than have to keep pulling that damn loop through my stitches. But, sometimes you just can’t find the right DPNs, or you don’t even have the right ones, so you gotta do what you gotta do. I am happy there are so many ways that work to knit.

  • I have used magic loop for socks and its feels a bit clumsy with the cable. I recently tried the addie flips for sleeves and liked them. Just invested in the bamboos flips in a larger sizes and will use them on my next sleeves.

  • Thank you so much! You totally changed my knitting game with this article! I am a beginner and knitted a few items before deciding to knit a sweater. I used DPN’s to knit a sleeve and realized I had multiple dropped stitches with the M1’s on a bias. Defeat had taken hold and I knew sweaters were out of my league. After reading your blog I frogged the sleeve and tried Magic Loop. Game changer!

    • I’ve used my own version of magic loop for years. Learned it from my father-via Scotland. I use two cable needles with half the stitches from each sleeve on each needle and just knit round and round

  • About 8 years ago, I was visiting family in Belfast and found that I had left some essential knitting equipment (DPN case) in California. And I wanted to make hats for my lovely Irish relatives. I wound up “unventing” (to quote EZ) awkward magic loop with my Denise interchangables in my desperation to finish the hats, and then when I was back in the US with internet access and handbooks, I discovered it was a Thing with a name. 🙂 I’ve never gone back, but I passed along the Denises to a new-knitter friend and got Hiya-Hiyas largely because the thin cables work better for magic loop.

  • After spending hundreds of dollars on Addi knitting needles , I switched to Chiaogoo needles, soooomuch better , selling addi’s , magic loop is a dream on Chiagoo’s

  • How do I buy a magic Loop?

  • Thank you so much for this article, Ann! I saved it when it came out, have always resisted dpn’s and circular knitting but numerous friends had mentioned the magic loop. Fast forward to a cardigan for my toddler granddaughter which calls for 2 circulars for the sleeves. I couldn’t make head or tail of that method, so tried magic loop after watching the video and voila…..the sleeves look incredible. Not boasting, just to say that I have been knitting for 50 years and these are the best sleeves I have ever done. I find this method fiddly but will continue to use it because of the end result. Thanks again!!