The magic loop technique allows you to knit small circumference objects using a single circular needle.
This tutorial is for knitting one item at a time:
You’ll need a cable long enough for your project. Unfortunately how “long” you’ll need usually ends up being personal preference. I like my needles to be around 32″-40″ long. Here are some general requirements though:
a. They have to be long enough, about twice the circumference of the project.
b. The cable has to be flexible without a lot of memory. If the cable is kinking up and hard to move you won’t enjoy knitting with this method.
c. The cable has to have room for two loops and your project, loop length usually varies by person.
Here is a visual example, all these cables ‘could’ work:
A hair clip was pulled back on them until the cable would no longer allow it. This is the minimum loop size for the cable. The bottom one is too short, there isn’t a lot of room left to knit on, let alone have a second loop (required). The middle one has plenty of length, too much length. You’ll be manipulating and sliding these cords a lot, if the cable is too long it will slow your project. The top cable is just right. Enough room for two loops and a project without feeling constrained or annoyed by the length.
For my sample project I’m knitting this pattern combined with my basic sock recipie.
For a second sample I knit a bunny nugget (project page here). He took an evening (with finishing) and was perfect for learning this technique.
I’ll be showing both projects as demonstration pictures.
* a quick note about cast on. I use a cable cast on and it will look different than the long tail, this method will work no matter how you get stitches on your needle
fingering weight yarn
32″ hiya hiya circular needle 2.5mm
Create the separation loop (this loop keeps the ‘front’ and ‘back’ stitches separated at all times)
Your stiches are now separated by this separation loop.
Of course you can place the separation loop anywhere in the cast on, the middle is just a rule of thumb. Place the sts you would normally place on the instep dpn’s on the front sts and the sole sts on the back.
Joining in the round
There are several different methods:
1. Just start knitting, there will be some loose sts for the first few rows, but the tail can close them up later
2. Cast on an extra st, adding it to the back sts when you create the separation loop. Move your first cast on stitch from the back sts to the front sts (by slipping) and k2tog at the beginning of the first row
3. (I favour this method) swap the first cast on stitch with the last cast on stitch.
(slip knot on the right, last cast on st on the left)
The first round
Now that our sts are joined we can begin. Our project is in what I like to call ‘neutral position’, both needle ends are on one side and there is a separation loop.
Move your front sts onto the front needle tip ready to be worked. Pull your back needle until you have enough cable to create an ‘active’ loop (this loop keeps front and back separated as you work sts), remember to maintain your separation loop on the other side. In the picture below I have inserted the needle into the first st.
(the pips in symbols relate to the numbers below)
1. Front sts ready to be worked
2. separation loop
3. Newly formed active loop
4. Back sts
front sts on needle
separtion loop on left
active loop on right
back sts on cable
Begin knitting as normal onto your right needle.
Here I am halfway through this first row:
The sts on the needles are the active first half of round
separation loop on left
active loop on right
back sts held on cable
At the end of these sts you will find yourself back in neutral position.
Turn your work. Move the new front sts (second half of round) to the tip of the front needle.
(in this photo the back sts have been knit and the front sts have not)
Create a new active loop and work the rest of the sts to finish the round
Continue knitting in this manner
1. make active loop
2. work across first half of sts (neutral position at end)
3. turn work, move new front sts to tip of front needle
4. make active loop
5. work across second half of sts (neutral position at end)
6. turn work, move new front sts to tip of front needle
Here is my sock cuff complete and in neutral position: