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No, it's not a strange question. It depends on the project you are working on. You can put as many into the ring as you need. Whatever number the pattern says to put in the starting ring. That's the beauty of it. It creates a uniform ring which is important if your project has a lot of motifs in it. If you are making a hat you only need one ring so it's not critical to learn the magic circle. I hope that answers your question.
this may seem like a strange question, but how do you know how many stitches to put in the magic ring before tightening it up? is there a trick to it that i'm missing?
i've looked at several patterns & they don't really say how many to put in the ring. they simply say to start with a magic ring. i've kind of guessed that you'd only put the number of stitches that would equal the next round on your project (ex. if round 2 has 5 stitches then magic ring would only have 5 stitches). am i correct in thinking that or am i looking at it all wrong?
If round 1 is the magic circle itself, then I would assume that row or round (correct term) 2 contains the type and number of stitches that go into the ring. So that would be correct. I'm surprised they are written that way. The "ring" - whether it is made with chain stitches or a magic circle isn't really a "row" and should be the first thing described before the rows or rounds begin. It's like the foundation chain in a shawl or scarf - it's not considered a row. But since there are so many indie designers now I'm sure they are doing the best they can to describe their patterns. If you are not sure or if the pattern isn't working out the way it should I would contact the designers and try to find out what they intended.
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