I learned to knit socks the traditional way, using double-pointed needles, and I never strayed from that technique — until I started Lucy Neatby’s free Knit-Along 2016: Socks. In the class, Lucy reviews different options for sock needles, including double-pointed needles and circular needles using the magic loop. Seeing Lucy explain magic loop inspired me to try a sock technique that I’ve been resistant to in the past.
I traded my usual double-pointed sock needles for a long circular needle and started the Smocked Guernsey Sock pattern. Now that I’m almost finished with the first sock — check out my nearly finished sock above — it made me think about the difference between double-pointed needles and the magic loop for socks.
While I still respect DPN sock knitters, I just might be a magic loop convert. If you’re thinking about changing sides, take a look at this pros and cons list for each technique. Don’t forget to comment and tell us which method you prefer and why!
The magic loop method uses one long, circular needle that’s pulled back and forth so that you can knit a smaller circumference in the round. If you’re unfamiliar with the technique, you can get a Magic Loop tutorial here.
I love that I can just pull the sock to the center of the folded-over needles and then stick it in my bag. I find that magic loop socks are much easier to travel with, because you don’t have to worry about the needles falling, snapping in half or getting jostled around.
Rhythm and flow
With DPNs, you’re frequently swapping out your right needle and rotating the sock around. I feel like I can get a much better rhythm going with a magic loop since I can knit straight across half of the sock, tug on the needles a bit, and knit straight across the other half. This setup also makes it easier when you’re working cables or other special stitches.
Many patterns are written with DPNs in mind, listing Needle 1, Needle 2, etc. This can be confusing if you’re new to sock knitting and are using magic loop. One possible solution: Use stitch markers. Lots of stitch markers.
Some knitters find that not just any long circular needle will work for magic loop. I’ve personally found that some circular knitting needles, especially the lower cost ones, don’t work as well depending on the cord. Some cords are stiffer and don’t allow much flexibility, which results in ladders when knitting in the round.
When knitting socks with double-pointed needles, you’ll use a set (usually four or five needles) to work in the round. Read more about knitting with double-pointed needles here.
Knitting socks on double-pointed needles is the tried-and-true traditional way, and some knitters get a lot of respect for knitting socks this way. It’s almost like it’s a rite of passage before you can venture into other techniques.
If you knit a lot of socks on DPNs, you probably have a system for how you place your stitches on the needles. This is especially important when you start decreasing for the gusset. Having multiple needles makes it easy to count stitches and see where each section divides. If you’re an expert, you may not even need to use any stitch markers!
I find that when I try to store my in-progress DPN sock, the stitches sometimes slide right off the needles. With the magic loop, you just have to pull the needles so that the work is in the center, and that feels a little more secure than the DPNs.
Once I stuck a sock on DPNs into my bag to take it to a baseball game. When I opened the bag, the knitting had moved around and the weight of my wallet and other items had snapped one of the DPNs in half. Since sock-size DPNs are smaller, they’re not quite as durable as larger DPNs, so you have to be careful if you’re toting them around.
Join the 2016 Sock Knit-Along!
Create three cozy pairs of socks with the Craftsy community and beloved instructor Lucy Neatby in 8 FREE online video lessons.