Knitting Blog

Which Is Better: Knitting Socks With DPNs or the Magic Loop?

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.

Magic Loop Sock Needles

Learn the pros and cons of using both the magic loop method and double-pointed sock needles.

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!

Magic loop

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.

Pros

Storage

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.

Cons

Pattern language

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.

Cost

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.

Setting up knitting needles for a sock heel

Double-pointed needles

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.

Pros

Tradition

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.

Stitch count

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!

Cons

Storage

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.

Durability

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!

craftsy sock knit-along 2016

Create three cozy pairs of socks with the Craftsy community and beloved instructor Lucy Neatby in 8 FREE online video lessons.Join FREE Now »

33 Comments

Carol

Using the magic loop I can knit two socks at the same time.

Reply
Trudianne Temple

Hi, Carol – Just so people aren’t confused, knitting two socks on two circulars isn’t the same as Magic Loop. Similar, yet very different. I can see where there might be some confusion. Your method has the pretty obvious name: “Two Socks On Two Circular Needles”. For anyone interested in the technique, all that’s required is a Google-type search. If you compare that to Magic Loop (one circular needle and one item at a time), you’ll see that there are some rather important differences.

Reply
Laura Swarts

Actually you can do Magic Loop with two socks at once. That is the way that I have knit most of the socks I have made over the past two years. And now that I have seen how to cast on for top down with two socks I will probably do those that way also. You get two socks done at once and they are the same, a major convenience. Of course, you can also knit two socks on two circular needles, not something that I have tried yet.

Reply
immisceo

Trudianne, two-at-a-time with magic loop is its own method specifically taught in the Craftsy class “Magic Loop Knitting: Knit Faster in the Round” with Kate Gilbert.

Reply
Trudianne Temple

Thanks for letting me know! I’ve never heard of two socks on one circular using Magic Loop before and I’m a somewhat experienced knitter. Just goes to show someone is always coming up with something new to do with “two sticks and a piece of string”. And thank you for letting us ALL know where we can find instructions for the technique.

Reply
Kelly

Two at a time toe up magic loop is the finest method for knitting socks and depending on how long you want the leg, you can use every last cm of yarn. I’m partial to addi turbo sock rockets in 47- or 60-inch length for magic looping. No more second sock syndrome and perfectly matched pairs every time.

Carol

I have knit two at a time socks using one set of circular needles, not two. It’s all in the set up.

Reply
Gwennie Cole

My thoughts exactly! I love being able to knit a “pair” together. No row counting!

Reply
Teri Vail

I only do two at a time socks!

Reply
Trudianne Temple

You have some incomplete information about DPNs. Metals DPNS, even in extremely small diameters like sizes US0, 00, 000, and 0000 are quite sturdy and strong. Yes, wood and plastic DPNs this small will bend and/or break. The stainless steel ones won’t.

Second, there are all kinds of holders for DPN projects that protect the needles as well as the knitting. You can even make your own from small cardboard tubes! “Crafty Andy” has a YouTube video on it. These holders prevent the needles from poking into anything your bag as well as eliminating the possibility of them slipping out of the project.

Reply
Yvonne

I have been using the magic loop method to knit over the past four years. However, recently two of my needles, which are a well respected make, have failed at the junction of cord and needle. They are obviously not up to the continual pulling involved!
I have since taught myself how to knit with DPNs. I find it much easier and quicker than the Magic Loop and after being afraid of DPNs for more than 60 years, I am quite proud of my 2ply gloves which were a joy to knit.

Reply
Jenni

I’m in the same boat Yvonne, except that I haven’t had the courage to try the DPNs yet. So many points!!! I love my magic loop. But it can be a blow if they come apart. And I never use the interchangeable ones because I fine the join very unreliable (comes undone, grabs the stitches, strips the thread). I’m sure if I look there is a craftsy course on DPNs. Well done at mastering them.

Reply
Marjorie

Great article. I have knit many pairs of socks using two at a time on the magic loop. It’s a great technique. I agree with the issues you state for dpns. No matter how careful, one often has to put their knitting down in a hurry and then come back to dropped stitches or worse. I prefer wooden dpns when I use them because of the feel and think everyone has their own favorites. My most recent favorite method is two socks on two circulars. I adopted that method after watching Cat Bordhi on Youtube in her Sweet Tomato Heel sock. That method would be a good topic for a blog post as it really does require some photo illustrations.

Reply
Dalia McClintock

I made my first pair last year with DPNs. Then on some blog or other I read about 9″ circulars…and after some hunting for them, fell in love. No dropping, much easier to use markers than DPNs, even knit a pair on an Alaskan cruise! Haven’t tried Magic Loop yet, it’s on my list of things to master.

Reply
Lisa Patrick

Great article. I learned to knit socks the traditional way using DPNs, then switched to Magic Loop. I now prefer to knit socks using 9″ or 12″ circulars. I find I can knit them faster as I am not constantly switching needles (DPNs) or pull the needles (Magic Loop). You just continue knitting in a circle. There are not ladders and less fussing with needles.

Reply
Paula Riley

I prefer knitting socks on a 12 inch circular. It’s so much easier than using DPNs. Haven’t used a 9 inch circular yet but just bought one to try.

Reply
Joan Kelly

I use the 9″ circular only in the beginning because it’s easier to knit the first row. Usually after the cuff, I switch to 12″ .

Reply
Ellen

I haven’t tried Magic Loop, but typically do most of my circular knitting on two circulars. It’s secure and easy to transport, and doesn’t require such long cables on the needle. Of course, you do need two needles, which can get expensive, but I think all of this is very user-preference dependent.

Reply
SherryG.

Either way will do for me, but I do find that knitting with DPNs is much faster. I am not pulling the cord constantly and therefore I am a smoother knitter. I do use magic loop to start toe up as this prevents me from dropping a stitch at the beginning stages. I have never had a problem dropping a stitch while throwing it into my purse. I wrap the yarn around one end a couple times, then around the other end, and once again around first end. It stays put this way. I think both ways are useful for different reasons, and of course it is a matter of preference.

Reply
MaryM

I use both DPN and magic loop, but prefer DPN. I use magic loop for toe-up and sometimes for stranded, but my tension is not consistent when I use magic loop, and several times I have accidently pulled my knitting off the needle. With DPNs my gauge is consistent, the fabric denser and I have never dropped stitches (and I don’t use point protectors). Since I use metal DPNs, I haven’t had a problem with the needles breaking.

Everyone’s different, and you have to find the technique that fits your style.

Reply
Kay Landreth

Really wanted to love knitting socks with magic loop but just didnt get there. Will stick with DPNs. Thinking a bit about how to secure the needles for travel – I flatten them together and wrap the yarn around a couple of times and all stays in place…………

Reply
Vicky Hawes

i knit with dpns because that’s how my nan taught me and every time I do it reminds me of her. I also use dpns for sleeves so my knitting is seamless. I will try magic loop one day

Reply
Vicky Hawes

I use with dpns because my nan taught me to knit socks that way and it reminds me of her, will try magic loop in the future.

Reply
sally griebeler

I started knitting socks with magic loop and enjoyed it. I decided to try double points. I also enjoy double points there is less moving around of the yarn and less wrist action can knit longer with out discomfort. I like both ways. Have read comments on both methods and agree with the pros and cons. So I will use both ways in the future. Now I am using double points but will use magic loop also. Happy knitting socks.

Reply
Dorothy

I couldn’t handle two circular needles, and having all the ends of dpn’s was awkward for me too. I use one of those really short circular needles (8in.) Since I found those I have been able to complete 4 pairs of socks, and am working on the fifth pair. I do use the dpns for the toes, of course.

Reply
Mary

I love the magic loop! I had used dpns for years, but then I started using the magic loop with toe up socks, two at a time, then cuff down socks, two at a time. Now I do mittens and gloves, two at a time with magic loop. (Yes, even the fingers!) I’ve even done tablet covers and phone covers with the magic loop because it’s easier to use Judy’s magic cast on to begin these items with a circular.

Reply
Margaret

While managing four needles at once is a powerful feeling and makes people think you are some sort of magician, the Magic Loop method is by far the easiest and most efficient. Thebest things about Magic Loop is that when you are through, you are through. No need to cast on and begin again. Also, the socks will be the same without needing to measure or carefully count rows to ensure a matched pair. I don’t do as well with two circulars, so 2 at a time, toe-up is my method of choice!

Reply
AnnW

I have knitted socks toe up, one at a time on DPN’s and one at a time magic loop, but two at a time magic loop (1 long circular) is my favorite and go-to method now.

Reply
Susan Smart

DPNs all the way. I’ve tried short circulars and magic loop and am not happy with either. Glad to see all kinds of way to do things–lets us pick what works best.

Reply
LDSVenus

I never learned magic loop so I have knitted double pointed, however I now knit with a 9″ circular 🙂 changing to the double pointed needles when I get to the toes :). Much, much happier :).

Reply
FH

Bamboo DPNs for me! Tried both ways, wood and metal. But I know exactly where I am on DPNs, I can more easily section out the shaping parts, I know exactly what round I’m on when doing so by the number of stitches. I get fewer dropped stitches with the bamboo needles as they don’t slide off too easily, and I also much prefer the feel of them in my hand. My husband also prefers them as they are in his words ‘less clacky’

Reply
Jennifer

I’ve only worked with dpns but would like to learn the other methods. I think the pros and cons of each really depends on the particular pattern of the project, so I think it’s good to know each. But I also think that dpns are great to know in general since many patterns require to change between the circulars to dpns when you get to certain parts.

Reply
JANET LILES

I’ve tried them all. DPNs are traditional and sometimes I use them for complicated patterns. I ran away screaming from my attempt to knit 2-at-a-time with two circulars–kept on getting front and back mixed up. I can knit 2-at-a-time Magic Loop toe up and top down but to keep two balls of yarn untangled was slowing me down. What I do is start one sock with Magic Loop on one cable needle, say top rib and a few rounds of pattern, then start the other sock on another needle and knit down to the heel and go back and forth between socks. That way I have the fun stuff, i.e. the heels and toes to look forward to and both socks get finished more or less together. No 2nd sock syndrome.

Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Leave a Reply