The Lovable Magic Loop
The magic loop method for circular knitting one of my favorite skills to teach. Not only is it easy to master, but it can actually save time and money, and perhaps even help you get a better fit in your hand knitted garments.
Here is a handy illustrated cheat-sheet I made showing how to get started with the magic loop method for circular knitting. I print this and give it to my students in class, but I thought my blog readers might also get some use from it.
If you follow my blog, you probably saw my experiments exploring how different needle materials can affect stitch gauge. This little discovery really changed the way I made swatches. I began diligently recording which needles I used for each of my swatches, and also began using circularly knitted swatches for my circularly knitted garments.
These circular swatches really improved the success of my designs because I also discovered that my purl stitches are a slightly different size and shape than my knit stitches. It turns out that this variation in stitches is actually pretty common, so I strongly encourage everyone to adopt a habit for swatching circular patterns too.
There are a few different ways to make circular swatches. One is kind of like knitting an i-cord on steroids. You work every row from the right side by pushing your stitches to the opposite end of your dpn or circ at the end of every row, and then kind of drape a long loose strand of yarn across the back to bridge the gap. Later you can cut the strands like I did in the picture below, but you don't have to do that if you need to use the yarn for your project.
A decidedly less awkward method is to make a small tube about 6" in circumference. When it's time to take gauge measurements, you can cut the tube with scissors so it will lay flat, or just leave it intact, which requires greater care when calculating your gauge but might save you in a pinch if you run low on yarn in your project.
I much prefer the small tube method, but this presents a bit of a challenge if you insist on using the very same 30" circular needles you plan to use for an adult sized size sweater. That's where the magic loop technique comes in handy. This method is so versatile, that you can use a 30" circular needle to knit circumferences as small as 1". This is why the magic loop technique can save you some cash–it eliminates the need to buy an extra set of dpns to knit sleeves, neck bands, or to close up a hat.
I didn't use magic loop much until I became such a stickler for swatching with the right needles, but now I've grown to love it as my go-to technique for all my small circumference projects. These days, my once beloved array of dpns is gathering dust somewhere beside a jar full of long straight needles in the depths of my studio.
If you want to learn more about how to do the magic loop technique for circular knitting, I am teaching a class this weekend in Austin, Texas at a wonderful little yarn shop called Gauge. The class is on Saturday, April 11, 2015 from 12-3pm. Call or email Gauge ASAP to reserve your seat because space is very limited! Gauge will also host a Graphic Knits trunk show for the following two weeks, which is not to be missed if you live in the area!