Apr 7, 2015

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.

So many of my designs utilize circular knitting, including 4 out of the 5 designs in my new book. Speaking of, if you haven't seen Homage: Knit Darling Book 2 book yet, go check it out! The collection features 5 gorgeous new knitting patterns inspired by Modernist art and design, each piece honoring a different pioneering female artist from history. I could not be prouder of the collection!


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    over 6 years ago

    Great info! Hope to see you at Gauge again sometime!

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    Alexis Winslow
    over 6 years ago

    Thanks Brenda! I had such a great time at Gauge, and I hope to return soon!

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    almost 6 years ago

    It is rare that I come across something that is so useful! I have been wondering how I could knit some socks without having to go buy new circular needles, you just showed me how!! Thank you for such a wonderful lesson! - t

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    Lee Anm
    almost 6 years ago

    Thanks for posting this information on circular knitting. :)

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    over 4 years ago

    I was so pleased to find an easy to read cheat sheet for magic loop, as I just can't grasp it from watching videos. Unfortunately, when I try to print this off, it doesn't all fit on the page and cuts off step 5 and 6. Any suggestions?

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    Alexis Winslow
    over 4 years ago

    Hi Diana- I'm so glad you found my magic loop instructions helpful. You're in luck because I created a pdf for my magic loop workshop that is conveniently letter sized, and I'm happy to share it with you via email.

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    Maureen Lederer
    over 4 years ago

    Hi Alexis! Would you please send me a copy of your magic loop. My granddaughter gave me a pattern of a hat that requires the loop system and I can't seem to get the hang of the video either. I'm doing something wrong. Thanx very much for your help.

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    almost 4 years ago

    would you please also email me a copy of magic loop pdf so nice of you to put this together thanx

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    Joyce Sirles
    over 3 years ago


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    Dianne Rathe
    over 3 years ago

    I too cannot print off the Magic Loop instructions as seen. Will you please send me a copy of your magic loop pattern. The pictures are so helpful and I am a new knitter. Thanks so much!

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    over 2 years ago

    Thank you for the magic loop instructions! Would it be possible for you to e-mail me the pdf of your instructions to have on hand until I master the technique? Thanks so much ~

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