You knit me right round, baby ... DPNs vs Magic Loop vs Two Circulars vs Flexi-flips
Just like that little factoid about how you’re always a few feet from a spider (it’s a myth, by the way; you can relax now), I am usually about five feet from an unfinished sock.
Socks are my traveling friends. Need something to do during a boring meeting? I knit a sock. Car trip? I knit a sock. Hanging out with friends? I knit a sock.
Therefore, it is no exaggeration to say that if there is a way to knit a sock, I’ve probably tried it. Or I’m going to.
My favorite method is top down, two 16-inch circulars.
However, I learned to knit socks on DPNs and sometimes use Magic Loop for sweater sleeves, mittens and hats, because we contain multitudes and it’s helpful to know a couple ways to knit a thing.
If you feel like trying something new, here’s a roundup of some of the most common ways to knit socks and other tubes, collected from an informal survey of STYC employees.
DPNs: The old-school go-to for knitting-in-the-round, double-pointed-needles are easy to find, inexpensive and adaptable for whatever size tube you might want to knit. I like them for making I-cord. Beth loves the rhythm of working with DPNs and the speed of not having to manipulate circular needle cables. Stranded colorwork is easy – just flatten your needles to avoid stretching floats.
Her rule of thumb is simple: If the tube is less than 16 inches in diameter, she puts it on DPNs. If it’s more than 16 inches, she puts it on a circular needle.
Although Beth says she has only ever lost one DPN, I … have lost more than that, usually under car and airplane seats. I also tend to drop more stitches off the ends of DPNs, but I never use a DPN keeper, so perhaps there’s a connection.
Magic Loop: One long circular needle knits all sizes of tubes. Just get one with a lot of room on the cable, because you’ll need it. The simplicity can’t be beat. Emily is a huge fan - she uses it for everything - because you need fewer needles, you don’t drop stitches and you don’t need as many stitch markers.
On the other hand, she says sometimes colorwork floats are awkward when they line up with the “loop” of Magic Loop, and sock heels sometimes need more consideration because very few patterns give Magic Loop directions.
Some of us are Magic-Loop-sometimes. Liz uses it for sweater sleeves and tried it on a hat once. But regardless of how often you use it, get needles with the most flexible cables you can - that makes your Magic Looping painless and fun.
Two circulars: This is my favorite way to knit socks. It’s easy to keep my instep and heel stitches straight, and I like being able to knit half the stitches before switching to the other needle. I don’t lose them under car seats and I have never gotten confused and pulled a needle out, leaving my live stitches hanging. (Looking at you, DPNs.) I find the first half-inch of a sock easiest to make using this method.
On the other hand, you need two needles of the same length and size, and Magic Loop proponents often say, well, why not just use one needle?
FlexiFlips: Izzy loves these for sock-knitting. They’re flexible, like circular needles, but short, like DPNs. You only need a set of three to knit in the round, compared to four or five DPNs.
The unexpected bonus?
“If you hypothetically lost one of your FlexiFlips, you can buy another set and knit two socks at once and use the third needle for both of them,” Izzy said. “Not like that happened to me or anything.”
For those of us who aren’t FlexiFlip converts, it’s mostly because the needle shafts are short and don’t feel comfortable in our hands.
Where do you fall? Team DPN? Magic-Loop-Forever? Somewhere in the middle? Let us know in the comments!