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You knit me right round, baby ... DPNs vs Magic Loop vs Two Circulars vs Flexi-flips - String Theory Yarn Co

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 FlexiFlips 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!

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Carol - March 4, 2024

I use the tiny 9 inch circulars, switching to dpns when needed.

Beth - October 27, 2023

I use 2 circulars. I’ve only made 4 pairs of socks so far, so I’m still a novice. My next goal is to try toe-up socks!

Karen - October 27, 2023

I’ve always used DPNs for socks, although would be interested in learning other techniques. I was taught to make hats using 2 circulars and love this method. Maybe I’ should try that with socks.

Sharon Jackson - October 12, 2022

DPNs… I can separate a row into 4 parts if I want to which really helps when I’m doing a complicated sock pattern. It also eliminates the need for stitch markers. Pro Tip for Second Sock Syndrome: cast on the first sock and complete down to the heel turn, then cast on the second sock on another set of needles. Alternate knitting each sock (do the gusset for each, then the insole for each, etc) It takes a little longer, but you complete one sock and have just a bit left to do on the second. Seeing two socks nearly completed is a very good motivator. 😉

Barbara M. Kaden - October 12, 2022

Great article. Just learned about flexiflips. I tried Majic Loop once, I need to try it again.
Barb Kaden
Bloomington, IN

David Hodge - October 12, 2022

I have never liked DPNs. They slip off the ends and I have sometimes stopped making a hat for a while when it got to that point. I’ve done some magic loop work and I could probably get use to that but flexiflips are my go to for small diameter knitting. Unfortunately they are blunt which can be a bit of an issue and don’t go up into the bigger sizes.
One note about DPNs, when I’m knitting hats the instructions often say to distribute stitches evenly on all four needles. I don’t do that. I distribute them mostly on three needles with just a few on the final needle. That way I can instantly see when I’m at the end of a round.

Denise - May 11, 2022

I prefer to do socks two-at-a-time on two circulars. I have two 16" Karbonz needles, which are my sock needles. If I decide to do one at time, I would probably be Team Magic Loop.

Deb - May 11, 2022

I am team flexi flips.
Once I got my first set I was all in!
I never got the hang of magic loop so I firmly believe it’s a brain thing.

Mary Otto - May 11, 2022

Team DPN all the way. I make socks, mittens, fingerless gloves and small accessories (tube-based). I like the solid feel of DPNs. Circulars annoy me.

Sarah van Leer - May 10, 2022

I love that there are all these options and I’ve tried 3 of them – never used flex tips. What I’d like to know is, whatever method you use, how do you get yourself to make the second sock or mitten? (I don’t have this problem with sleeves because I always figure out how to make them flat and make them both at once on a very long circular.)

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