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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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Comments

Debby - May 10, 2022

I learned to knit socks on 4 double points & did that for years, cuff down. Then I discovered the Magic loop 2-at-a-time toe up & that’s all I use now. I love toe up because there is no seam in the toe area & you can try them on as you go to make sure they are long enough. Another great advantage, if you want a longer cuff, you don’t have to worry about possibly running out of yarn before the foot is done. Aanndd, both socks are done at the same time!

Karie - May 10, 2022

Thank you for this article. Lately I’ve been wanting to get back to knitting socks (I’m not a good sock knitter and because I lose interest, the second sock never seems to get done.) and will likely use my flex flips, circulars, and/or dpns, which I use mainly for sleeves and neck openings on garments.

My questions are not “on point” with the topic of this article but ones that I’ve had for awhile now. Prefacing, I hear the term “vanilla” regarding sock patterns and assume that refers to knitting a basic, plain, no frills sock. I’ve also heard about tube socks kits where the “tube” comes pre-knit and what remains is for one to knit a “cut in heel” and close up the toe end. Can String Theory recommend a “vanilla” sock pattern and also explain how to knit a “cut in” heel in a pre-knit tube? Thank you!

Kristin - May 10, 2022

I really, really like DPNs for socks. Magic loop is too fussy and slow for those little tubes. For sleeves, I like 12" circulars. They take a little to get used to (short shafts) but they make sleeves a breeze. Hats and big tubes, Magic loop all the way! Fun article!

Karen Click - May 10, 2022

My favorite is Magic Loop, though I would like to give 2 cable needles a try. My go-to is knitting top down, 2 at a time, Magic Look works well for the pair together.

I miss all of you, as I’m in MI with just an occasional visit. Thanks for the emails!!

Pamela Moriarty - May 10, 2022

I am still Team DPN, besides who wants to disagree with Beth?

Nell Yanek - May 10, 2022

9 inch circular. And flexiFlip

Nell Yanek - May 10, 2022

9 inch circular. And flexiFlip

Beth Gallagher - May 10, 2022

Magic Loop! Magic Loop! Magic Loop! 🥰

Karen - May 10, 2022

I used to be a big magic looper for sock knitting, but noe I use a combo of magic loop and small circs. I find that just going round and round with a 9-11 inch small circ is perfect for when I am on public transportation. I don’t have to take time switching needles. When I am ready to do heels and toes then I go back to magic loop. (Having already owned the needles from magic loop) It is especially helpful for afterthought heels. Also, color work is a breeze because you don’t have to work about floats or ladders.when switching needles.

Cons:. There is definitely a learning curve. It took a pair or two of socks for me to be truly comfortable on small circs. I had to change my grip a bit, but a helpful tip is using a ten inch either the addi sock wonders or chiaogoo mini interchangeables because then you have a 2 and 3 inch tip on the same needle. Having the longer needle in your right hand made a world of difference for me. I have heard it is not recommended for complicates texture knitting, but I haven’t tried it yet and have easily used them for simple textures like faux cables and pearls
I love how it keeps everything nice and tidy. Super easy to whip out my project without any sort of set up.
Just my 2 cents. :)

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