I have a confession: I really hate knitting with double-point needles. The problem is that I knit a lot of hats so I need a plan B, which in my case is using a circular needle for the whole process. This is accomplished using the ingenious technique known as Magic Loop. The method was invented by Sara Hauschka and was originally described in a lovely little book by Bev Galeskas. A long circular needle is used to knit small circumference items (as small as four stitches). The extra length of the cable loops out either side like kangaroo ears. Search the Internet and you will find any number of demonstrations about how to use Magic Loop, or buy Bev’s book from Annie’s.
As much as I love Magic Loop, I think there are a few drawbacks to the method. First, it can get tedious and slow pulling all those loops through, and the loops can stretch out your knitting. If you always keep them in the same position you can get a pronounced gap.
I’ve come up with a technique that I call Half Magic Loop. I think it’s a lot faster and it doesn’t stretch out my knitting. I start in the traditional way with loops out both sides and work a few rows, and then I switch to Half Magic Loop. Here’s how: Pull the needle cable so that all the stitches are collected on the left needle and a short loop of the cable. This is similar to knitting with a 16-inch circular needle. Then pull all of the extra cable into a long loop that is on the right side of the knitting.
Begin knitting, and when the stitches are stretched as much as possible on the left loop, reposition the needles. To do so, pull the right needle toward you and then to the right so that the stitches slide off the right loop and onto the left loop. This becomes a quick maneuver and the stitches sort of make a satisfying little pop when they transfer to the left loop. To start knitting again, just position the right needle to knit and a new loop is automatically formed on the right. Sadly, Half Magic Loop only works if you have enough stitches. You’ll find that you need to go back to traditional Magic Loop method when you start decreasing the stitches to shape the crown of a hat. I generally use a 32-inch needle to make a hat and a 24-inch needle for mittens.
A slight tweak to Half Magic Loop also makes it really useful for Fair Isle knitting. If you’re working Fair Isle with longer floats it can be really hard to control the tension of the floats if the new color yarn is pulled across the gap in the knitting made by the loop.
What I do is pull out the right side of the loop as usual, but then find a position in the middle of the stretch of stitches where the new color was last used (the color that will be making the float). I pinch the cable at that position and reposition the right loop there instead.
Now you will find that you can spread out the stitches of the old color across the needle before you start the new color thus making tidy, properly tensioned floats.Carri Hammett is a popular contributor to Annie’s and she has stitched hundreds of hats and mittens (always made with Magic Loop). She is the author of More Than a Dozen Hats & Beanies. Carri is also the instructor of Knit Finishing Techniques, available on AnniesOnlineClasses.com and has written several books which are available at your local yarn shop. For more information about Carri, visit her website: Coldwateryarn.com.