Magic Loop Magic

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.

Magic Loop Magic!


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.

Pulling loops ca stretch out your knitting.

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.

Try the "half Magic Loop" instead.

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.

The "Half Magic Loop" works well for stranded colorwork too.

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.

Tidy, properly tensioned floats every time.

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.

Now start creating some magic!

 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 and has written several books which are available at your local yarn shop. For more information about Carri, visit her website:

17 Responses to Magic Loop Magic

  1. Marie Butler says:

    Brilliant! I always seem to lose stitches off the back of D E needles, but have to use them for baby socks. Will try this method ASAP.

  2. I would love to see a YouTube video on the Half Magic Loop, please. Thank you.

    • Roselyn Agosto says:

      I would also like to see a video on the half magic loop. I have never tried magic loop. I have seen a couple of videos though. I don’t understand about the stitches going from the right needle to the left needle. It seems like a good idea.
      Thank you.
      Roselyn Agosto

  3. Jean Berghauser says:

    This sounds like a fantastic way to use the magic loop. I have only used the magic loop once and was really excited about it. I too, dislike working on dp needles. Would love to see a YouTube video on this as well. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Kathy Simkins says:

    I have tried the Magic Loop and found it tedious and went back to the double point method. I think that your idea for the Half Magic Loop would work much better. I will have to give it a try. And I agree with the previous comment… Please make a YouTube video.

  5. Kathy Simkins says:

    I agree with the previous comment… a YouTube video would really be nice to share. You are a knitter after my heart! Thanks for sharing your brilliance!

  6. Sue says:

    I would like to see a tutorial on this as well, please.

  7. Nancy Noel says:

    I also would love to see a You Tube video on this technique.

  8. hwy2heaven says:

    I knit alot of hats for the homeless and yes it would be nice to see it on youtube.
    Hope to hear frm u soon.

  9. Suzanne says:

    Yes- a video is the only way I could follow this. Would love to try it. Thanks.

  10. Do a search for Travelling Loop Method on YouTube and you will find a video demonstration. I’ve been using this method for over a year and it really does speed things up, not to mention act as an end of round marker and helps me prevent twisting my cast-on row on the first round.

  11. EG Hughes says:

    I used to use the recommended 40-60 inch circular, but like you, I spent more time moving loops that knitting. I am glad you named the technique. I have been doing it for a while with smaller circulars, but didn’t know what to call it. Once again, thanks for the name.

  12. Marcia Gault says:

    I have had difficulty with either the magic loop, or the half magic loop. Instead, I now use 2 circulars and never have gaps, pulling, or time wasted trying to pull through. It doesn’t matter how many stitches you knit with, from 4 on up, so is great for hats, socks, etc where you would normally use dps. Just make sure that you can tell the difference between the two needles. I use color, or different lengths etc. Just knit from the same set each time, not from one to the other. Quick and easy.

  13. MJ says:

    I am a little dismayed that you didn’t think to twist the needle cable to relieve the stress of stitches crossing the breadth of the magic loop. I also figured out that one ML works like a charm, and ML’s at increase/decrease points (such as hats) does not require markers.
    I am a very logical person but it seemed intuitive to me to twist the needle cable the first time I used magic loop. And I’m not that accomplished a knitter, only knitting about five or six years, but dedicated to designing knitwear. That confidence comes from decades of sewing and drafting patterns, and LOTS of knitting STUDY. I’m a dog with a bone where my needles are concerned… and loving every minute.
    Still, I’m happy so many other knitters find your Half Magic Loop a great idea.

  14. Pingback: How To Use The Magic Loop When Knitting | yuyu

  15. Cate Ryan says:

    I was trying to use “magic loop” for the first time on a 32″ loop and it was making me crazy. I got a twist every time. I did a little internet research and fortunately found your entry above. I cast on for the 4th time and used your “half magic loop” with success and massive relief. Thank you. 🙂

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