Thursday, March 20, 2014

Trying Magic Loop and Judy's Magic Cast-on for Socks for the First Time

As you can probably tell if you have been reading my blog, I am addicted to learning new techniques and acquiring new fiber-related skills. As much as I love to get into the Zen-like rhythm of knitting along on a garment containing stitches I know well, I also love the challenges of continually learning new skills. This is why I am having so much fun lately trying new techniques for making my socks.

I am a big fan of making my socks from the toe-up using Priscilla Gibson-Roberts' short-row technique as I have written about before. However, I recently purchased some Malabrigo sock yarn that I realized was absolutely perfect for a pattern I had from Wendy Johnson called the Serpentine Socks. I considered using the PGR method for the toes instead of following Wendy's instructions for her toe-up method, but then I decided I would use this an opportunity to try out a new technique. Not only is her method of increasing for the toe different from PGR's yarn-over, short-row technique since Wendy uses make-one increases, but her recommendation for ways to begin the sock challenged me to try Judy's Magic Cast-on for the first time. Wendy also recommended using two circular needles or a the Magic Loop method to make these lace socks. I imagine she did so to make it easier to follow the lace repeat pattern since it would have to be split up on the double pointed needles (dpns) if knitted in the traditional way. My sock is underway and going well so far. Here are some photos of it where you can see the look of the toe and how the sock looks when being knitted using the Magic Loop technique.

In the photo above, you can see how the extra-long cable on this 40" Addi Turbo Sock Rocket needle allows me to pull out the back needle to continue to knit in the round on the front stitches. When I get to the end, I will be able to do the same by adjusting the needles appropriately. (The color of the sock yarn above is not accurate; the yarn is actually a delightful shade of blue green that is more green than blue.)

The next photo illustrates how convenient it is to carry the sock when using the Magic Loop method since both needles can be pulled out enough to make the knitting stay in place but to also easily wrap the cable up neatly to fit in a purse.

You can also see the appearance of the toe in the above photos. My impression of Wendy's technique for making the toe is very positive. The use of the make-one increases was simple, yet it produces a nice-looking toe. This method felt easier than PCR's method, but I like both methods and will use each one for different purposes. As for the cast-on for the toe-up sock, I really liked learning and using Judy's Magic Cast-on. I normally use a crochet provisional cast-on (which Wendy describes in the "Easy Toe" in the linked article from Knitty), and I will continue to do so if I am making my socks on dpns. Judy's Magic Cast-on is just too cumbersome on dpns; however, making it on a 40" long Addi Turbo Sock Rocket needle was a dream. It was easy to perform and it provides less hassle since you never have to pick up the stitches from a provisional cast-on at any point in your knitting. 

I like having different options depending on my circumstances. As for using the Magic Loop method on an extra-long needles, I am mostly enjoying it since it enables me to complete all three lace repeats for each side of the sock without interruption. This is definitely the best method to use when making socks that have a lace pattern, cable pattern, or even a colorwork pattern since it avoids interruptions to the pattern. On the other hand, for making plain socks in stockinette stitch or even a simple rib, I would choose my dpns over magic loop or socks on two circs. I am so used to using them that I have an excellent rhythm when I use them and the sock seems to fly along much more quickly than it does when working on magic loop. The time I take stopping to adjust the needle in magic loop seems to be a bigger interruption that the slight adjustments I need to make with dpns.

What methods have you found work best for you? Please share your tips, questions, or comments in the comment section. Happy knitting.


  1. I haven't been brave enough to try socks (yet...I have a WHOLE lot of other in-progress things to get under control before I take up a new challenge), but I love reading and watching sock progress on other people's blogs. As frustrating as DPNs can be for my klutzy fingers, I still find them far easier to work with than two far. All things in time, I suppose. Anyhow, I love the way you compared these two methods, and thanks for the links!

    Have you tried the two socks at once on the same needles method I keep seeing on other knit blogs?

    1. Annie,

      Socks aren't nearly as challenging as they seem to be sometimes from all that is written about them. I recommend trying them from the top down the first time you try since beginning that way is a little easier. You will have plenty of time to get the hang of using the dpns in the round while you are knitting the leg of the sock before you have to deal with the heel. You can then choose whether you want to make a traditional heel flap or a short-row heel. If you make them from the top down, you will have to use kitchener stitch to close the toe and that can be a challenge the first time you try it, but it isn't too hard.

      I sure understand about having a lot of projects in the works as you can see from all of my varied blog posts and my Ravelry page. I like working that way since I never get bored. Everything gets finished in its own time. :)

      I have not tried two socks at once since I tried to knit two sleeves at once long ago and didn't like the fussiness of having to manage two balls of yarn. Some knitters really prefer the two socks at once method since they feel like they finish both socks in a more timely manner, and they have more control over whether or not the socks match. I prefer to bring one along at a time; the main reason for this is that I usually carry my socks around with me to kids' games and activities. I rarely knit them at home. They are a lot more portable when you work on one at a time.

      One last thing. If you don't like two circs but want to try something besides dpns, you might consider the needles with an extra-long cable (approx 40') and use the magic loop method that I pictured in my post. It is a lot less cumbersome seeming to me than two circs. Dpns, two circs, and magic loop all have aspects to them that seem a bit cumbersome, though.

      I can't wait to check out your blog to see what you have been working on these days.