CRAFTAGON: DPNS VS MAGIC LOOP VS TWO CIRUCLAR KNITTING NEEDLES

This week I reviewed the Addi FlexiFlips. Knitting has been around for so long it is not often there is a real innovation. But, in 2017 Skacel, maker of the ever-popular Addi Turbos, introduced something new: the Addi FlexiFlips.
YouTube thumbnail. Carrie CraftGeek Holding FlexiFlips. text reads

Check out the my needle review

FYI: One of my favorite circular needles is the Addi Rockets.  They are hands down my fastest needles.* Check out my blog post which discuesses a speek test comparison I did.


​One of the biggest challenges in knitting is knitting small circumferences: socks, gloves, cuffs. The small number of stitches combined with the knitting a tube conspire to frustrate knitters.  
For decades the tools to pull off this feat were limited to double pointed needles, magic loop with a long circular needle, or two circular needles. Not everyone has loved these options.

So, when the Addi FlexiFlips hit the market, there was a palpable buzz in the air. Had it happened? Had someone finally come up with the perfect style of knitting needle to knit socks, mittens, gloves, fingers on gloves … 

Well, you will have to watch my video to find out my answer.

But, in reviewing the Addi FlexiFlips*, I also revisited DPNs, magic loop, and two circular needles. These three needles entered my craftagon: an arena where tools and methods go into a head to head comparison. I decide who survives.

DPNs and Magic Loop: THE DARK TIMES

The first time I decided to knit a hat, and thus learn to knit in the round, I did not even own a computer. (Yes, kiddies, there was a time easy access to the internet was NOT considered a basic necessity. And in many parts of the world and United States it still is not standard.) Also, as a young 20 something in Los Angeles working as a transcriber while trying to break into television production, knitting classes were outside the budget. I learned to knit from books, magazine articles, and the tidbits I picked up at the West Hollywood Stitch n’ Bitch. 

Anyway, I wanted to knit a hat: I had a pattern, I bought a pair of circular needles, and I cast on. But, there was a curious direction, “change to DPNs when necessary.” Being a young knitter who did not know any better, I dutifully went out and bought double-pointed knitting needles. 

The DPNs were a struggle. Double pointed knitting needles can feel like knitting with a live porcupine. But, I persisted. I figured out how to tame the little beasties.  

I later learned about magic loop, and it was a game-changer. I now ignore “change to DPNs when necessary” the way some people ignore swatching.

KNITTING WITH TWO CIRCULAR NEEDLES: COMING INTO THE LIGHT

For a good ten years, I happily used magic loop. Yes, sometimes pulling the cable was annoying. Still, it was better than having two different sets of needles on hand to knit a hat, especially when traveling. But, then it happened. I discovered IT. THE METHOD that for whatever reason I enjoy most when knitting smaller circumferences.

I had some disposable income and was really into Craftsy. I decided to sign up for a beginner hat class. 

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​In theory, using two circular needles is not all that different from magic loop. But, for reasons I still cannot put my finger on, I just enjoyed it more. Switching from using circular knitting needles 1 to circular knitting needles 2 is just more pleasant with two circulars than magic loop.

Also, I never loved the mouse ears magic loop creates with the cable. I like the way the back needles in two circular needles hang down and are really out of sight out of mind. 

Honestly, I think more people should give two circular needles a try if they are not comfortable with either double-pointed knitting needles or magic loop. Especially try it before giving flexible double pointed needles a try.

So, it must be pretty obvious who the winner of the craftagon: knitting in the round is right? Well, no. It is a three-way tie between two circular knitting needles, magic loop, and double points. 

I love them all in different situations

Why I love knitting socks with two circular knitting needles

It comes up all the time in knitting groups: do you knit socks with DPNs or magic loop. And part of me dies a little thinking, “There is a third way!”  

I love knitting socks using two circular needles. I am already knitting on tiny needles with tiny yarn. Not managing four mini straight needles while doing it is amazeballs. And the way the knitting is arranged on the needles is fantastic. 

Think about it, sock construction is all based on the front and back of the sock: two sides. It makes so much more sense to have your work divided on two needles rather than three or four needles. 

Also, when it comes time to knit the heel, rearranging stitches is minimal to none. If I am knitting a sock with no visible jog to hide, I place the join at the side instead of the center back. When I am ready to work the heel there is no rearranging my stitches or knitting a partial round to set up.  

The best thing is while I knit the heel, the second needle acts as my stitch holder. There is no need to offload stitches onto scrap yarn and then get them back onto the needle.  

If two-at-time socks are your thing, you can use two circular needles with one huge advantage. If you need to get the left sock off the needles, you can do that while leaving the right sock alone.

When I choose Magic Loop

The great irony is I discovered two circular knitting needles through a hat knitting class. But, I stil
l use magic loop when knitting hats.  

  • You: UH?
  • Me: Yup

I almost exclusively knit with interchangeable needles. It is quite possible to set up interchangeable needles for knitting in the round with two circular needles. But, it does require using four tips. (video to explain) That is a lot of needle tips dedicated to one hat. And, I am not going to invest in any more fixed circular needles just to knit hats. But, what I do not do is knit the entire hat using magic loop.

You: Uh?
Me: Stick with me here.

There is another method of using circular needles with circumferences that are less than 16 inches, traveling loop. Travelling loop, also called half magic loop, is super cool. Basically, you pull the right needle out to take out the excess cable creating one mouse ear. Then you knit, and that mouse-ear travels around until you complete the round of knitting. I love this for knitting sleeves as well.  

The only drawback with traveling loop is there is still a limit to how small a circumference you can work. So, when knitting hats I start with traveling loop and when necessary switch to magic loop. But, this is a super easy transition to do.

Also, I have recently discovered 24-inch circular needles and magic loop for itty bitty circumferences like the fingers of gloves or stuffed animal parts work very well. I think I have found my go-to method in these situations.

When I Choose Double Pointed Knitting Needles

I have not said many kind things about DPNs. I have talked about the struggle: it is real. Described them as working with live baby porcupines: it can feel that way. And if I have not said it clearly yet, there is definitely a learning curve to using double-pointed knitting needles. Just casting on with DPNs is not for the faint of heart.

And yet, I do enjoy them. I know shocking.

For all their disadvantages, once mastered, DPNs are fun and fast. I dare say, knitting in the round is fastest with double-pointed needles. Once you have figured out how to arrange the needles so they are out of your way, transitioning from one needle to the next is smooth and quick.

My collection of DPNs is still small. I mostly use double points for gloves and mittens, especially if there is a thumb gusset. What I do is divide the glove between three needles and then have the thumb gusset on the fourth needle. The double-pointed needle acts as a stitch marker. When it is time to place the gusset on a stitch holder, I rearrange the stitches evenly divided across four needles.

Yes, it is a lot of rearranging stitches. No method is perfect.

In Summary

One of the great things about knitting is there are so many different methods to try. You can find one that works best for you. And I encourage knitters to not only try different methods to knit in the round but really learn it. You may find, as I have, different situations call for different solutions.

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