Sunday, May 03, 2009

Magic Loop & a Question for My Readers

It's no secret that I'm a rabid sock knitter. And that my needles of choice are dpns.

As Knitty's sock queen technical editor for socks, I encounter a lot of patterns written specifically for Magic Loop.

Now, I am competent with the Magic Loop technique (video from I've even taught a workshop on it. But I'm not a fan.

I've been told that people like it because it's easier to manage than dpns. And that it reduces the risk of ladders (loose stitches between the needles).

I find the long cord, and all the pulling makes it tangly and annoying. And the ladders were actually worse. The thing is, it's really all about comfort and how I hold my needles. I get that. Ultimately, it should be the knitter's own choice.

I hate to be prescriptive about it.

Which makes me *faintly* embarrassed that all my sock patterns are written specifically for dpns. And makes me wonder about sock patterns that are written specifically for one needle type or another.

Me, I am miffed when I see a sock pattern written for magic loop, since I know I'll need to do some thinking to convert it.

So, blogiverse, a question: if you're a magic loop knitter, what do you do when you see a sock pattern written specifically for dpns? Do you convert it, or just ignore it? And if you're a dpn knitter, what do you do with sock patterns written specifically for magic loop - convert or ignore? More importantly, should we be demanding sock patterns that are fully general, allowing the knitter to choose the needles to be used? Would love to hear your thoughts.


Georgiana said...

I only ever use magic loop - I drop DPNs too much, and I find two circs a bit clunky. If I'm faced with a pattern that specifies DPNs, it's usually pretty easy for me to figure out what belongs where. I do prefer it when the designer has done the head-scratching for me, though, and I sometimes find it off-putting when a design supposedly demands a particular type of needle - depending how cranky I'm feeling that day :)

MM Jones said...

I'm a DPN knitter and I only look for DPN patterns.

luneray said...

I'm a rabid sock knitter too, but I doubt I would be if it weren't for magic loop. I could never get the hang of dpns--I kept dropping needles and could never figure out how to hold the needles so that they wouldn't poke my hands. (Ok, I still sometimes drop the needle while using magic loop, only it doesn't roll away. a definite plus!)

Here's a question for dpn users--does it cause confusion if the pattern is written if the sock is divided over three dpns or four? I prefer it if the pattern notes which stitches are instep and which are sole. That usually become pretty clear while knitting but I get annoyed when seeing directions like "move the first stitch from needle 1 to needle 4" because I then have to go back and figure out if needle 1 &2 are instep/sole or are needles 1&4 instep/sole.

What I wish patterns would note more often is if the beginning of the round is the over the ankle or centered at the back of the leg.

However, I knit left-handed, so I'm used to having to decipher patterns all the time. Everything I do is reversed anyway, from the way stitches need to be slipped, and cables crossed, and decrease directions. I'm a big fan of charted patterns!

SJ2B said...

I'm a dpn knitter and have only attemtped patterns written for dpn's. On a recent pattern for a knit-along I had horrendous ladders (due to the rounds being purled throughout). I had no previous ladder problems in the knitted rounds. However, I thought I'd try to learn the magic loop method and just found it too fiddly for me and gone back to dpn's. I might give it another go just so I can try the alternative patterns if I choose to. My comfort zone though, is dpn's and the basic ribbed sock of yours lol

Stashaholic said...

I'm fluently bilingual in both methods. I prefer ML for subway knitting (having had to chase a dpn down a subway train made me an instant fan), as well it doesn't get caught under sweaters and coats like dpn's do.

BUT I always turn my heel on dpn's. I don't like the difference in height on a ML.

I float back and forth between the methods. Really it's not any difference to me whether you're on one needle or four. What annoys me more is dpn patterns written for three needles with the fourth being the working one. That I find frustrating.

TracyKM said...

I don't see what needs to be converted (usually). The heel is always at the middle back. LOL. Now, if it's written for 4 dpn, then the heel is usually split in the middle, but just put the ML 'seam' there (I usually do ML with just one loop, if I can). If it's for 5 dpns, then ML works fine; vice versa.
I do both ML and dpns, probably equally. Right now I'm doing two pairs of socks, from the toe up, both of each pair at the same time on one circular---I think ML is great for doing two at once, and for travelling. I don't think it's much faster, if at all. Not sure about ladders.
But, I have to say, most of my socks are not 'real' patterns :)
(I'll get back to you on the Kroy yarn tomorrow I hope).

traveller's yarn said...

I'm a rabid ML'er and generally use DPN patterns with very little difficulty.

sarah said...

I switched to magic loop on my very first pair of socks, years ago, and never looked back! I just found DPN's awkward, and didn't like the ladders. I still get ladders with magic loop sometimes, but at least there's only two, and usually they're right at the sides, and it could almost be passed off as a design feature!
most sock patterns (well, the ones I like best) simply say how many stitches are in a row, and let you work out where they should all be. With magic loop it's easy -half and half, except on the gusset, when I've got way more on one then the other.
If i never knit a sock that wasn't written for magic loop, I wouldn't make many socks!

tapeheads said...

I used to use dpn's but I kept having irritating little problems with them including losing or breaking them constantly which meant I kept having to buy more sets of them.
I actually started using ML because I was working on a sleeve in the round and I kept getting huge ladders no matter what I did.
Now I use ML exclusively.
As for patterns, as someone said before me, I wish designers would stop refering to needles 1, 2, 3, etc. Maybe use pattern repeats as a point of reference instead. Except for having to go back in the pattern to figure out where they mean in those circumstances, I find converting dpn patterns to ML not that much of a problem.

Sel and Poivre said...

For me, the ladders on ML are not worth the convenience on the subway and non knitters are always so mystified by the sight of 4 or 5needles in the round its much more fun to knit in public using them just for the stares!;)

As mentioned in another comment I also like to use the numbered needles to track where I am in a pattern.

As for patterns, there are more sock patterns around than I will ever get to so I wouldn't bother with one that stipulates ML.

Kirsten said...

I guess I haven't used enough sock patterns yet (or read them carefully enough!) to notice that they were written for a particular method.

I used DPNs for the first few socks I knit, because that was what I had. (That included the first pair of Widdershins.) I switched a pair of socks mid-stream from DPNs to magic loop, mostly because I needed to do two at once to make the wool work out evenly, but also just because I bought the needle and wanted to try it.

With the Shelridge farm wool I just bought, I started with the magic loop, then pulled it out and re-started with the DPNs... but it had to do with the size of the needles I have, not because I wanted to use either technique, particularly.

I've never had problems with ladders with either method, but I'm a pretty tight knitter. Most of my sock knitting is on the subway or even walking to work, so one needle has big advantages over five.

Paisley said...

I flit between using dpns and magic loop (or two short circs). Magic loop is great for train-knitting as they can't get away from you.
As for patterns being written specifically for a type of needle - I just ignore that and use whichever needles I'm in the mood for. Once you've knit a few socks, you know where the gusset shaping etc is going to go so I don't worry about "now which was needle 1 again?". The exception to this is when there is some unusual heel shaping a la Cat Bordhi or Cookie A. But even, then it's not that difficult to work out what's going on.

needlesmcfoden said...

I usually don't care one way or another. I'm happy to magic loop or use DPNs and if a pattern is written for one when I plan to use the other I'll knit it anyway and convert as I go. I normally put stitches wherever I feel like, and ignore the pattern's instructions in that regard anyway, but I do think that it would be super helpful if patterns gave generic instructions (eg x stitches from beg. of round...) instead of knit x on needle 3...does that even make sense?

Wyld Rose said...

I use either two circs or magic loop (depending on how much the yarn argues with the one wooden needle I use for two circs). I almost always have to convert patterns anyway, to make them toe up with a Fleegle heel, so dealing with needle specific stuff is really minor.

pumkin said...

I have used db points(only 4,never 5). There never was a problem of loosing needles, they were in my hair, store there for safe keeping, only a few incidents were I showed up at work with a needle in the back of my hair. But mostly I use two circulars, for some reason I prefer this method to magic loop. I use pretty short needles, so nothing is dangling.
This method is so much more protable as well.Double points were either sticking through my bag,or sticking into me, no problem with two circulars sticking into me. OH! There are no more ladders, I find that I can get everything closer together with the two circs.

Nickname unavailable said...

I'm a 2 circ. sock knitter and I just convert. Never a big deal, so write your pattern in whatever manner makes you happy!

sadebruce said...

I use DPNs since I don't know how to use the Magic Lopp method. When I come across a Magic Loop pattern I put it aside for when I learn the method-I will eventually.

Patternfish said...

I never made socks in sock-weight yarn until I learned ML-- just used sport and DK before (about 50 pairs!). I slightly prefer ML over DPN's, but speak both happily. Two circs: definitely not on for some reason, too floppy and pointy. I don't care how the pattern is written. What difference does it make? I'll make anything in ML. What do you really have to convert?

madinahrose said...

I'm a sew sock knitter, having had the desire for many years. Tried dpn, but could never control what was going on and then had horrible ladders. Tried 2 circulars, but just didn't like it. Seemed like too much going on. Learned the ML and I am warming up to it. I love the idea that it is only one needle. I suppose that when I start knitting socks in earnest, I will be able to tell how I really feel about it. Right now I have two socks on one needle and I am at the point of short rows for the heels. When I become more proficient, I am considering trying out dpn again. Sentimental about my Mom who is now deceased and taught me how to knit.

marion said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Prairie Rose said...

I just found your blog surfing the net.
I found it because for literally two whole days I have been searching for magic loop sock patterns as well as mitten patterns.
So, my only question for you at this moment is....where are all these sock patterns that you are finding that are for magic loop?????
And how come I cant find them.
Thank you,
Loopy in idaho