Although I learned to knit socks on DPNs, and that remains my needle configuration of choice, I recognize that there are other ways to do it: Magic Loop and Two Circulars. I recently wrote a blog post for my friends at Signature Needle on precisely that topic... using circular needles to work small circumferences in the round.
Some knitters aren't comfortable with DPNs, and in some situations, DPNs aren't ideal. If you're travelling, for example, you really don't want to be in position to lose a needle.
|Magic Looping a sock|
I feel pretty strongly that although which method you use is a point of personal preference, there is no difference in the methods. It's like whether you hold your pen in your right or left hand. What results is still words on paper, so why should we worry about the difference in how you get it done?
With different needles, you still get socks (or mittens, or the tops of hats, or sleeves, or what-have-you), so it shouldn't matter what needles you use.
This informs a key piece of my pattern writing and editing strategy... I believe that where possible, patterns should be "needle agnostic". We don't distinguish if you're working flat on straights or circulars, so why should we distinguish if you're working on DPNs or magic loop or two circulars?
But it's amazing how many patterns - indeed, I think most of them - still distinguish. But I believe pretty strongly that you're cutting off a piece of your market that way. If a pattern is written for DPNs, a magic looper might not be able (or want) to do the work to think through how to make it work 'their way'... I've seen DPN-knitters avoid a DPN pattern because it uses five rather than the four they're used to. This saddens me - I want everyone to be able to knit everything!
I do absolutely recognize that your first sock (or mitten, or whatever) pattern needs information on how to arrange the stitches, just to get you familiar with the process and structure. But once you've done one or two, then you should be able to work however you want, without being constrained by how the designer did it.
Call me an idealist, but if I ran the world, knitters could use whatever needles they want, and the patterns would allow that!