Tuesday, May 07, 2013

On Magic Loop and Two Circulars

If you've taken a sock knitting class with me, you've likely heard this "mini rant" from me before.

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!


Annika said...

In general, I agree with you. However, I've written two patterns (neither of them out yet) that call for magic loop/two circulars, because of stitch patterns that work best divided over two needles. The first stayed that way through tech editing--I will be very curious to see if the second does as well, or if the editor changes it to be more needle agnostic. Quite frankly, I couldn't figure out HOW to do it.

Purl Mary said...

Totally agree with you there. Needles are just the instruments. Yarn and stitches are much more important. Whatever type of needles you use, you'll get there. I hate it when a pattern tells me what needles I should have in hand. I have been known to use long straights for a shawl, just because the pattern said to use a circular at least 32 inches long. The whole shawl was knitted on those straights, it looked fantastic and I enjoyed my 'independent' knitting a lot.

Anonymous said...

I am a needle rebel.

(I know. You're shocked.)

Bonnie said...

So say we all.

I was once admonished by a lys employee because I used dpns instead of two circulars. Do you know what makes the story even weirder? I wasn't knitting at the time. I was standing in line at the cash register and she was trying to make conversation.

Carol Urban said...

I'm still fairly new to sock knitting. I've made less than 10 pairs. I would love for knitting patterns to have variations built into the pattern for various types of needles as you mentioned. I have yet to learn how to knit socks on circular needles. There are so many beautiful sock patterns which are toe up and I pass on them because I only know how to do cuff down.

Debbi said...

Love this! Well said. As a designer, I like to give the knitter options. I agree that if you say dpns, you very well will lose some of the circ people! Thanks for writing this!!

Anonymous said...

Your ribbed sock pattern (the first socks I ever knit) has full stitch count and magic loop instructions. I love it! For whatever reason I completely stink using dpns (I don't think I'll ever master this) whereas magic loop just seemed so easy and simple to me.

It seems to me that most sock designers are dpners and for the magic looper it is dead dead hard. I avoid dpn instructions like the plague!