A Needle By Any Other Name Still Knits

 

“Try the Magic Loop Technique” they said. “It’ll be fun!’ they said.

I have a confession to make: I dislike the magic loop technique.

Don’t burn me at the stake yet, I have a pretty good reason to not like the Magic Loop Technique. It’s not very noticeable, but I have itty bitty teeny tiny motor disability in one of my hands. While this motor disability doesn’t affect me 99% of the time, there have been moments where a specific technique or position will just not work as intended.

My hand will cramp out or my finger moves the wrong way and messes up a stitch. If it’s a complicated pattern it can make my knitting sessions a lot longer than necessary. The Magic Loop technique happens to be this situation where it makes my hand do the absolute opposite of what it is supposed to do even though I really want my hand to do the thing.

 
Clover Takumi Bamboo Needles in US 1, 2.25mm

Clover Takumi Bamboo Needles in US 1, 2.25mm

 

And then I was introduced to double pointed needles. I’m not going to lie, I was a little hesitant to knit with them, but once I got the hang of how they moved and click together it has made my knitting time a lot easier. I still love circular needles, but I much prefer them for larger projects such as shawls and sweaters.

The Difference Between DPNs and Circular Needles

Double pointed needles are, as the name implies, a set of knitting needles with two tapered ends on either side, so that you can knit from the left or the right end of them. They’ve been depicted as early at the 14th century in Knitting Madonna paintings.

 
Madonna Knitting, by Bertram of Minden C. 1400

Madonna Knitting, by Bertram of Minden C. 1400

 

Circular needles are a modern development, patented in the United States as early as 1918. They are made of two traditional needles with a long, flexible cable connected between them. You can find models that have the cable permanently attached or have interchangeable tips. Many knitters prefer circular needles as you can knit both flat or in the round with one set of needles.

 
The beginnings of a triangular shawl on circular needles.

The beginnings of a triangular shawl on circular needles.

 

The Advantages of DPNs

First, double pointed needles a great for small objects. Baby booties, socks, tiny sleeves, if it’s small it’ll do best on double pointed needles! While starting on a set of double pointed needles can be annoying, once the pattern gets going the needles sit nicely on themselves and your stitches can flow effortlessly from one needle to the next. With practice you can even finish a pair of socks in a day on a set of double pointed needles.

The Advantages of Circular Needles

As mentioned earlier, circular needles are great for very large projects like shawls or sweaters or blanket corners. Many prefer the circular needles due to the ease of creating complex knitting patterns on them. Heck, some knitters love using the Magic Loop Technique for knitting small objects and to them I say: keep knitting! Keep making the things that bring you joy and comfort.

Mathew’s thoughts on DPNs:

When I first decided to knit some socks, I chose double pointed needles. It never occurred to me that there would be a different way to do it. The pattern called for DPNS so that’s what I though I should use. It wasn’t until many years later that I even heard of “magic loop” and by then, I was already so accustomed to double-points that I just decided not to try it.

As I learned more about knitting, I learned that in some knitting traditions, long double pointed needles are the standard. For example in most of northern Europe, a knitting belt is a common tool. It is a small pouch on a belt. Firmly stuffed, a knitting belt allows one end of the doubled pointed needle to be stuck into it for stability and then the knitter can work off of the tip without having to handle the needle very much. Especially for right-handed carrying techniques, this can greatly increase the speed of the knitting.

If you look back at our Continental vs. English knitting post, and click on the video of Hazel Tindall, you can see the results of working with a knitting belt.

I personally have not tried it yet…though I plan on picking up a knitting belt and having a go!

Whether or not you knit with double pointed needles or circular needles, we’re all in this together because we love to make and craft. No matter what we’ve got in our hands, let’s keep knitting!

 
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