Magic Loop

Magic Loop is a technique for knitting small diameter circles i.e. with a small number of cast-on stitches or when decreasing to an apex, while avoiding double-pointed needles (DPNs). It is very simple and effective, using only a few basic principles that are easily learnt.

  1. Cast-on an even number of stitches e.g. 8

    Magic Loop cast-on

  2. Slide stitches to halfway point of a set of circular needles, at least 80cm in length.
  3. Split stitches in half pulling cable up through gap between the central two stitches e.g. the 4th and 5th stitches in this case.
  4. Making sure that there is no twist in your stitches, slide the first half (4) stitches back down onto their needle (needle B) and position the remaining 4 stitches so that they sit on the cable in opposition to those on needle B. Your right hand needle (needle A) should be free to move and use as if it were a separate single-point needle.
  5. Keep the yarn tight as you join the loop by knitting through the first stitch on needle B(To ensure a really tight join, I cast-on one more stitch than is required by the pattern and slip this last extra stitch back on to needle B before pulling needle A through and then knit the last and first stitch together – K2tog).
  6. After knitting the first 4 stitches, pull the empty needle (B) back though the second group of 4 stitches so that they are lined up near the tip. Slide needle A free again so that the knit stitches lay parallel to the last 4 cast-on.
  7. Again keeping the join tight, knit from needle B onto needle A.
  8. Continue sliding half the stitches at a time onto needle B and releasing needle A until the desired number of rounds have been completed. A marker between the last and first stitches is useful to ensure both sides are knit evenly.

    Central cast on should be tight without hole

    Continuing to work rounds without increasing will give you a tube with one end closed, as might be suitable for a glove finger. By increasing evenly across the round you can alternatively make a top-down hat

Photo’s and text copyright ©onehandknits (Anna Richardson) 2010. Not for redistribution.

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Casting-off 1: Knitted, Elasticated and Crochet

There are as many ways to cast-off/ bind-off (b/o) as there are to cast-on and getting it right may make the difference between producing a much loved favourite-wear garment or a disappointing wardrobe stuffer. Taking time to learn and become comfortable with the different effects produced will help you to determine which you wish to use in any situation. Here are three easy techniques to start you off;

Knitted
– easy, quick, neat, tight. Best suited to areas that don’t require stretch, like shoulder shaping or pocket tops. For a looser b/o change up to a larger needle – ideal for scarf ends.

  1. Work the first and second stitch (st) of the row, in pattern (i.e. knit the knits or purl the purls), from the left-hand (LH) to the right-hand (RH) needle.
  2. Place the tip of the LH into the first st, now on the RH needle, from left to right and front to back, as if knitting it.
  3. Lift the first st with the LH needle over the second st and drop it off both needles.

    Lift the first stitch over the second

    Drop the first st off the RH needle, over the second st

  4. Work the next st in pattern so that you have two st on the RH needle again.
  5. Repeat steps 2-4 until all the required st have been worked from the LH needle.
  6. To b/o the last st remaining on the RH needle (not required if casting-off a central portion) remove the needle and enlarge the st so that the remaining yarn can be threaded through from left to right and pull tight.

    Draw out last st

    Pull yarn through to knot off

    RS knitted cast off

    WS purl cast off

  7. For an interesting gartered effect try knitting-off the purl side or purling-off the knitted side.

    Purl cast off on K side

    K cast off on P side

Elasticated
– easy adaptation of the above b/o, neat and quick but looser, maintaining the elastic tension of the pattern below – ideal for necklines.

  1. Work the first st from the LH needle as normal.
  2. Work the next st from the LH needle but do not let it drop off.
  3. Use the LH needle to lift the first st from the RH needle over the second and drop it off.

    Place LH needle into 1st st on RH needle

    Lift 1st st over 2nd

    Drop 1st st off RH needle

  4. Now allow the last worked st on the LH needle to drop off.
  5. Repeat steps 2-4 and knot off the last st of the row as above.

Crochet Cast-Off
– very neat, flat, not too tight, can be used as a platform to work a fancier crochet border.

Double Crochet (UK)/ Single Crochet (US)

  1. Using the crochet hook of the same or slightly larger diameter as your RH needle work a knit or purl in the first st as the pattern demands (like a chain st).
  2. Work the crochet into the next st on the LH needle in accordance with the pattern.
  3. Wrap a loop of yarn and draw through both the st on the LH needle and the st on the crochet hook.
  4. Drop worked stitches from LH needle and crochet hook.
  5. Repeat steps 2-4 until all st have been worked from the LH needle and knot off as above.

Treble Crochet (UK)/ Double Crochet (US)

  1. For a treble/ double crochet effect wrap a loop of yarn around the crochet hook before placing it into the next st on the LH needle.
  2. Pull a loop of yarn through the LH needle st and the first loop on the crochet hook.
  3. Drop the worked stitches from the LH needle and crochet hook.
  4. Wrap and pull a further loop through the two remaining stitches on the crochet hook.
  5. Drop the worked stitches so only one st remains on the crochet hook.
  6. Repeat steps 1-5 till the end of the row and knot off as before.

Photo’s and text copyright ©onehandknits (Anna Richardson) 2010. Not for redistribution.

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How-to: Purl

In the How-to: Knit tutorial I demonstrated that a purl (P) stitch (st) is formed at the back of a piece when knitting into the front. From this you should gather that by reverse engineering the knit (K) st we can create a P on the right-side (RS) directly. This will of course form a K on the wrong-side (WS) and by continuing to purl every row we will produce an identical looking strip of ridged knitting or garter st (G st) as we did when we knitted every row. By alternating rows of K and P instead we can produce the flat cloth called stockinette or stocking st (St st) which is the basis of so many basic patterns. In this tutorial I again cover the fundamentals of yarn and needle holding for those who have not needed my How-to: Knit tutorial but who may still find themselves confused with the differing styles of knitting.

  1. Cast-on the desired number of st (covered in another tutorial).
  2. Ensure your waste yarn is tied up out of the way so as not to be used by mistake.
  3. For people who are RIGHT-hand dominant: the needle with the cast-on is held in your left-hand (LH), the empty needle in your right-hand (RH) and the working yarn can be held in either hand:
    Continental Knitting –
    the working yarn is held loosely wrapped over the back of the non-dominant hand (index to little finger and back under) such that your hand can move easily away from the needle feeding out yarn as it is needed. The needle with the previously worked row is held in place with middle, ring and little fingers, the thumb pushes the st up the needle toward the tip ready to be knit, and the index finger varies its position under and pushing up on the working yarn to keep it taught when necessary. The dominant hand moves the empty needle through the st to ‘catch’ a loop of working yarn and draw it through.

    Positioning the needles for right-handed continental purling

    The benefits of this style are that both hands have a function which some people find smoother and faster. The tension tends to be on the tight side.
    English Knitting – the working yarn is held loosely wrapped around the dominant hand (under middle to little fingers, back over, then under the palm) such that your hand can move easily away from the needle feeding out yarn as it is needed. The empty needle is held with thumb and middle finger in and out of the stitches and the dominant index finger moves under the working yarn to ‘flick’ a loop over it. The second needle just rests in the non-dominant hand and thumb and index finger push the previous rows stitches up towards the tip.

    Positioning the needles for right-handed english purling

    This style can be found to be clumsy and is aided by letting go of the empty needle when it is held in a st and ‘throwing’ the whole hand with the working yarn around the tip to form the loop instead of ‘flicking’ it. This is slower but also loosens the tension.

  4. For people who are LEFT-hand dominant: the needle with the cast-on is held in your RH, the empty needle in your LH and the working yarn can be held in either, however, whilst the directions to follow for each stitch are the same it should be noted that this will require you to mentally reverse the shaping of all patterns and read charts from left to right instead of right to left. The rest of this tutorial is illustrated with the working needle in the RH – an illustrated left hand guide to both knit and purl stitches can be found under the heading ‘Ambi-knitting‘.
    [Note from the author: It is possible for left-handed people to knit as right-handed comfortably using the continental method described above and I would advise attempting all methods to determine which suits you best. If you are feeling particularly adventurous try purling one row right-handed and then without exchanging the needles from hand to hand purling the next row left-handed to produce a piece of flat Stocking st (S St) with all P stitches on the right-side (RS) without ever needing to learn how to knit!]
  5. With the working yarn held this time at the front slip the empty needle (A) into the first st from right to left and back to front so that the stitch is held open (demonstrated above).

    English purl: wrap yarn over left, under right

    Draw loop through st to back

  6. Wrap the yarn anti-clockwise around the needle and draw this loop through the st to the back.

    Continental purl: wrap under to right....

    ...then over to left

    Draw loop through to back and drop worked st

  7. Slip the worked st off needle B. The new st sits on needle A with it’s right leg at the front and it’s left leg (leading to the working yarn) at the back just as it did with the K st. If a st is accidentally dropped off the needle you should take care to ensure that it sits in the same manner when picking it up again or you will end up with an errant twisted st in your pattern (see instructions below).
  8. Repeat steps 5-7 to the end of the row.
  9. Transfer the full needle to the other hand, turning it so that the WS is face up. You will be looking at a row of ‘horseshoes’ under the needle. These are K stitches produced when you purl into the RS.

    WS horseshoe knits

    Depending on the method of cast-on (c/o) used they may appear as twisted st for this row only.

  10. Ensure the yarn is held at the front again before you position the empty needle, as with step 5. If you position the needle first then take the yarn forward you will create an extra stitch at the beginning of this row.
  11. Work steps 5-8 to the end of the row.
  12. You will now see a row of ‘bumps’ below the needle which are the P stitches.

    Purl bumps on WS

  13. Transfer the needle to your other hand and note that the row just worked appears now as K stitches on the RS.

    RS: first row purls, 2nd row knits

  14. Repeat steps 5-10 repeatedly until you have an adequate length for a scarf and cast-off (demonstrated in another tutorial).

    RS garter stitch

    WS garter stitch

Twisted Purl St
– a P will appear the same regardless of whether you work it through the back loop (tbl) or you loop the yarn clockwise instead of anti-clockwise however the K stitches produced on the reverse will have crossed legs that draw them tighter together. By being familiar with how they look and how they are produced at an early stage whilst learning to knit you can avoid creating them accidentally and making your garments tighter than the pattern originally intended.

Right-over-left (Ptbl)

  1. Follow steps 1-3 or 4 above as usual.
  2. With the working yarn held at the front slip the empty needle (A) into the first st from left to right and back to front.
  3. Follow steps 6-8 above as usual.
  4. The twisted stitch is created in the row below those positioned on the needle.

Left-over-right

  1. Follow steps 1-5 above as usual.
  2. Wrap the yarn clockwise around the needle and draw this loop through the st to the back.

    Wrap clockwise: (continental) over to the right.....

    ......then under to the left

  3. Slip the worked st off needle B. The new stitch sits on needle A with it’s left leg (leading to the working yarn) at the front and it’s right leg at the back.
  4. Repeat steps 1-3 until the end of the row.
  5. The twisted stitches will not appear until you have worked the next row as usual. They can therefore still be resolved by working each st in this row, either as a K or a P, through the back loop.

Photo’s and text copyright ©onehandknits (Anna Richardson) 2010. Not for redistribution.

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