Where are my sock knitters at?! I sure hope there's a lot of hands in the air on that one! I started out as a sock enthusiast about 5 years ago and haven't looked back. Oh, sure, I knit other things but my first love is socks.
Methods of sock knitting
There are multiple ways to knit socks, not all of them new, but many have been coming out of the woodwork more recently.
The tried and true method is to use DPNs (double-pointed needles), as shown above. Originally, DPN sets were sold in 4's; the stitches for the sock would be cast on to 3 needles with the 4th used to knit onto. However, now, most sets of DPNs are sold in 5's so that its easier to divide an even number of stitches.
More recently, a very small circumference circular needle, a 9" circular, has hit the market and is changing the world of sock knitting (left). The needle tips are very short so require a bit more attention when holding them, but are a great option if, like me, you struggle with DPN needles.
Another option for knitting socks is to use 2-circular needles - where the total number of stitches are divided in half, where all the stitches that will make up the top/front of the sock are on one needle and all of the stitches that make up the sole/heel/back of the sock are on the second needle.
The Magic of Magic Loop
Ahhhh... my favorite method is the Magic Loop method. It's a unique way to work small circumference knitting with just one needle without the hand cramps I experience when using the 9" circular.
To work the Magic Loop method for socks (or other small circumference items), I recommend using at least a 32" circular needle. A 40" gives you even more play on the edges of your "magic loop". Any smaller than 32" and you'll likely be frustrated, though I have heard of folks using that short a needle successfully.
To begin, the total number of stitches is cast on in the typical manner, more often than not a Long Tail cast on, or a German Twisted cast on. The stitches are then moved to the center of the long cable, and divided in half by folding the needle and pulling it between the two center stitches.
Here's a breakdown for you:
Step 1: Cast on (for example) 60 stitches. Move all of your stitches to the middle of your cable.
Step 2: Count off 30 stitches. “Push” these first thirty stitches to the right.
Step 3: Fold your needle in half and pull it through the gap between the 30th and 31st stitch.
Once you have all of the stitches cast on, and with the needles parallel to one another, and pointing to the right, the working yarn will be attached to what we will call the “Back” needle.
The needle that has no working yarn attached is your “Front” needle. This will be where we start knitting in the round.
Gently pull the Back needle to the right, which forces the 30 sts previously on the Back needle onto the cable. You can now knit off of the Front needle, as normal.
And because I know not everyone learns from reading, here’s a video tutorial I created to show you how to divide your stitches and begin working in the round using the Magic Loop technique! Happy Magic Loop'ing!!!