Friday, January 17, 2014

Two At A Time Sock Knitting

A flexible cable (blue) joins two needles (silver tips) to make up the circular needle
that allows an innovative two-at-a-time sock knitting method.
Photo shows the starting rounds of a pair of socks being knit using this method.

Clever innovations are welcome in any craft. Knitting has been blessed in recent years with a knitting technique that uses a long circular needle (two needle tips joined by a cable) to knit socks, mittens, and sleeves. Actually, almost anything that is tubular can be knit in the round using this method.

For my non-knitting readers, here's how it works when a knitter works two socks at one time on one needle. Both socks are cast on to the ends of a circular needle that has a long cable. A 40 inch cable is recommended. The cable is flexible and bends without breaking or creasing, so the place where the knitted item meets both needles can "float" on the narrower back cable while the stitches being worked reside on the the front needle.

Each sock being knit has a front and a back. The knitter works (knits) the front of Sock One and then pushes those stitches aside, actually pushing them on to the cable. Then Sock Two's front is worked and, again, stitches are pushed to the cable. The work is turned so that the back side of Sock Two comes next; then the back side of Sock One is knit. This process is called a "round" and when it is finished, a complete round (which would be called a row in flat knitting) is done.

The long cable on a circular needle allows for this special technique. Two socks are knit at the same time, so that when the knitter is finishing the socks, a pair is complete.

In order to keep the socks as two separate entities, there are two balls of yarn. Sock One is knit using one ball; Sock Two is knit using the second ball. Knitters often tuck one ball into their lap and put the second ball beside them as they work two socks on on needle.

The challenge in working this method is in managing the loops that the cable forms, hence the method is also called "magic loop" knitting. Because the cable is so long, the two items can be knit at once, and that's the real genius here, since so many first mittens or socks are knit, but never the (boring) second sock.

When you watch someone knitting who is using this method, you will see a choreographed dance of the hands as the knitter moves the stitches along the needles and the cable. Each knitter develops a place for the yarn to gracefully pass through their fingers. It is like a little ballet that unfolds as fingers and hands fold and extend and move together.

Knitting, like so many arts and crafts, invites innovation as knitters learn new ways of performing traditional tasks. This technique is a great example of re-thinking a centuries old process.

1 comment:

  1. I used a circular needle on the sweater I made for my grandson!