Magic Loop: Two Socks at a Time

No matter what your style of knitting is—and there are many—the choices of knitting needles for making socks are abundant. Working with double-pointed needles is the traditional practice for knitting socks. There, however, are a few new styles, including using two circular needles or one long (40 inches [101.6 cm] or longer) needle called the “magic loop.” My favorite knitting style for socks is working toe up with a long circular needle.

PieceWork featured a wonderful article on knitting two socks at once in the January/February 2009 issue. “Knitting Two Socks at Once—One Inside the Other” by Jacqueline Fee included Mrs. A. Reeder’s instructions, “How To Knit Two Socks at Once” from a 1918 issue of Needlecraft Magazine, along with the dialogue about this technique in the epic novel War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910). [Read our blog post about knitting socks with the method described in War and Peace.]

The article has always intrigued me, and I wanted to see if I could knit two socks at once using my favorite method—the magic loop. I tried it and it works!

Magic Loop

Eileen Lee’s two socks in progress. Photo by George Boe.

Pattern

Finished Size 8″ foot circumference and 9″ long from back of heel to tip of toe; foot length is adjustable.
Yarn Malabrigo Sock (100% superwash merino wool; 440 yd [402 m]/31/2 oz [100 g]): #SW005 aniversario, 1 skein.
Needles Size 1 (2.25 mm): two 40″ circulars (cir) and set of double-pointed (dpn). Adjust needle size if necessary to obtain the correct gauge.
Notions tapestry needle.
Gauge 32 sts and 45 rnds = 4″ in St st.

See our website for Abbreviations and Techniques.

Notes
These socks are worked in the round from the top down with one sock worked inside the other using a double knitting technique.

When changing from one needle to the next, it is easy to make ladders because it is difficult to see both socks. Tug tightly on both yarns to prevent this.

Stitch Guide
Broken Rib: (multiple of 4 sts)
Rnd 1 *K2, p2; rep from * to end.
Rnd 2 Knit.
Rep Rnds 1 and 2 for patt.

Dec2: Sl 1 purl st pwise to right needle, sl 1 knit st pwise to cn and hold in back, return purl st to left needle and purl it tog with next purl st, transfer knit st from cn to left needle and knit it tog with next knit st—2 sts dec’d: l st from each layer.

Dec2RL: Sl 1 purl st pwise to right needle, sl 1 knit st pwise to cn and hold in back, return purl st to left needle and purl it tog with next purl st, transfer knit st from cn to left needle, ssk—2 sts dec’d: l st from each layer.

Dec2LR: Sl 1 purl st pwise to right needle, sl 1 knit st pwise to cn and hold in back, return purl st to left needle, ssp, transfer knit st from cn to left needle and knit it tog with next knit st—2 sts dec’d: l st from each layer.

magic loop

Eileen Lee’s finished pair of socks were knit two at a time using the “magic loop” method. Photo by Elizabeth Prose.

Two-at-a-Time Socks
Wind yarn so you can work from both ends of ball, or divide into 2 balls. Rib: With cir needle, CO 64 sts. Using the magic loop method, join in the rnd. Work in Broken Rib (see Stitch Guide) for 2″. Purl 2 rnds. Set aside. Rep for 2nd sock using other needle and other end/ball of yarn. Join socks: Turn outer sock WS out. Place inner sock inside outer sock, RS tog, matching CO tails. With one cir needle, *sl 1 pwise from outer sock, sl 1 pwise from inner sock; rep from * to end—128 sts: 64 sts on each half of needle. Legs: Work in St st (see notes above) until piece measures 53/4″ from CO. Heel flaps: Next rnd Work to last 2 sts, transfer these 2 sts to front half of needle—66 sts on front half of needle for heel, 62 sts on back half of needle for instep. Work back and forth across 66 heel sts as foll: Next row (RS) Sl 1 pwise wyf, sl 1 pwise wyb, work 64 sts in patt, turn. Reverse the yarns in your hands in order to cont working each layer with correct yarn. Next row (WS) Sl 1 pwise wyf, sl 1 pwise wyb, work 64 sts in patt, turn. Reverse the yarns in your hands. Rep these 2 rows until heel flap measures 2″, ending with a row worked with outer sock facing you. Turn heels:
Short-row 1 (WS) With inner sock facing you, sl 2 sts (1 of each sock) as established, work 36 sts, dec2 (see Stitch Guide), work 2 sts, turn—1 st dec’d from each sock.
Short-row 2 (RS) Sl 2 sts, work 14 sts, dec2, work 2 sts, turn.
Short-row 3 Sl 2 sts, work 16 sts, dec2, work 2 sts, turn.
Short-row 4 Sl 2 sts, work 18 sts, dec2, work 2 sts, turn.
Short-row 5 Sl 2 sts, work 20 sts, dec2, work 2 sts, turn.
Short-row 6 Sl 2 sts, work 22 sts, dec2, work 2 sts, turn.
Short-row 7 Sl 2 sts, work 24 sts, dec2, work 2 sts, turn.
Short-row 8 Sl 2 sts, work 26 sts, dec2, work 2 sts, turn.
Short-row 9 Sl 2 sts, work 28 sts, dec2, work 2 sts, turn.
Short-row 10 Sl 2 sts, work 30 sts, dec2, work 2 sts, turn.
Short-row 11 Sl 2 sts, work 32 sts, dec2, work 2 sts, turn.
Short-row 12 Sl 2 sts, work 34 sts, dec2, work 2 sts, turn.
Short-row 13 Sl 2 sts, work 36 sts, dec2, turn—40 heel sts rem; last row completed is an inside row.
Shape gussets: Next rnd Work 40 heel sts, working along side of heel flaps, [pick up and purl 1 st from outer sock, pick up and knit 1 st from inner sock] 12 times, work 62 instep sts, working along side of heel flaps, [pick up and purl 1 st from outer sock, pick up and knit 1 st from inner sock] 12 times, work 40 heel flap sts, work 24 picked-up sts—150 sts total. Beg of rnd is at beg of instep. Work 1 rnd even. Dec rnd Work 62 instep sts, work 2 sts, dec2RL (see Stitch Guide), work to last 6 sts, dec2LR (see Stitch Guide), work 2 sts—4 sts dec’d: 2 sts from each sock. Rep last 2 rnds 5 more times—126 sts rem. Feet: Work even until foot measures 7″ from back heel, or 2″ less than desired finished length. Toes: Next rnd *Work 10 sts, dec2; rep from * to end—108 sts rem. Work 5 rnds even. Next rnd *Work 8 sts, dec2; rep from * to end—90 sts rem. Work 4 rnds even. Next rnd *Work 6 sts, dec2; rep from * to end—72 sts rem. Work 3 rnds even. Next rnd *Work 4 sts, dec2; rep from * to end—54 sts rem. Work 2 rnds even. Next rnd *Work 2 sts, dec2; rep from * to end—36 sts rem. Work 1 rnd even. Next rnd *Work 2 sts, dec2; rep from * to end—24 sts rem. Work 1 rnd even. Break both yarns, leaving a 24″ tail of each for grafting. Separate socks as foll: Holding 2 dpn parallel, [sl 1 pwise to front dpn, sl 1 pwise to back dpn] 6 times, holding 2 more dpn parallel, [sl 1 pwise to front dpn, sl 1 pwise to back dpn] 6 times—6 sts on each of 4 dpn. Pull inner sock out of outer sock. Turn outer sock RS out. Graft each sock using Kitchener st.

Finishing
Weave in ends. Block.

—Eileen Lee


Eileen Lee has a textile background working with Levi Strauss & Co. for eighteen years where she was responsible for product development, design, and merchandising. For eleven years, she worked at MeadowFarm Yarn Studio in Nevada City, California, managing the shop, teaching, and designing. Currently, she has a studio near her home and continues to teach the arts of knitting, weaving, spinning, and dyeing. Her designs have appeared in several publications, including PieceWork, The Unofficial Downton Abbey Knits, Spin & Knit 2017 and Knitting Traditions Fall 2015. Many of her patterns are available on www.mzfiber.com and Ravelry (mzfiber); handwoven items are available on Etsy for sale. She lives in Grass Valley, California, with her husband, Bill, son, Eric, and dachshund, Lizy Marie.


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2 Comments

  1. Wendy G at 12:01 pm January 23, 2018

    My sister remembers seeing a two-in-one pattern back when she was a (I think) a teen.
    For years, she hasn’t been able to find one. (Or maybe she had to read War and Peace for a class and just remembered if from that. Who knows.) So I guess the explanation of how to not get your stitches tangled between the two socks is in the “sidebar” that’s only in the magazine?

    • Tamara Schmiege at 8:24 am January 30, 2018

      Great question! And I apologize for the confusion. The direction should have been “see notes.” In the notes, you will find a link to an explanation of the double knitting technique. Hope this helps!

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