DPNs vs magic loop method

dpnsvsmlThis is my review on which method I prefer for knitting in the round: DPNs (double pointed needles) or the magic loop method (using circular needles).  If you’re new to knitting, maybe this post will be helpful!

For those who don’t know exactly what each method entails — both can be confusing — KnitPicks has beaten me to making a good explanatory video on how to knit both ways:

And I know it may look like it, but I’m not sponsored by KnitPicks… I just like their needles and they had the best video I could find.  That video also includes knitting with two circulars, but I’ve never done that so I don’t have an opinion on it either way.  Let’s get started.

double pointed needles

Double pointed needles (DPNs) have been the traditional way of knitting small-ish objects in rounds for a very very long time.  Think socks, hats, mittens, Easter egg decorations, whatever small tubular things you can think of.  Let’s look at some pros and cons:


  • Most patterns for circular small-ish objects are already written for DPNs because that’s the traditional way.
  • You don’t have to deal with the “wings” of the magic loop method.
  • DPNs are available in very small needle sizes.


  • DPNs can feel like you’re wrestling with a pointy wooden spider, especially when you’re just learning.
  • Because there are more transitions between needles than with the magic loop method, there are more places where your tension could be off, potentially leaving ladders of loose stitches all the way down your project.
  • DPNs often aren’t available in the larger needle sizes.
  • There are many possibilities for your yarn to slip off the needles, since they don’t have ends.

Not looking too good, huh?  Let’s check out the other one:

magic loop method

The magic loop method is a very new technique, so many patterns do not have specific instructions for it.  Sounds bad, but let’s see:


  • With a little practice, you can adapt patterns written for DPNs to suit the magic loop technique.
  • You don’t have to juggle as many needles as with DPNs.
  • You don’t have to worry as much about your work slipping off your needles because there are only two possible ends to slip off of.
  • Circular needles are available in larger needle sizes.


  • Circular needles sometimes aren’t available in small sizes.
  • Those “wings” can take up a bunch of space.
  • Tension issues can still take place — for instance my transitions from one half of the work to the other are always really tight, making it harder to slide the needles through.

OK, so DPNs have 3 pros and 4 cons, and magic loop method has 4 pros and 3 cons.  I guess then that my personal favorite would have to be…..


DPNs!  Surprised?  That’s just my personal preference.  Many people who are frustrated with DPNs are very grateful to have an alternative such as the magic loop method, and honestly I’m glad it’s an option, too.  However, since both methods are relatively awkward it’s really just a matter of what works best for me.  I don’t have as many tension issues with DPNs, and for me the magic loop method just takes up too much space to knit comfortably next to others.  Also, if you get wooden or bamboo needles you won’t have to worry so much about your stitches slipping off, since they’ll have a nice grip to them, thus pretty much eliminating that con, in my opinion.  Considering that some pros and cons weigh more or less than others in importance, my favorite is DPNs.  Plus, DPNs look really complicated to everyone else, so they’re impressed by our mad skills.

Since it’s really just personal preference, which do you like best?  Do you have any pros or cons for either method that I didn’t mention?    Any questions?

I hope this post was both entertaining and helpful, and as always, thanks for stopping by!  I’ll have something on crochet next time!


  1. I’ve only used DPNs and get frustrated and in a tangle with them! My tension is often off as well and I end up with the ladder effect you said about (sometimes anyway) But I’m not a great knitter anyway…


    • The magic loop method might be for you! 🙂


    • Jorie Tappa says:

      To help avoid ladders, I always pull my working yarn snug while making the second stitch on each new needle. This will tighten and lessen the space between each needle. You can also rotate your stitches each round, bringing one stitch over to the last needle so that if you still are a loose knitter, at least it’s not in the same place every row and will be a little less noticible. This of course makes it a little difficult for color work or fancier projects though.


  2. In most of Europe you use 5 DPNs (not 4) and that is – at least with regard to tension – not complicated at all. I never thought about using a different technique. Maybe I should to be able to compare.


  3. I love using 2 circs for toe up socks. But mitten and such are DPNs 🙂


  4. I love 2 circs for toe up socks but use DPNs for mittens and such. 🙂


  5. I love my double point needles. I use them all the time. sometimes even when I am not knitting in the round. for example I use them for knitting tiny pocket pals. right now I am knitting tiny possums and muskrats out of angora yarn…mmm..yummy and soft. Take a peak here http://whatzitknitz.com/thawed/
    dps are a little fiddly when you start out but get easier as you practice(I have practiced for 50 yrs). circular needles feel more awkward to me but if I would practice I am sure it would get easier.
    it does make a difference what your needles are made of – wood is stickier and the sts don’t slide off as easily. I have some old AERO needles(found in a thrift store) that have a coating on them and they also are lovely and sticky. and I just treated myself to Signature needles and OH MY GOSH what wonderful pointy ends and my sts stay on the needles and don’t slide off they were definitely worth the investment since I use my dps so much. I also bought a pair for my daughter and they are her new favorites too.


  6. woolandchocolate says:

    I was once a magic loop girl, and did my socks two at a time that way. But I now find that DPNs are faster, at least for me. Like the above commenter, I use five to help keep the tension even. Plus, you just can’t beat the wow factor when you knit in public with all those needles! 🙂


  7. I use two dpns all the time – much easier to deal with than DPNs. Haven’t tried magic loop yet, but maybe I will…


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