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Picking needles for knitting your sock…

A lot of folks get intimidated by sock knitting… and one of the things that’s so scary is picking what kind of needles to use! There are so many choices!

The truth is that the choice of which needles to use is completely personal preference, so you’ll probably have to try out a few. In this post, I’ll talk about the 4 main needle options for sock knitting, as well as the pros and cons of each one. Then, it’s up to you to pick your fave!

Double Point Needles

Options Available: material (metal, wood or plastic), length (ranging from 5-8″)

Double point needles (often abbreviated dpns) are a very common way to knit socks, and probably the most common way you’ll learn when you’re starting out. In fact, it’s the method I use in my Easy Peasy Sock pattern.


  • Many sock patterns are written for dpns, so using them for these patterns is a lifesaver! (unless you’re already experienced with tweaking sock patterns)
  • They’re not very expensive.
  • Almost every needle company makes dpns (or a few!), so you have lots of options.


  • There is a high probability of ‘laddering’, a funny gap that happens when moving from one dpn to another. You’ll have to knit carefully to avoid it.
  • The skinnier ones (which you use for socks) have a tendency to break. You might want to consider metal or needles with a replacement policy.
  • You’re using 4-5 needles to make once sock. Losing one (or dropping it under an airplane seat) is sad.

Are you going to be tossing your socks in a purse? Think carefully about how likely your stitches are to fall off, your needles are to break or get lost. If you love dpns, you might want to consider getting double pointed needle tubes so your in-progress socks don’t get into any mischief.

Two Circular Needles

Options Available: all of the options usually available for circular needles: material (metal, wood or plastic), length (ones ranging from 16″ to 32″ are usually used), pointiness of the tip

You can use two circular needles knit socks… they basically behave like 2 giant bendy double point needles. This is the way I knit my first pair of socks, and I love it! It’s a wise idea to use two circulars of different length (or different colored tips) so you can distinguish them while knitting. An added bonus is that this method makes available knitting 2 socks at one time (Knitting Circles around Socks, pictured).


  • Because there are only 2 spots in between the needles (compared to 3 or 4 with dpns), laddering is less of a problem.
  • You may already have the circulars in your needle stash.
  • The ability to do two at a time? Rock on!
  • The project can easily be tossed in a bag without much risk of stitches falling off.


  • If you don’t already have the needles, buying two circulars for one pair of socks can be costly.
  • Not many patterns are written for this technique, so you may have to do some adaptation.

It’s true, knitting on two circulars (especially two-at-a-time) has a little bit of a learning curve… but if you stick with it, you’re rewarded with less laddering and a more portable project. I also enjoy that you’re able to use your favorite circular needles (like my super-slick Addi Turbos), and don’t have to switch to another brand/style.

One circular needle (aka Magic Loop)

Options Available: material (metal, wood or plastic), pointiness of the tip

Magic Loop works very much like knitting with two circulars, except that you use one very long circular (usually a 40+ inch). The actual knitting technique is very similar, and has the same bonus is that this method makes available knitting 2 socks at one time (2-at-a-Time Socks uses one circular needle).


  • Just like 2 circulars, less laddering (as compared to dpns) occurs.
  • The ability to do two at a time? Still rock on!
  • Also like 2 circulars, the project can easily be tossed in a bag without much risk of stitches falling off.


  • Unless you knit shawls (or really like knitting your socks this way), you’re unlikely to use your 40″ needles on many projects.
  • Also like 2 circulars, not many patterns are written for this technique, so you may have to do some adaptation.

To me, knitting on 3 circulars and magic loop (1 long circular) have very similar pluses and minuses. More than anything, it’ll come down to your preference. For me personally, having extra cord drives me nuts. Therefore, magic loop drives me crazy! But for others, remembering which of the 2 circulars to use is endlessly confusing.

A 9″ circular

Options Available: material (metal or wood), pointiness of the tip

I’ll confess: this is my favorite way to knit socks. No laddering, no need to switch needles… just smooth knitting!


  • No ladders!
  • Very easy to toss in a bag and travel with.


  • You will need to switch to a different technique (either of the above 3 mentioned) to knit the toe, because there are too few stitches to fit around the circular.
  • Again, almost no patterns are written for this technique, so you’ll have to do some adaptation.
  • Many people say the smaller size gives them a hand cramp.
  • The needles aren’t yet widely available, and won’t be a part of any interchangeable kit.

I travel a lot, and I always bring a sock with me to work on. I absolutely adore the ease and portability (because I’ve had the traumatic experience of a dpn rolling under my airplane seat), and since my hands are small, I don’t mind the knitting. But, I also know a number of people who can’t stand them, so the only way to find out is to try them! The leading manufacturer in making 9″ needles is Hiya Hiya, who has 3 styles available: bamboo, metal and sharp.

Which are your faves?

What’s your preferred method of knitting socks?

If you’re a newbie… I hope I’ve given you a (not stressful) review of the options that are out there!


  1. Awesome post! What pattern did you use for the first socks? They look like the perfect plain-vanilla socks & I’ve been looking for a pattern like that!

    • @Erin: They’re the basic socks from Churchmouse: here on Rav. I love the pattern… easy, has some simple ribbing variations and fit lovely!

  2. I am a magic loop kinda gal but sometimes I do use DPNs. I really love my Kollage square needles. There is a slight bend in them since I’ve been using them but nothing too crazy plus my hands don’t cramp up! Also, I’ve noticed that my stitches come out far more evenly and nicer looking in general. The points are nice and sharp as well, which is a plus since I’m a tight knitter.

    (While it may be a shameless plug for Kollage, the above is my honest opinion! :D)

  3. Nicole SAYS...

    I really like knitting with dpns…It can get a little irritating to search for the errant needle occasionally, but I like the way it feels in my hands, and I always feel a little B.A. wielding all those pointy sticks

  4. I’ve only used DPN’s and I prefer wood (Lantern Moon is my favorite) but for the Games I’m thinking of trying 2 at a time on circs…

  5. Well, I have only managed to make socks on magic loop. I like knitting on long cables, so it doesn’t bug me. Though I love my 32″ circulars for magic loop. When you get above that, the cable does tend to get in the way.

  6. What a cool round up – especially since I’m about to embark upon my first knit sock. I have 40″ circulars for most everything I knit (since I don’t mind the extra cord and it even helps for keeping projects from unraveling when I crunch them into my to go bag).

  7. Katie SAYS...

    I have bookmarked this article. I love knitting socks but I have only done them on double point needles and 12″ circular. Do you have a pattern written for toe up socks on the 9 or 12″ circular. I realize you could apply some adaptation to other patterns but I prefer written instructions specifically for whatever method I choose.
    I have knitted lots of top down socks but for toe up because it’s new to me, a pattern would help. Thanks in advance if you can help.

    • Unfortunately, I’ve never seen a pattern written specifically for a 9″ needle. I think not enough people use them for designers to write patterns that way. There are lots of patterns available for toe-up socks in general, though, so if you’re willing to adjust a little, any of those could work. ‘Toe up’ is a search category that you can use on the patterns in Ravelry!

  8. JIll SAYS...

    Just finished my first sock with the 9″ circular. It was a very simple way to learn for a beginner. Ready to do the next sock! I would like to learn Two socks at once once.

  9. Laurie SAYS...

    I have only knit one pair of socks so far. But I found the dancing of the 3 hanging needles to be so visually distracting that I want to try a new method. I did switch to longer Addi bamboo dpns during that project and they were much better, held the yarn really well too!

  10. Fredricka SAYS...

    My biggest problem is getting the gauge right…..the circumference of my foot is 9”…..I used size one dpns, sock yarn, and 60 sts. Came out way too small……does anyone have a stitch number and needle size that worked for them with a 9” foot. Just knitting a basic crew sock…thanks