Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Casting on for 2-at-a-time, Top-down Socks

Casting on for two-at-a-time, top-down socks is a bit tricky. You'll need a long (47") circular and a helper needle (a single-point one) of the same diameter (or a bit smaller, not critical). 

[use a helper needle and a long, flexible circular needle]

Step 1: Hold one end of the circular needle and the helper needle together, points in the same direction (you will be totally ignoring the other end of the circular throughout this whole procedure.) Cast on over both the helper needle and the circular - this will keep the stitches a bit looser and make it easier to knit the first round. Cast on half of the stitches for the first sock (shown in green below), and then all of the stitches for the second (pink) sock. Place a marker exactly halfway in the second sock.

[half of the first sock, all of the second cast on, with marker halfway.]

Step 2: now, pull the helper needle out of the stitches of the second sock, but not out of the first.

[remove the helper from the second sock]

Step 3: now pull on the end of the circular needle that comes out of the second (pink) sock, bending the stitches around. You want to fold the flexible cable in half sharply and pull it through, between the stitches. Use the marker as a handle and yank the cable through. 

[pull the cable through and start bending it]

[Pull on the marker, fold the cable, and yank through between the stitches]

Step 4: you have finished with the second sock (pink one). Move it out of the way, by continuing to pull on the marker to pull more of the cable through (not too far though, you don't want to loose the stitches of the first - green - sock!). Take hold of the end of the circular needle that comes out of the second (pink) sock, and hold it against the helper needle, so you can cast on the remaining stitches. Make the two needles point in the same direction. Remember: you are always using the same end of the circular needle. The other end is being ignored.

[helper needle and circular point in the same direction!]

[remaining stitches cast on over circ + helper]

Step 5: Now you can remove the helper needle. It has done its helpful job! Then, fold the circular needle over to meet its other the picture below, that means I'm moving the point clockwise (to the right).

[helper needle removed, folding stitches over]

This is what you should have:


Notice that the wool ends are in the same position on both socks. The ends of the circ are off to the right, and the marker to the left.

You start knitting with the wool ends on the right and with the needle farthest from you. Yank the far side of the circ out to free it totally and move the stitches so that the first sock (green) is actually on the needle closest to you so you can knit it. Be careful when pulling on the circ to keep the marker end of the loop from sucking into the stitches - you want the "magic" loop to be maintained. Join, being careful to avoid twists in the stitches. I usually grab both ends of the wool (the remaining tail as well as the end heading to the ball) and knit a couple of stitches with both, this anchors everything.


  1. Wow, I must be really talented. I ended up with my tails on opposite needles lol. I have been at this too long...thank goodness for interchangeable needle tips...makes it easier to move things around! :) Great instructions! I'm sure it was just me...;)

  2. These are the best instructions for casting on magic loop two at a time I've ever seen - especially because of all of the "in progress" photos you've posted. I almost have enough courage to try this. Would it be weird to make each of my first "two at a time" socks a different colour (or self-striping yarn and start each at a different colour) so I can tell them apart? I'm certain that I'll knit the socks together otherwise.

  3. Hey Sophy0075, that's a great idea - who says socks must match? I've made plenty of "fraternal twins" :)

    Another thing that sometimes goes wrong is that you start knitting with the cast-on tail instead of the working yarn. To prevent this, cut the cast-on tail short (not too short, because you'll want to work the end in later) so you can't knit with it.

  4. Hi, thanks for sharing all your sockie thoughts! Here's my tiny contribution: regular stitch markers to mark the "magic loop" spots often slip off (unnoticed) at the stage when the markers are at the needle ends rather than the loopy ends. Since I knit on the bus, they often end up rolling down the aisle :( (The marker has a nice journey but I am bereft!). Any easy no-slip alternative is to cut 2 pieces of contrasting yarn 4 inches or so long, tie snug around the needle at that "halfway point" in casting on each sock, then let them just slide along with the sock stitches. If the loop "pops" out at any point so that the stitches for one sock are all in a single run, it's easy to grab the dangling ends of the marker yarn, and with your other hand restrain the stitches as you gank the cable loop back out.

  5. Another tip is to put a marker on the instep side of the sock.