Knitting items that come in pairs, such as socks or sleeves one at a time can be quite nice. It makes the project last longer meaning you can get even more pleasure from the pattern and yarn you are working with. Sometimes however, it can be a real pain in the bum. I can’t tell you the number of sleeves I have knit where the lengths haven’t quite matched, or socks that are ever so slightly different lengths. This has happened because I mainly knit at night, so I’m either tired or watching tv and I have lost my concentration and can’t remember how many rows I’ve knit or how many repeats I’ve done. I knew that there had to be a better way so, in order to avoid anymore badly fitting knits or ripping out hours of work, I decided to overcome my self-doubt and learn to knit ‘two at a time’. Because lets face it, it looks complicated. When you feel you can’t manage to knit one effectively how on earth do you tackle knitting on two things, with two balls of yarn but only one circular needle?! Well hopefully this how-to guide will dispel the doubt and lift the curtain on how it’s done.
To get started with this method you will need to be familiar with working magic loop. (You can find my tutorial on knitting magic loop here.) You will also need two separate balls of yarn, one for each sleeve or sock. If you are knitting a pair of socks and only have one large ball, you can split it in half by using a set of scales and winding enough off the ball until both smaller balls weigh the same. You will also need a long circular needle. I like to use a 40″/ 100cm cable or longer. For this example I’m going to be casting on for a cuff-down sock but this method will work the same for sleeves, mittens or anything that requires you to knit a ‘tube’ shape.
1. Casting on. Take your first ball of yarn and cast on half the number of stitches required for one sock. Be sure to leave the yarn tail long enough to cast on the rest of the stitches later.
If you are working toe-up socks you can cast on using the magic cast-on method as normal, using one ball to cast on the stitches for the first toe and the other ball to cast on stitches for the second straight after. If using this method, skip to section 6 to begin knitting in the round.
2. Slide these stitches on to the cable and, taking your second ball of yarn, cast on all the stitches required for the second sock.
(I have used a different colour yarn to help make it easier to see which stitches belong to which sock.)
3. Find the half way point between the second set of stitches and pull the cable through, as you would if knitting magic loop.
(Your stitches should now look like the image, with two sets of stitches on the bottom cable and one on the top.)
4. You are now going to cast on the second half of the first sock. This is the part where things may start to feel a little odd. Slide the stitches for the first (red) sock on to the bottom needle. Begin to cast on the second half of the stitches on to the top needle, using the same method as you did the first. Tighten up the first stitch on the top needle so that it sits snuggly against the last stitch on the bottom needle.
5. Once you have cast on all the stitches needed, turn your work. Join to begin knitting in the round by swapping the first stitch cast on from the top to the bottom needle and the last stitch from the bottom to the top needle.
6. Regardless of how you cast on you are now ready to start knitting. Pull out the bottom needle until all the stitches are resting on the cable and begin to work across the first set of stitches for the first sock using the first ball of yarn.
7. Once you have knit across the stitches for the first sock, drop the yarn from the first ball. Pick up the yarn from the second ball of yarn and knit across the stitches for the second sock. As you will not be able to join these stitches to work in the round you will need to do your best to reduce the gap between the needles by tightening the yarn after knitting the first, second and third stitches. If a gap should still be visible, this can be sewn up when weaving in the ends. (I have yet to find a better way of doing this but if you do, please let me know!)
8. Adjust your stitches as you normally would when knitting magic loop and continuing to work across the stitches for the second sock. Once these stitches have been completed, drop the yarn from the second ball and switch to the first ball of yarn before working the stitches for the second half of the first sock.
It can be a little bit fiddly to start with but once you have worked a few rows it all starts to come together and you will be able to see that you are simply working around one sock with one ball of yarn and the second sock with another.
There are still times when I will knit socks one at a time, mainly when I’m designing as it’s easier to rip out changes on just one sock, but for less stress and less confusion on a day to day basis I will knit two at a time. It is also great for avoiding second sock syndrome!