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It happens without fail. I arrive at my LYS's knitting drop-in an anonymous nobody and I leave revered as a knitting goddess.

Most recently at a drop-in, I sat down next to a sock knitter who was extolling the virtues of the Magic Loop. While I listened to her quietly, I pulled out my own socks on DPNs and set to work. Another woman noticed my knitting. "Oh, you're doing socks, too! Is that your first or your second one?"

I straightened and tried not to look smug. "Actually, it's both the first and second sock."

The Magic Looper smiled, speaking slowly for my benefit. "But there's only one sock leg on your needles."

I looked her in the eye, smiled back, and reached into the tube on my needles -- and pulled the second sock out from inside of it. "I knit them at the same time. Inside of each other."

Five sock knitters from across the room jumped out of their chairs and zoomed over to see how I did it. "Brilliant!" one breathed. "Don't you get confused?" "How do you keep them separate?"

Magic Looper slowly deflated and then muttered in awe, "I hate you."

Double knitting is a technique that's been used for centuries to create a double-thickness of knitted fabric. To begin, cast on twice as many stitches as the width of the finished fabric using two different strands of yarn (the "front" and "back" yarns). Knit and purl each stitch, alternating between the front and the back yarns, and occasionally switch it up, knitting a "front" stitch with your "back" yarn, to tie the two pieces together. That's the technique in a nutshell -- an appropriate receptacle.

Ready to go back to the Covet Central page now? Just wait -- once you see how it's done, double knitting actually makes some sense. And it has endless applications (apart from announcing your status as the Dalai Knitter). Knitting a sweater with shaped sleeves and sick of counting and recounting and re-recounting to make sure that second sleeve matches the peerless, perfect first? Double knit 'em. Like those tube scarves but hate circulars or DPNs? Double knit it. Cursed by Second Sock Syndrome? Yes, that's right, double knit them.

Double-knitting (DKing) is the ultimate knitting party trick -- extreme knitting at its best. Any sock knitter worth their salt should give it a whirl.

You don't even have to give up your favorite knitting devices. DKing is not so much a new sock-knitting technique as it is a framework to hang all your techniques onto. You swear by the two-circ method? Dandy. Prefer DPNs? Fine by me. Can't break off your long-standing relationship with the Magic Loop? I affirm you in your Magic Loopiness.


Before you grab your favorite sock yarn and your instruments of choice, let's take a moment to collect our tools, collect our wits, and learn the basics of technique.

Tools: pointy sticks of choice, two (yes, two) balls of yarn, a tapestry needle, and two short stitch holders or waste yarn. Chocolate is optional.

For this exercise, use comfortable needles and a decent fingering to DK-weight yarn. It may be helpful to use thicker yarn than you normally would for socks so you can get the hang of the technique. Size and gauge don't matter here.

Wits: a deep yogic breath, my (and your) implicit permission to throw the mess across the room when your brain seizes up, and the ability to hold two different strands of yarn however you like.

Basics: We'll make a pair of practice socks in two different colors. This is cheating (see "cheating," below). If you dislike the sound of that, call it "technique refinement."


This is, without a doubt, the second most difficult thing to do in DKing. Unfortunately, the rules of string-play dictate that you have to do this part first, so just remember -- if you can cast on, you can double-knit.

You can use a variety of cast-ons though I can tell you that, from experience, the Continental (long-tail) cast on requires two more hands than most of us are naturally equipped with. I'll show cable cast-on here for DKing.

Cheating is an option. In fact, it's a dang good one. If you love long-tail cast on, or the directions below make you want to smash things, then cast on the requisite number of stitches from one ball onto one needle and the same number of stitches from the other ball onto another needle. Transfer those stitches to one needle, alternating between Ball A and Ball B. Cheaters never win and winners never cheat, but smart knitters who want to retain an iota of sanity do, cheerfully.

To DK cast-on, form a slip knot in color A and color B and put them on your working needle, side by side.

Pull the B strand to the left so the bottom of the B stitch is facing to your left; pull the A strand to the right so the bottom of the A stitch is facing to your right. Begin by knitting the color A stitch with color A and putting the stitch you just made back onto the working needle.

Now spin your working needle 180 degrees so the bottom of the two A stitches face to your left and the B stitch now faces to your right. Knit the B stitch (I know, that's difficult to do since there's a freaking A stitch on either side of it), and place that new stitch back onto the working needle. Spin the needle 180 degrees again.

Repeat this process slowly and mindfully, flipping back and forth, until you have 32 stitches of each color on the needle (64 total).

Put the knitting down, walk to the kitchen, and eat an entire bar of chocolate.

Your mantra will be "A in front, B in back." That's not a very spiritual mantra, but it's a helpful reminder of basic technique. It is also is spare enough that you can breathe serenely through it or insert the swear words of your choice into it.

We'll begin by joining the round. As experienced sock knitters know, joining the round can get tricky. Joining the round in DKing is no less so. But it's also no more so.

So. Take that lovely caterpillar of cast on yarn and redistribute it however you need to (in this case, I've used DPNs). Squish the two lines of knots together so you have an open-ended triangle, and make sure the lines of knots are aligned to the inside of the needles.

The A yarn will hang naturally to the front and the B yarn naturally to the back. Pick up the strands now.

Yeah, right. How do you hold this mess? Do whatever you need to be comfortable. That's right, comfortable. Some people like those little stranded-knitting thimbles that sort out each color on your left finger; some people just drop the strand they are not using. I use a combined method, holding one strand in my left hand and one in my right.

You'll have finished the cast-on with a B stitch and the first stitch you will knit will be an A stitch, knit with the A yarn. As A hangs in the front in purl position, move strand A to the back. I know it looks messy. Soldier on and knit stitch A with strand A.

Once the first stitch has been made with A, move the A strand back to the front.

Now knit B. Since the B strand is already in back, this is just like regular knitting -- and, just like in regular knitting, you will keep strand B in back when the stitch is complete.

I find that sometimes with DPNs it's easier to knit the first two stitches with the last holding needle, not the empty working needle. This helps you see the alignment of the stitches better. Once they are knit, you can transfer the first two knit stitches off the last holding needle and onto the working needle.

To knit the next stitch (A), move the A strand to the back, knit, and return yarn to front. Knit the next B stitch with the B strand, keep strand to back.

Repeat this slowly until you have knit all the stitches on one round.

Looky! You did it! The beginnings of two socks, right there on the needles! Have some chocolate.

What about purling?

Let's assume that A is next up to bat. Insert your needle into the A strand next, and purl the stitch. A is in front already, so that makes life easy.

Leave the A strand in the front. Even with a different stitch, A is always in front and B is always in back.

To purl the B stitch, bring the B strand to the front as if to purl, 'cause that's what we're gonna do with it. I find it helpful to hold it far down in front of the knitting so I don't get tangled up.

Insert your needle purlwise, purl the B stitch with the B yarn, then immediately take the B yarn back where it belongs.

Take a moment now to organize your yarn, and reflect: now that you can knit and purl, you can DK any knit-purl pattern at all into your socks. Bask in the heady glow of it all and go have more chocolate.

While you are munching happily on your reward, let's consider how this technique differs from traditional DKing.

Simply put, traditional DKing crosses the A and B strands. When you use two different colors, this gives you a thick reversible two-color pattern. There are many benefits to this, namely, the "thick" and "reversible" ones.

Not for socks

This triangle is a side-view of what your DKed socks of the uncrossed variety will look like. The leg labeled A is the front piece of fabric. This is what you knit with the A strand from the A ball of yarn. The leg B is the back piece; it's knit with the B strand from the B ball of yarn. The apex C: that's the needle where all the stitches meet.

You can see that by keeping one strand in back and one strand in front and not crossing them, we are creating two pieces of fabric at the same time.

If we wanted to knit something reversible, we'd cross the strands. That ties the fabrics together to make one monster thick piece of fabric. This makes very cool shadow-knitted scarves, hip baby blankets, and all manner of good things, but it makes for wretched socks.

Go back to the knitting, get in position, and keep going on those legs. Go, go, go! Take frequent breaks!

You may notice that these socks are knitting up a little looser than you would like. That only makes sense -- you've got something resting between each stitch you make. Since this is a practice pair of socks and gauge doesn't matter, this is okay.

When you take this technique on the road and want to knit real socks, however, try going down a needle size to maintain true gauge. If you're starting a new pattern with a new yarn and don't know if just going down a needle size will work, you will have to knit a swatch. Sorry.

Always make sure to stick your hand between the layers of your knitting. For even the most careful among us will space out, thinking about how our fellow knitters will be amazed when we whip this baby out at the next SnB, how they will surrender their ebony needles, bowing in worship, offering up unto us the costliest yarns they have in homage of our greatness, how that chica who is knitting the lace bedspread with cobweb-weight yarn is going down.

When we succumb to the narcissistic tendencies of the flesh, my friends, things can happen. You knit an A stitch with the B yarn, or vice versa. Sticking your hand between the fabrics helps you find where you've done that.

Typical problem areas are at DPN joins or Magic Loop transfer points. The best way to find those while you are only a row or two past from that cross-over is to stick your fingers through the huge, gaping hole between DPNs or at transfer points. If you notice an X in the stitches, it's a crossed stitch:

If you can fit your finger(s) through the hole without encountering any extra yarn, you're good to go:

Find a catch?


Alas, the road to becoming a knitting guru is filled with many travails. The path to sock-knitting perfection is not a smooth or easy one. You may have to fix things. There are two main problems you encounter while DKing.

Crossed Stitches
Every once in a while, you may stick your hand up your knitting and find this:

This is obvious with the two-color socks we're using. But someday, you may want to actually make a matching pair of socks, which means that catch will look like this:

Whatever you may be feeling at this moment, this is not the answer:

This is the answer:

Very carefully, find the catch and follow it up to the working needles. Mark this with a twist tie, or stick your thumb and forefinger between the stitches that are okay and the stitches that are crossed. Transfer those beautiful uncrossed stitches to a stitch holder or another needle. And drop the offending pair of stitches.

I know, this is painful. There may be tears. That's fine. Salt water won't hurt the yarn.

Unravel the stitches down to the starcrossed pair. They will separate fairly easily.

Separate the two sides and, starting with the B side (or the inside of the sock), begin catching and fixing the stitches. Do the same for the front.

Put the new stitches back on the working needle, and transfer those uncrossed stitches back on. All better.

I'm Lost
You've worked several inches on your DKed sock and have decided it's time to, oh, I don't know, eat some chocolate. You set the knitting down, and when you come back, you have no idea if you're on the front or the back.

Simply reach into your tube and pull the second sock out. If you look carefully at the needle (the apex of our triangle), you will see where the stitches for the back and the front are:

Stuff the second sock back into the first and continue.

When you are ready to knit the heel, put the knitting down and go for a long walk. Or listen to your favorite CD. Or, if your hands won't stop knitting, work on some mindless stockinette for a while. Chocolate is also an option.

Short-row heels are probably the easiest heel you can make on DK'd socks, so basic technique will cover them. With the short-row heel, there are no tricky SSKs or K2togs that require some extra needle acrobatics with DKing. (For basics on the short-row heel, visit Wendy Johnson's article.)

Begin by dividing your stitches so that half of them are on one needle and the remainder are on another (or a stitch holder). You'll work across half of the stitches. It looks like a lot of stitches, but remember you're turning two heels at once.

Sit back and savor that thought for a moment before continuing.

Working on a right-side row, knit across to the last two stitches on the needles (one A, one B).

We're going to wrap each stitch. Take the A yarn to the back, as if to knit. Then slide the A stitch to your right needle knitwise. Bring your A yarn back to the front.

Now, bring the B yarn forward as if to purl. Slide the B stitch to your right needle knitwise, and bring the B yarn back to the back.

When wrapping stitches, think a bit about our triangle. You'll want to bring both threads into the apex and then pull them right back out. Inside-out.

If you've worked a short-row heel before, you know this is all wonky, but if you reverse it and go from the outside in....

We can't have that now, can we?

Once the stitches are wrapped and all on your right needle, turn your work.

This is one of those (many) points when you may want to throw the knitting accidentally-on-purpose on a lit gas burner, but all that is needed here is a deep breath and the ability to untangle yarn. The B strand will now be in front, held in your dominant hand. The A strand, which has been in front, is now in back in your not-dominant-but-doing-its-dangedest hand.

Slip the first B stitch and A stitch onto your working needle. Slipping them will finish wrapping them.

Now, purl across to the last two stitches (see instructions for purling above). And again, move your A yarn to the back, slip the stitch, move the yarn to the front; move the B yarn to the front, slip the stitch, move the yarn back. Wrap from the inside out.

Set the sock down, get up and stretch, and, yes, have some more chocolate.

When you're done and your hands are clean, turn your work and knit across to the two stitches before the wrapped ones. You'll wrap these stitches just like you did above.

Once you have wrapped all the heel stitches (you should start with a knit row), stick your hand up the sock and make sure you didn't cross any strands while wrapping. Now, knit across and pick up those A wraps

and knit them. Pick up the B wraps

and knit those. And wrap the next A stitch and B stitch going inside-out again.

Turn and being purling your way across. You'll continue in this way, picking up and knitting or purling wraps as you go, until you've picked up and knit and purled all wraps.

At this point, put your knitting down and stretch. Revel in the knowledge that you just turned two sock heels at the same time and go buy two nice skeins of yarn in celebration.

The foot is just like the leg, only on the other side of the heel. You'll be knitting in the round again, A in front, B in back. After the heel, this is a relaxing moment, just miles of stockinette stitch. Remember to stick your hand in between the knitting, though, to make life easier.

Short-row toes are easier to construct when you DK socks, but the seaming could drive you to a nervous breakdown (if the rest of the sock hasn't already, that is). I would recommend a simple French toe to aid in seaming. This also introduces you, for a very short period of time and in a manageable way, to how to work a k2tog in DKing.

If the very idea of a k2tog makes you want to lie down quietly for several years, skip down to the second help box which provides an easy but sane cheat.

Begin by making sure that your needles are aligned properly.

You'll be decreasing on either side of the foot parallel to the heel (marked with arrows above). Work the round until you have the last four stitches on the inside of the foot. You should have just worked a B stitch and ready to work an A stitch. We'll number these last four stitches 1, 2, 3, and 4.

Moving A to the back as if you are going to knit, you will slip your needle through stitch 3 as if to knit. Then, using the fingers on your holding hand to help spread out the stitches, you will slip the tip of your needle in front of stitch 2.

This may or may not involve swearing.

Now slide the needle through stitch 1 as if to knit.

Knit the stitches together. Slide sts 1, 2, and 3 off the needle, and pick stitch 2 back up.

When you slide stitches 3, 2, and 1 off the needle, you'll notice that stitch 2 is trapped in the loop of the new k2tog you've made. Make sure you move stitch 2 so it's clear of the new A k2tog.

Move A back to the front. Pick up stitches 2 and 4 and knit those using B.

Knit across to the other side of the foot and repeat.

Cheating! You can also slide the remaining 4 stitches off the working needle and pick them up in a k2tog-able way--->

No one's going to argue with you. They may even think that this is way cooler than the technique above because you're intentionally dropping stitches and picking them back up.

Continue the decreases until the toe looks about right to you.

You've done it! You made two socks at on-- not so fast, we need to seam.

Do not be downcast. There really is no way you can seam two toes at once. Consider this: you will be joining one end of fabric A to the other end of fabric A. What does this mean for the ends of fabric B?


Though you may think this is the easy way out, it's really the only way out. Using one needle and a stitch holder, place the A stitches on a needle and the B stitches on the needle holder. I find that waste yarn works just fine as a stitch holder in this case

When you are finished, please pack away the socks until you are in the company of other sock knitters. Then pull your knitting out, announce you have to seam your socks, and when everyone swivels their heads your way, calmly pull one sock out of the other and claim your new status as Dalai Knitter.

Like all techniques, DKing takes a bit of time getting used to it. You may find that your speed increases as you go and that you can drop into the rhythm of it mindlessly with little effort and few mistakes. You may try it once and hate it, and that's just fine. The secret of being an extreme knitter is knowing what works for you and what doesn't.

But do try it just once. And make sure that there are plenty of other sock knitters whining about that dread second sock when you pull your two socks apart and dance on the table.



Kory has been knitting since the Reagan Administration and has tried the Magic Loop but just can't get the hang of it. As you can see, her eldest daughter is a great artist but doesn't like dictionaries, which is a shame since Kory writes them for Merriam-Webster, Inc. No one will play Scrabble (TM) with her as a result.

She blogs in her spare time and lives in north-central Connecticut with her jazz-musician/teacher husband, two daughters, and a dorm full of high-school students. Extreme.