1) Use a long needle with a flexible cable. I prefer Addis or Knitpicks needles with at least a 32" and preferably a 40" cable.
2) The first couple of rounds will look like utter crap. This is acceptable and will sort itself out as you go along. If it doesn't start to perk up by round 4, pause and look for errors.
3) In this method of knitting, laddering between the needles is best prevented by a good sharp tug on the yarn at the beginning of each half round.
Magic Loop (One Item at a Time)
The cast on
Using whatever method you desire, cast on the total number of stitches for your item. Slide all of the stitches onto the cable of your needle and find the mindpoint of your stitches. At the midpoint, spread the stitches apart, pinch the cable and pull the cable between the stitches. You should now have your circular needle folded in half with 50% of your stitches on each side of the needle. Slide all your stitches back down to the tips of the needle and, like so:
you are ready to knit.
In order to keep from a)twisting your work and b) turning the whole shebang into a tangled mess, always make sure that your working yarn runs OVER the cable of the working needle, like so:
Pull the needle with the working yarn attached throught the stitches (so that all the stitches are on the cable and turn it around to make "rabbit ears" and begin knitting your stitches, like so:
At the end of your half round you'll end up with all of your stitches back on the tips of your needles.
Turn the work, repeat the pulling through and work back across to complete the round. Remember: You have to work both sides of the work in order to complete a round.
Magic Loop (Two Items at a Time)
The Cast On
To cast on for two items at a time in Magic Loop, you need to cast on in a specific order. Using whatever method you so desire, cast on 50% of the stitches needed for item A (in this case, the gold yarn). Drop yarn A and cast on 100% of the stitches needed for item B (in this case, the dark blue yarn).
Push all of your stitches onto the cable. Find the midpoint of the stitches for item B and do the pinch and pull described above.
Now cast on the other 50% of your stitches for item A
And you're ready to begind knitting!
Always make sure that your working yarn runs OVER the cable of the working needle, this will keep your yarn from getting tangled up through the center of the items your working on and between the items. (If you do get tangled up, fix it as soon as you notice it. If you're knitting from two seperate balls, I find it most effective to go back to the ball and follow the yarn through the tangle. If you're using both ends of the same ball, you'll need to look very carefully at where the tangle is - often you'll have to finish a half round of one or both items in order to get to a point where you can get the needle out of the midst of the tangle.)
To work two items at a time, you'll use the same pull through, turn to "rabbit ears" and knit across method described above. However, you will knit a half round on item A AND on item B before you turn the work. I find it most expedient to hold only the yarn for the item I'm currently working on.
In this image, I've just finished a half round on item A and have dropped the yarn to move on to item B:
When knitting two items at a time on magic loop, the yarn will get wrapped around one another (as it often does in fair isle or other colorwork knitting). The most expedient way to untangle this is to hold your knitting by the working yarn (between the ball and the tangle) and to dangle the work off the side of your chair. It should spin around and untwist the yarn.
As promised, pictures and directions from the Two Socks On Magic Loop class today.
Here, I've knit across the remaining heel flap stitches and picked up stitches along one side of my gusset. I'm about to knit across the stitches in the top of the sock.
This is the bottom of the sock after picking up the stitches on the second side of the gusset.
This is the working view of the sock after picking up the second side of the gusset. The heel needle has far more stitches than the needle holding the stitches for the top of the sock.
Heel Options for Toe-Uppers (and some that would work for top down, as well)
My personal favourite, the short row heel, works with both toe-up and top down socks. Working on your heel stitches only....
Row 1: Knit to last stitch. Move yarn to the front, slip the last stitch, move yarn to the back and slip the stitch back to your left needle. You've wrapped your working yarn around this stitch. Do Not Knit this stitch.
Row 2: Purl to last stitch. Repeat the slipping and wrapping.
Row 3: Knit to last unwrapped stitch. Repeat the slipping and wrapping.
Row 4: Purl to the last unwrapped stitch. Repeat the slipping and wrapping.
Repeat rows 3 and 4 until you have 2/3 of your heel stitches wrapped (1/3 on each side), end with a purl row.
Row 1: Knit across the unwrapped stitches. Pick up the wrap that is around the next stitch and place it on your left needle. Knit these two stitches (the original stitch + the wrap) together. On the next stitch, repeat the slipping and wrapping from above. This stitch should have 2 wraps.
Row 2: Purl across the unwrapped stitches. Repeat as above.
Row 3: Knit across the unwrapped stitches. Pick up BOTH wraps from the next stitch and place them on your left needle. Knit all 3 stitches together.
Row 4: Purl across the unwrapped stitches. Continue as for Row 3.
Repeat Rows 3 and 4 until all stitches are worked. You will not need to work a gusset, simply continue into the leg (or foot) of your sock.
Another option is the toe-up heel flap:
Row 1: S1, K1 in the purl bump, k to last 1 stitch, k1 in purl bump, k1
Row 2: S1, purl across
Row 3: S1, knit across
Row 4: S1, purl across
Row 5: S1, k2, ssk, knit to last 5 stitches, k2tog, k3
Repeat rows 4 and 5 until 14 stitches remain
Next row: S1, purl across
Row 1: S1, k2, k2tog, k4, ssk, TURN
Row 2: S1, p4, p2tog, turn
Row 3: S1, k4, ssk, turn
Row 4: S1, p4, p2tog, turn
Row 5: S1, k4 ssk, turn
Row 6: S1, p4, p2tog, turn
Row 7: s1, k4, ssk DO NOT TURN. With right side of heel flap facing you, k1 through the slipped stitch immediately below the stitch you just knit, TURN.
Row 8: S1, purl across, p1 in slipped stitch below the last p2tog.
Row 9: S1, knit across, k1 in next slipped stitch
Row 10: S1, purl across, p1 in next slipped stitch
Repeat rows 9&10 until all slipped stitches are worked
Next row: Pick up and knit one stitch in the ladder between the heel flap and the body of the sock. Knit across the top of the sock. Pick up and knit one stitch in the ladder between the body of the sock and the heel flap. Knit across the heel stitches.
You could also use a peasant heel for either toe up or top down socks.