I would like to take a moment and offer up some thoughts and (perhaps) helpful pictures regarding magic loop. In the past few days, quite a number of folks have asked about magic loop and how you keep it from becoming a giant tangle, especially if you're working two items at a time. The short answer is: It always gets to be a sort of tangle. The longer answer: With a bit of attention, you can keep the tangling to a minimum and whiz right along through your knitting.
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.