Unleash your inner six-year-old (or keep one busy) with spool knitting

Updated Oct 12 2015
Guest post by Ava Strange
Colonial Corker hardwood four-peg knitting spool.
Colonial Corker hardwood four-peg knitting spool.

The other night someone on Facebook posted some pictures of yarn bombing. This immediately reminded me of when I was a little kid, and I had spool knitting to keep me occupied on long trips.

What the hell is spool knitting, you ask?

Spool knitting (aka "French knitting") is basically knitting done in a constant spiral instead of in rows. It's typically used to make sleeves and socks, but a small spool, like the kind I used as a kid, produces what's basically a long rope, or an i-cord.

Since I'm apparently a highly suggestible person, of course I wanted to start a spool knitting project RIGHT NAO! Though, because it was 1am, I couldn't go to the craft store to get a knitting spool.

Well clever me, I figured out how to make one, and you can do it too…

How to start spool knitting RIGHT NOW

DIY knitting spoolI used a toilet paper roll:

  1. I cut into the top of it so that I had four "prongs," similar to if you were using this to make a little cardboard castle tower.
  2. I reinforced the prongs with toothpicks and painter's tape — like a splint, since that's what I had lying around. You could also tape four Popsicle sticks to your roll. But as long as you have a little tube with prongs around the top, you're good.

To start your rope:

  1. Make a slipknot in some yarn and put this on one of the prongs, with the tail hanging inside.
  2. Loop the yarn around the other prongs.
  3. Then you're going to wrap the yarn around and around, always lifting the yarn from the last pass up and over the new yarn and prong.
  4. You can also easily change colors by tying the old color to the new one and tucking the knot inside the rope as you continue to knit.

Eugh, this is easier to do than to explain. So here's a video that I did not make…

If you don't have a knitting needle like in the video, you can use another toothpick, and if you have stiletto nails, like me, you won't need anything!

So besides keeping six-year-olds occupied on road trips, what's the point of this?

img_2814There is of course killing time and making yourself appear even more talented than you really are; there are a TON of different projects you can do, from necklaces and scarves to purses and super unnecessary pen cozies. But the simplest thing to make is a great big circle by sewing your rope around and around. Depending on how long it takes you to get bored, you could end up with anything from a pot holder to a rug.

Mine is just passing dog/cat bed territory right now and will hopefully grow up to be a rug. And it better, because there is a lot of fighting for space on the thing right now. You could also make two of these circles, sew them together, and stuff them to make a pillow. And if you're Hugh Hefner and you have a round bed, this is the dorkiest/most awesome way to get a new blanket.

That's pretty damn good for some yarn and an old toilet paper roll, eh?

  1. I got one of those for my four year old for her Easter basket. And neon yarn. You gave to have the neon yarn.

    She sees me use knitting looms and crochet all the time and wants to do it too. I'm excited to pass the addiction on!

  2. I still have one of these!!! I made tons of yarn snakes as a kid. I never knew what to do with all those yarn snakes after I made them though. Its so relaxing! I'd probably still make them if I knew what the heck to do with them.

  3. You can also use a clothes pin! I learned it that way at guides. Because there are only two prongs, you just do a figure-8 around them, and just use your fingers to move the yarn over. It's a looser weave, but it's also way faster!

    • What do you mean 'move the yarn over'? This is where I think I get completely fucking confused when it comes to finger knitting and this spool knitting. Where does it go!? Move it where?! 🙁 I have problems with spatial reasoning and it's so so frustrating to try these really easy (sounding) projects and get nowhere with them because my brain can't figure out where to put things. Thanks for any tips!

      • With the clothespin method, you start by making two figure-8s over the clothes pin (the end you would pinch to open it, not the end that's always closed). This will give you two layers of yarn. The two loops of the bottom figure-8 need to be brought over the top figure-8 loops to the middle of the clothespin, where they just kind of sit there. Pull it tight by the end of the yarn, which should be hanging out the bottom, and make another figure-8 with your yarn near the top of the clothespin, and repeat.

        I hope this helps! It's really hard to explain, I know. I learned it in Guides when I was about 8. I tried to find a youtube tutorial for this method but no luck 🙁

  4. Oh man, my mom used spool knitting to keep me busy when I was a kid! I think I made a spare toilet paper roll cozy. Because letting people see your naked toilet paper was gauche, obviously.

  5. I love seeing my favorite topic on my favorite non-knitting blog. I remember doing spool knitting at my grandmother's house. I'm not sure I ever got very far. My favorite thing to do with yarn at the time was to create a spider web: go into a small room with a few balls of yarn and loop it around everything. That was a very rare treat, and we had to rewind the yarn afterwards. My grandmother was a saint: I'm an avid knitter now, and NOBODY gets to make spiderwebs with my wool!

    Thanks for bringing back some lovely memories!

  6. This looks so awesome! I always want something to do with my hands when I watch tv and this looks just easy enough that I could handle it. Thanks for posting!

  7. My 2nd grade teacher taught us how to do this when I was a kid! It was used as part of a unit on colonialism, and how things used to be made by hand instead of bought in a store.

    • This is off topic but I'm intrigued now – what does knitting and hand making things have to do with colonialism?

  8. I just have to add that if you're making a rug, it would be helpful to back it with a sheet of craft foam or something to keep it lying flat. I'm finding that without this it's not much better than a little afghan being kicked around on the floor.

  9. Now I REALLY want to know of an adult use for paper chains because I totally still want to make those too. We used to spend all day at grandma's house making them seeing if we could get it long enough to go all along the perimeter of the entire house, one room at a time. Bonus if we can revive that using recycled paper.

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