I’ve been a little obsessed with the idea of spool knitting lately, having first seen it in action in the wonderful 200 Braids book. This type of knitting, sometimes called corking, is familiar to Girl Scouts and schoolkids the world over, and yields thin, hollow tubes of knitting. They can be used for trim, of course, but Iâ€™m convinced there’s more uses lurking in the back of my brain. The simplicity of the whole thing is just so cool to me.
I scored a big bag of wooden spools on eBay, and then not two days later, I had the good fortune to meet Mariko and visit Superbuzzy World Headquarters. There, on a worktable, were rows and rows of the most beautiful, big wooden spools ever. (They originally had lovely ribbons and trims wound on them.) And Mariko was kind enough to let me take some home. (Thank you!!)
So now, I was ready! Mom and I convened recently to tackle the mystery of spool-knitting.
Here’s how it’s done:
First, you drive 4 or 5 nails into the top of your spool, fairly equidistant from each other. And then you feed some yarn down through the center hole of the spool. Leave a good 10″ tail hanging out of the bottom. (I’m using perle cotton embroidery thread here, but you can also use sport weight yarn, crochet cotton, or even narrow ribbon!)
Next, you wind the leading edge of the yarn around each nail. Actually, you twirl the spool in your hand as you guide the yarn into place. Wrap two rows like this.
The next bit is tricky. Take that 10″ tail of yarn from before, and stick it back up through the center hole of the spool — but place your little finger through it, so it won’t feed all the way through. (I found my 4.5mm crochet hook invaluable for feeding yarn through the center of the spool – just hook it and pull it.)
Okay, then you take that tail end, and wrap it around the yarn that’s looped onto the nails. And then, you send that tail back down through the center hole again. That seems weird, but you do it so that you can pull your knitted tube down through the spool as you knit.
You just pull on the loop and loose end together as you work.
For the knitting part, I liked using a 1.7mm crochet hook (Thanks, Mom!). The process is so simple — you just hook the bottom loop, and then pull it up over the top loop, and off the nail completely. Do that with each nail until they all have only one loop wrapped on them. Then, loop another row of yarn onto the nails, and repeat.
Do this over and over, pulling your work through the spool as you go, and eventually, your knitted tube will emerge through the bottom of the spool.
When you’re ready to bind off, just cut the yarn and thread the end on a needle. Run it through the loop on each nail, and then pull them all off. Draw the end of the yarn tight, and you have a fray-free end.
Hmmm… if I’d made more cord, I could sew this into a flower! In fact, look at this tutorial.
Now, indulge me a bit more geekery:
Mom was much more interested in spool knitting with 28 gauge wire than with yarn. Here’s a chain she knitted – cool, huh? She pulled it through a tiny circle template in order to stretch it to a narrower width. Jewelry possibilities abound! (But I will say: I found working with the wire to be fairly challenging – I don’t have Mom’s wire skillz.)
Now, this method of spool knitting is only one of many, apparently. Look at this variation.
I was also very intrigued by this poly clay spool knitter. I could make those! And I love the idea of being able to place as many or as few nails in them as I like.
. . . The mania has not left me yet. Next, I’ll be playing with threading two colors of thin floss together through this gizmo, and making color-flecked trim.
Want to see some more spool knitting tutorials?