Tag Archives: children

How to Make a Knitting Spool

My son came home from school last week and announced that he could knit. His teacher had taught her first grade class spool knitting, which they can do while they listen to her read stories. It’s a brilliant idea, not only does it give the kids something to do with their hands, which cuts down the fidget factor, it also helps each kid to be self contained and not flicking the back of his friend’s head. In short, it aids concentration for individuals and improves the atmosphere in the classroom.

Of course, they are not knitting with needles, no-one should arm a group of seven year olds with pointy sticks. Instead, they are learning spool knitting, otherwise known as bobbin knitting, corking or french knitting.  Spool knitting uses a spool and a number of nails or tines to produce a narrow tube of fabric, similar to i-cord.

My son wanted to make a spool knitting bobbin at home, so we did. Here’s what it looks like:

bobbin1It’s super easy to make and even easier to use, so I thought I’d share that with you today.

You Will Need

a toilet paper tube

a strip of lightweight card, the same height as the tube

4-8 popsicle sticks (or in our case a wooden dowel cut into 8 pieces of 4″ long)


kitchen scissors

1. Roll up the card and put it inside the tube. Fix it in place with tape at both ends, the tape should overlap from the inside to the outside of the tube. This will strengthen the tube.

2. Arrange the popsicle sticks (or dowels) evenly around the outside of the tube with one end of the stick overlapping the top of the tube by about 1″. Secure the sticks in place with the tape at the top and bottom of the tube.

Now you’re ready to cast on and start knitting.

How to Spool Knit

1. Make a slip knot and secure it over one of the popsicle sticks. Put the short end of the yarn into the tube.

2. Take the long end of the yarn to the next popsicle stick to the right. Loop the yarn behind and around that stick. Do the same thing all the way around the popsicle sticks until you are back to your original knot.


3.  Loop the yarn behind and around that stick as before. Hold it firmly in place.

4. Lift the bottom loop on the popsicle stick over the top loop you just made. You have knitted a stitch.

5. Keep knitting, the tube of knitted fabric will form inside the toilet paper tube.


6. When your knitting is the correct length, cast off by moving the bottom loop one popsicle stitch to the right and using that as the top loop to make a stitch. When you get to the last loop, cut the yarn, feed it through the final loop and pull it tight.

Some other spool knitting tips:

Use bulky weight yarn, bigger stitches are easier to make.

Popsicle sticks, make a good big stitch but we didn’t have any. We used a length of dowel instead and I wouldn’t recommend that as it makes smaller and more fiddly stitches, although it doesn’t seem to be a problem for my son.

Most kids prefer to use their fingers to make the stitches, but they could also use a crochet hook.

When it’s time to put the spool knitting away, my son’s teacher puts a thick rubber band over the top of their popsicle sticks to stop the stitches falling off.

For more information about knitting in schools, please see this well researched curriculum guide by the knitting pattern designer Cat Bordhi (I love her sock patterns).


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Toddler Reading List – Mice

Every Friday morning I read stories and sing songs with a group of toddlers at the Cover to Cover bookstore in San Francisco. This week our theme is mice.

A Visitor for Bear by Bonny Becker. Bear is a grumpy drama queen and he doesn’t want any visitors. But a small gray mouse is persistent and eventually bear realises that it’s great to have an audience. This is an awesome read aloud book, as the bear’s outrage gets worse you can really go to town on the drama! The illustrations are beautiful and detailed and it’s easy but fun to find where  the mouse has appeared this time.

The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear by Audrey Wood. A sweet take on the modern archetype of the American con artist. Our smooth talking narrator manages to convince the mouse that there’s a big hungry bear coming and the best thing he can do to protect his strawberry is to share it with us and eat it. When you’ve finished the book, ask your toddler to find the picture of the bear in the book. Of course, there isn’t one.

Mousepaint by Ellen Stoll Walsh. Three mice experiment with colour and discover the joys of camoflage.

The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson. My favourite read aloud author and this is one of her best. A cunning mouse manages to hold off being eaten by inventing a monster friend, but when the monster friend turns out to be real, the hero has to do some quick thinking.

Frederick by Leo Lioni. This book is very popular, particularly in California and the illustrations are disarmingly similar to  Eric Carle’s. However it’s a product of the Summer of Love and as such it leaves reality far far away. Frederick is a mouse who instead of gathering food for the winter, gathers, sunshine, colours and words. Surprisingly the other mice don’t leave him to starve and he manages to brighten their winter with stories and poetry. Even the most idealistic of post-beat poets would probably agree that maybe Frederick should have gathered some food as well as working on his magnum opus. Or maybe that’s my protestant work ethic shining through. In any case it certainly resonates with small children for whom the practicalities of life are dealt with by somebody else.

I’ll be singing “The Bear Went Over the Mountain”, “A Mouse in a Windmill” and “There’s a Monster in My Closet”

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Toddler Reading List – Trucks

Every Friday morning I read stories and sing songs with a group of toddlers at Cover to Cover, the local bookstore. This week our theme is trucks.

My Truck is Stuck by Kevin Lewis and Daniel Kirk – The people who wrote and illustrated the phenomenally popular Chugga Chugga Choo Choo turn their attention to trucks and the result is strange and wonderful. It’s a counting book (sort of) with mid-line rhymes and a strange jerky rhythm which takes a little getting used to. The illustrations show a truck full of bones being slowly emptied by small indeterminate dessert creatures whilst it’s dog driver’s try to get the truck out of a hole. It is an odd book and yet my son requests it frequently. Perhaps because it’s so unconventional, it’s more interesting to read.

B is for Bulldozer by June Sobel and Melissa Iwai .We can find all the letters of the alphabet on this construction site and the last page gives us a great and eXciting surprise.

Melvin Might? by Jon Scieszka, David Shannon, David Gordon, and Loren Long. Melvin the cement mixer is worried about everything, but he has to save little Rita, can he try? One of the Trucktown series, this is a great book about trying your best and having a good mix of courage and caution in your life.

Tractor Trouble. A little board book about a cow who thinks she can drive a tractor and the chaos that ensues. This one is not available to buy, unfortunately as it is published by UK retailer Marks & Spencer. Good old M&S 🙂

Red Truck byKersten Hamilton and Valeria Petrone. A red tow truck comes to the rescue of a school bus in this super simple book with great colourful illustrations.

We’ll be singing the Tractor song, the Wheels on the Truck and The More We Get Together.

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Toddler Reading List – Monkeys

Every Friday morning I read stories and sing songs to toddlers at Cover to Cover, the local bookstore. Because my son has been quite a monkey recently, I thought we’d have a monkey theme this week.

Monkey and Me by Emily Gravett. This is a beautifully illustrated book by an award winning author illustrator. It’s also the first book that my son really loved. A little girl takes her toy monkey on a day out to the zoo, where they learn to walk like the animals.

Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina. A classic story about a hardworking peddlar who has to play monkey see monkey do to get his caps back from a tree full of monkeys. It’s really fun to read, pretending to balance caps on your head and stanping feet and shaking fists at the monkeys.

Where’s my Mom by Julia Donaldson. Baby monkey can’t find his Mum, but there’s a friendly butterfly who wants to help him. Unfortunately the butterfly doesn’t have any experience of babies who look like their parents which leads to several pages of misunderstandings. So we get to shout, No No No…that’s an elephant! (or a bat or a spider or a snake or a frog or a parrot). Donaldson’s rhymes bounce along just as you would expect and Axel Scheffler’s illustrations are colorful and friendly.

The Escape of Marvin the Ape by Caralyn Buehner and Mark Buehner. Marvin the gorilla escapes from the zoo and is completely at home in the urban jungle of New York City. The cops are after him (you can see them in every picture) but he manages to give them the slip. The best thing about this book are the incredible illustrations which we never get tired of exploring. There is always something fun to look for, whether it’s the shapes in the clouds, a message in a bottle, a renegade ostrich or a sneaky cat. This one comes highly recommended.

Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees. Although this book is not entirely about monkeys, it does feature eight babboons who team up for a splendid scottish reel. This is a great little parable about how cool it is to be different and to dance to your own tune. Gerald the Giraffe thinks he’s too clumsy to dance and when he gets teased by the other animals, it makes him very sad. Luckily there’s a cricket with a violin who knows a lot about music.

We will be playing Monkey See Monkey Do, singing Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed, Animal Fair and If You’re Happy and You Know It and we’ll read some of Giles Andreae’s poems about the Gorilla and the Chimpanzee.

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Action Stations

No blog today, I’m writing to politicians about the CPSIA using the handy Etsy Action Kit. Here it is:


you should do this too.

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Stupid Law – Clever Etsians

The CPSIA or Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act comes into effect on 10th February. It states that all toys sold in America must comply with various limits on certain toxins, including lead and phthalates. This is all good stuff and I’m all behind the spirit of it. Except, that the law also requires that all manufacturers send their products to third party labs to be tested. And that’s when it all falls over in a big nasty mess. Testing costs $300 per constituent part of a product, the testing facilities are few and overbooked and none of them will accept handmade toys to test.

Anyone selling handmade toys to children has two choices, break this law or stop selling. And believe me, there are a lot of handmade toy makers out there.

There has been a vast amount of wailing and gnashing of teeth on the Etsy forums and there are pressure groups galore trying to amend this law.  http://blog.buyhandmade.org is just one example.

In the meantime, these bright sparks have come up with a semi solution.



It doesn’t help us to comply with the law, but it certainly gives us the moral high ground and a pretty good defense case. So I’m helping to compile the list of non-toxic supplies.

MiniMonster just came up with this – The Toy Police: And here’s her Etsy shop http://minimonster.etsy.com

The Toy Police


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