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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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I-Cord is a very useful way to knit a thick cord that was invented by Elizabeth Zimmerman. Some say it’s called I-cord because it looks like a letter I, others say it’s because it’s so easy that even an idiot could make it.

I-Cord is knitting in the round on a very small scale, using only three (or sometimes four) stitches. If you’ve ever used a French Knitting bobbin, a spool or a Knitting Nancy the final result is the same, although with I-Cord you’ll just be using two double pointed needles. Here’s how to knit I-Cord.

1. Cast On 3 stitches on 1 double pointed needle.

2. Knit 3 stitches.


3. DO NOT turn the needle around. Instead, slide the stitches to the other end of the needle and knit them all again.


4. Repeat step 3 until your I-Cord is the desired length.


5. Bind off.

I-Cord always looks messy at first, but as you knit more rows you can pull on the cast on tail and this will bring the two sides of the knitting together and make the I-Cord look more neat. If you don’t knit that first row, but slide the stitches to the other end of the needle straight after casting on your I-Cord will have a more rounded end.

I have used I-Cord in my toy designs, for the Snake Maker, the Pumpkin Head and the Spider patterns. I’ve also seen it used to make ties for cardigans or hats and coiled and sewn together to make small round mats or baskets.

It really is that simple and versatile. If you haven’t tried it before just pull out some yarn and a double pointed needle now, it will only take a few minutes.

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M1R or The Right Leaning Increase


Much attention is given to left and right leaning decreases, everyone wants to get their SSKs smaller and less misshapen. But very little is said about the difference between left and right leaning increases. Often, knitting patterns do not distinguish between the two, leaving a cryptic M1 to be interpreted by the knitter in whichever way they please, alternatively, an M1 is described as a left leaning increase, or M1L.

We toy knitters need right leaning increases to balance out the left leaning ones. For example, I used both right and left leaning increases in the tail of my shark pattern to make it fully symmetrical.

Here’s how to make a M1R.

1. Pick up the bar in the knitting between your needles from front to back on the right needle.

M1R 12. Slip this loop on to the left needle without changing it’s orientation. To do this, place the left needle tip into the front leg of the loop from back to front.

M1R 2

As you can see, it looks a bit contorted, but this is correct.

3. Knit into the front leg of the loop, like an ordinary knit stitch. This is where is gets difficult, because that loop is tightly twisted. I solve the problem by rolling that new stitch around the needle using my left index finger. This stretches out the stitch, so I can knit into it.

M1R 3

4. Knit the stitch as normal.

M1R 4

The finished stitch looks as though it is growing from the stitch to it’s left. Here’s a close up of those M1Rs in the Shark’s tail.


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Kitchener Stitch

Kitchener Stitch is a sewing technique most often used by knitters to close the toe in a knitted sock. I am currently using Kitchener Stitch to finish a design for a toy whale, so this seems the perfect time to share a tutorial with you.

1. Divide your live stitches evenly between two dpns. Make sure the right side of the knitting is facing outwards and the last stitch you knitted is the first stitch on the needle furthest from you, as shown below.

kitchener 1

2. Cut the yarn, leaving a long tail and thread it onto a tapestry needle. Sew through the first stitch on the front needle as though to purl, as shown below. Leave the stitch on the needle.


3. Sew through the first stitch on the back needle as though to knit, as shown below. Leave the stitch on the needle.


4. Sew through the first stitch on the front needle as though to knit, slip this stitch off the needle. Then sew through the next stitch (now the first) on the front needle as though to purl, leave this stitch on the needle.

5. Sew through the first stitch on the back needle as though to purl, slip this stitch off the needle. Then sew through the next stitch (now the first) on the back needle as though to knit, leave this stitch on the needle.

6. Repeat 4 and 5. (I say the steps out loud as I go; “knit, knit, slip, purl, purl, slip” it helps me remember where I’m up to).  Adjust the tension as you go, so that the sewn stitches match the knitted ones.


7. When you have two stitches left, one on the front needle and one on the back, sew through the front stitch as though to knit and slip it off the needle. Then  sew through the back stitch as though to purl and slip it off the needle. Sew through the center of that last stitch and pull tight, secure inside to finish. And it should look like this:


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KFB. The Forgotten Increase

There are many ways to create a new stitch in your knitting. Some lean left, some lean right and some are more invisible than others.

I am designing a hedgehog knitting pattern  at the moment, the pattern has increases in garter stitch. I had to make a conscious decision not to use my preferred method of M1L and find a more garter stitch friendly increase. It took me a few minutes to even think of knitting into the front and back of the stitch (or KFB). So in honor of me forgetting this increase I thought I’d take a closer look at it.

There are four front and back increases in the knitted swatch above. Two knitted in the stockinette stitch section and two in the garter stitch section. Some of them are difficult to see, so here’s a map:

1 – KFB in stockinette stitch. This leaves an obvious bar where the new stitch was made, unless you were using the bar as part of a stitch pattern it’s unlikely that you would use a KFB in stockinette stitch

2 – PFB (or purl into the front and back of the stitch) in stockinette stitch. There is still a bar under the new stitch, but it is much less obvious. This is a right leaning increase, but only because it’s made on the wrong side of the stockinette stitch. KFB is a left leaning increase.

3 – KFB in garter stitch. It’s very difficult to see this because the garter stitch bumps are in the way, but the bar is still there, if you look closely:

4 – PFB in garter stitch. This time, there’s no bar, but the stitches are unevenly bunched together.

I’m going to use the KFB in garter stitch for my knitted hedgehog as it’s the least obtrusive, it also looks similar to a K2tog decrease in garter stitch, so the increases and decreases balance well.

Making a KFB

The clue to this increase is in its description. You really do knit into the front and the back of the same stitch.

Step 1 – Knit the stitch as you normally would but don’t slip the stitch off the left needle, stop when it looks like this:

Step 2 – Bring the right needle behind the left needle and knit into the back of the stitch from right to left, which looks like this:

This time, slip the stitch off the needle. And that’s it!

A PFB is very similar, although when you get to step 2 you need to purl into the back of the stitch from left to right, which is quite tricky.

I have seen examples of KFB being used as a double increase where you would knit into the front, back and front of the same stitch.

It’s a very useful increase. Now hopefully I won’t forget KFB again.


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It’s My Bag (how to make little merchandise bags for craft shows)

IMG_3317You Will Need:

a pack of brown paper lunch bags

a printer

a hole punch

a ball of ribbon yarn (or ribbon, but the ribbon yarn will be cheaper) or you could use string if you were desperate

a flat surface

an aptitude for crafting

1. Print whatever you want on your bag. Here’s some tips to help you with that:

– Keep it simple, whatever you print on it it’s still going to be a brown paper bag, you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. Also, the bags tend to wrinkle when you print them, if you have a complex design it’s more likely to show these flaws.

– Print your design on the side without the seam

– Before you put the bag in the printer fold down the flap made by the bottom of the bag, otherwise it will get stuck.

– Print close to the bottom of the bag

– Your word processing software has templates for envelopes, one of them will be close enough to the size of the bag so you won’t have to set margins and work out paper sizes

2. Fold the top of the bag inside on itself at about an inch and a half depth. This is approximate. I don’t have time to measure every last fold for 100 bags. If they’re not exactly the same height I don’t think it will matter. It could even be an advantage if you have different sized merchandise.

3. Make sure the fold is straight, use a flat surface and your crafty eyes, fold the bag flat again to double check.

4. Fold the top of the bag inside on itself again, this time it’s easier because you have your previous fold as a guide.

5. Punch two holes in each side of the bag to loop the ribbon handles through. Once again, no time to measure so use your crafty-sense and the design on the bag to work out where to punch the holes.

6. Cut two equal lengths of ribbon yarn, feed each one through the holes to make the handles and secure with a knot.

Easy and at $2 for the bags and $4 for the ribbon yarn it’s a LOT cheaper than the other options I’ve seen online. I’ll be securing the bags closed with little metallic stickers from my secret stash of stickers for well behaved toddlers, so they will have a touch of glamour.


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How To – Make Personalised Knitter’s Graph Paper

I’m a big believer in never buying anything you can make yourself and knitter’s graph paper definitely falls into that category.

But first a quick explanation for the non-knitters. Sometimes a knitter will use graph paper to map out a design which will go into the knitting, either in a different colour or in a different stitch. However, ordinary graph paper just won’t do for this, it’s too symmetrical and knitted stitches are rarely symmetrical, usually stitches are wider than they are tall. Therefore knitter’s graph paper is made of small rectangles which are wider than they are tall.

I’ve been looking around for some explanations of how to make the paper using an Excel spreadsheet, but they seem to be generically sized. So I thought about it for a little while and in the end this is how I made the graph paper for my project. It’s really easy and you can do it to.

1. Knit a gauge swatch (you should always do this anyway, so it shouldn’t  be too much extra work)

2. Work out how many stitches and rows make 1″ square. Eg in my project 1″ square = 2.5 stitches by 3.5 rows

3. Divide these numbers by 10, just move that decimal point one space to the left. Eg 0.25 and 0.35

4. Open up an Excel or similar style spreadsheet.

5. Select the whole spreadsheet by pressing the button in the top left corner (just above 1 in the first column)

6. In the format menu go to row; height and enter the number derived from the stitches. Eg 0.25

7. In the format menu go to column; width and enter the number derived from the rows. Eg 0.35

8. You may need to divide these numbers further so that you can fit the right number of rectangles onto one sheet of paper, dividing by 2 will work well in those cases

9. Select the area of spreadsheet you need

10. Add borders to the selected area (usually a little square button on the toolbar)

11. Print

And there you are, knitter’s graph paper with the correct ratios for your project.


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