You may remember having a Knitting Nancy as a child. If not, a Knitting Nancy is what is referred to as a "spool knitter". Spool knitters are wonderful tools that have their start in making horse reins. Really!
Originally, as far as I have read, spool knitters were used for making horse reins with leather strips. The spool used was a wooden cotton spool with 4 nails at the top. Below is a vintage spool that held Coats & Clark thread, that I have placed four nails in. This is similar to what an "original" spool knitter would have looked like. This would make a fine-gauge tube of knitted yarn because the tube is only as big as the hole in the knitter that it goes through.
The Knitting Nancy shown below is from the 1960's. It is shown in the original box with a ball of my hand-spun silk and a smaller spool knitter.
The knit stitch method that spool knitters use is fairly simple. By looping one stitch over another, and pulling on the center beginning "tail" of yarn, a cord of stitches is made. The number of stitches is determined by the number of pegs or pins on the knitter.
There are several spool knitters on the market today, and this type of knitting seems to be becoming more popular again. Below are some examples of commercially-produced spool knitters:
Lion Brand Spool Knitter - Very nicely made of wood, and very nice to use.
Classic French Knitting Bee - Plastic with four pins.
Hearthsong Knitting Mushroom - A traditional "knitting mushroom". The center holes are fairly small on these, so this is for fine gauge yarns and threads.
Susan Bates Knitting Knobby (Boye brand is very similar to this)
A five-inch, four-peg spool knitter. Spool knitters may also be called "corkers" which is what this one was purchased as. This size is excellent for heavier yarns for braided rugs and chair pads.
The Clover Wonder Knitter- This model has two different gauge tops that snap on and off. The top pieces rotate, eliminating the need to rotate the entire spool with one hand. It's very easy to use.
I find spool knitters to be very simply "fun". They are also very practical. I recently made a braided chair pad with left-over yarns. After making individual "tubes" of yarn, braiding them together, I then sewed them into the chair pad shape. In the past, I mat have crocheted a chair pad with left-over yarns, but the spool-knit pad is much thicker, and more like a traditional braided item.
Wooden spool knitters are my personal favorite, but the older, more "collectible" knitters usually go higher in price than I want to spend. I do have several, but an alternative to collecting older knitters is to make your own with polymer clay.
Another advantage to making your own spool knitters is that you can control how many pins it has, thus, the gauge desired, and the number of stitches it will produce.
Lion Brand Yarn Company has easy to follow directions for making your own spool knitter out of polymer clay.
Below are some of the spool knitters that I have made out of clay. The largest, on the top right, is about 4 inches in diameter.
Being a fine artist, my "spoolies" shown above have a very artistic look to them. My purpose was to have a knitter in each of the gauges I felt I would need. The smallest (shown below), is one I made to use with fine Irish linen thread.
Below are original instructions for spool knitting. These were in a box with a Knitting Nancy, but I believe they may be Boye or Susan Bates instructions due to the diagram of the knitter.
One purpose for me in using my spool knitters is to use up my spare yarn "ends" from needle-knitted projects, especially my hand-spun wools. Having samples of each of my hand-spun wools, or sample yarns that I used for a project is a nice way to keep track of my project yarns. Also, short tubes of spool knitting can be joined into longer tubes, so even the shortest of leftover yarns may be used up this way.
Another purpose is to make portions of projects that are otherwise made with another method. For example, the photo below shows one of my tote bags, which I knit with needles. Instead of crocheting the handles, I spool-knit them, which produced a much more consistent and strong handle.
There's a wonderful group on Yahoo that focuses on Spool Knitting exclusively:
Please check back in the future as I add to this page.
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