The objective of ‘French Knitting’ is to make a cord from plaited yarn, which can then be made into a wide range of decorative woven items. Although French knitting is often marketed for children, in attractive sets and with decorative dollys, as can be seen later, it can be a skilled craft for all ages. The knitting doll featured here was designed to appeal to children.
Spools for French knitting have a variety of names including knitting dolls, knitting Nancys, French Knitters, spool knits and knitting spools. They may be made of wood or plastic and are basically hollow tubes around the top of which are inserted four pegs (nails or staples) around which yarn can be wound and stitches made. They are made in a variety of sizes. The diameter of the hole determines the weight of the yarn that can be knitted.
In addition to the spool, the user needs to have at hand a darning needle, a crochet hook and a pair of scissors. The yarn is inserted into the top of the spool and pulled through the base. This is achieved by making a slip knot in the yarn and pulling it with the crochet hook until about ten centimetres of yarn comes out of the base.
The yarn at the top, which is attached to the skein, is wound clockwise round a peg, then the next counter-clockwise peg until all four pegs are wrapped in yarn. To commence knitting this is repeated so that there are two loops on each peg. Then using a pick or darning needle, the lower loop of each peg is pulled above the top loop, making a stitch. The yarn is again wrapped around the pegs and the lower loops pulled up and so on. A knitted four sided tube of yarn will emerge from the base of the spool.
Once the knitted cord has been cast off and secured it can be rolled into circles, or formed into other shapes. Several cords can be sewn together to make large items, such as blankets and knitwear.

More information:

Date 1960s
Material(s) WoodMetal
Item number MBPO124

Questions to help you remember using this item

  • When have you tried French Knitting?
  • Was this as a child or an adult?
  • What have you made? What colour yarns?
  • Have you ever made a knitting spool at home?

User Stories

On viewing this item, I suddenly remembered, as a child, having a home made knitting spool made from an empty cotton reel with four small nails on the top, similar to the one illustrated below. I do not remember how successful I was.

Here is a kit aimed at children between the ages of 5 and 10 years.

Here is what can be achieved:


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