From the Stitch Library...How to Use a French Knitter

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I got this cute little guy for a gift recently and had to share...Here is a fun tutorial you can use to make your own i-cords—before learning how to use one of these, I was only using DPNs, so I am now proud to say I have another interesting knitting skill in my pocket!

OK, let's begin...I will be demonstrating on Lion Brand's knitting spool. As a side note, I learned recently that these little guys have a plethora of names: French Knitter, Knitting Spool or Knitting Nancy. You can easily get one at a local yarn shop, craft store, fabric store,, etc. I also saw some gorgeous antiquey ones on ebay...might be fun to hunt for one too at your local antique shop.

Most spools come with a small stick, if you don't have one, you can use a narrow DPN, experiment with the size until you find one that works best with your spool. The stick mine came with is made of plastic and a had a little too much flex in it for me...I chose to use a bamboo US7 DPN instead, but definitely choose the size you feel most comfortable handling.

Here we go...

Pull a strand of yarn through the hole of the spool from the top until a short end comes through the bottom of the spool.

Hold the French Knitter top with thumb facing, yarn is held and runs over the top of your index finger. The middle and ring fingers hold both yarn and base of French Knitter.

Hold the needle/DPN as you would hold your knitting needle.

To cast on, wind the yarn around the pins counterclockwise as shown...take care not to do this too tightly or it will extremely difficult and/or impossible to complete the first round.

First round: Wind yarn around the OUTSIDE of the pins this time in the same counterclockwise direction,

Using the needle/DPN in your right hand, lift the loop over each pin head and over the yarn wound around the outside of the four pins, working in a counter clockwise direction.

Here is the needle going in:

Here is the needle lifting the stitch over the pin:

Continue working in this counterclockwise manner until cord reaches desired length.  From time to time, give the strand of yarn a gentle little tug at the bottom to keep things from bunching up:

As you continue to add rounds, the cord will start to emerge from the bottom of the spool like this:

When you are ready to cast-off, you can do one of two things: you can cast off as you would when knitting by using your needle and moving each loop to the next pin as shown here in this sequence:
Working in the same direction, lift the first loop over to the next pin,
Lift the bottom loop over the pin, 

Move loop over to the next pin and lift bottom loop over the pin,
Continue working in this manner until only one loop remains on the pin.
Then carefully slip it off of the pin and fasten off.
Or, you can simply cut a tail and thread it through each loop and pull tightly and fasten off, similarly to finishing off the top of a hat in the round.

There you have it! Try experimenting with different kinds of yarns for interesting and beautiful effects!

Here is a simple pattern to use your new skill!


  1. Thanks for the tutorial on this...I had one of these as a girl and had completely forgotten how to use it! Now I can show my daughter how to use it. :)

    1. You're welcome! I'm sure she will be thrilled! :-)

  2. we used to make these as kids during the school year. We made our own knitter with wooden spools and tiny fun. This brings back memories :-)

    1. Oh what wonderful memories! I had a cheap-o plastic one when I was little (I think it came with a plastic loom too)and was so excited to get a nice wooden one, it didn't cost much, but I am thrilled with mine! :-)

  3. saw pretty ones at our local poundstore so got one each for my children as stocking fillers

  4. I remember my mother telling me that in her school days, they used to take the wooden thread spools from sewing machines, – I guess they already had holes in them from which the cord could emerge, hammer four small nails, and start cording with a knitting needle, open at both ends. When I showed this to her, – I found it on eBay – she told me that I could make one myself!

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