Knitting Nancys (a.k.a. French knitters, knitting nobbies, spool knitters, etc.) have become something of an obsession for me this week. I’ve been thinking about what to include in a beginning knitting class for kids that I might teach at Sam’s school next fall, so I purchased one at the Bobbin’s Nest in Santa Clara last month. I never got around to trying it, however (the directions seemed daunting), until I found this Giant Knitting Nancy by UK design company Superblue in a recent Vogue Knitting magazine and watched the video that you can find on Superblue’s page about the project here.
You can see the giant knitting nancy in the background of the photo to the left. The video shows someone actually using it to knit and, on that scale, I easily understood how it worked and could make sense of those directions for my much smaller-scale knitter. Once I started exploring these tools on the internet, I found many versions of a DIY toilet paper roll knitter and set out to make my own.
What I love about both the giant knitting nancy and the toilet paper roll version is that you can knit with only your hands and the knitter. You don’t need a tool like the one shown in the photo with my purchased knitting nancy to help you manipulate the loops of yarn on your pegs. This is a huge plus for kids (and adults for that matter). It’s so easy and so fun to do. Kind of addicting actually. Your only problem will be what to do with the long, hollow, knitted tubes you create.
I found the colored craft sticks for my DIY toilet paper roll knitting nancies at Michaels. They are cute, aren’t they? The only drawback is that they will stain your fingers during the first use of your knitter. They are taped to the toilet paper roll with colored tape. But again, color is optional. What I learned from making my own knitters is that the tube size and number of pegs determine the circumference of your knitted tube, while the amount of space between pegs determines how tight or loose your knitting will be. Of course the material you knit with will impact these things as well, so you really need to experiment to get the effect you are after or to discover one that might surprise you. Who says you have to use all the pegs? What would happen if you just used 4 … or 3 … or 2?
There is a wonderful resource on the internet called The Lost of Art of Knitting Nancys. There you can find everything you ever wanted to know about them, including how to make and use them. It was put together by a mechanical engineer who was in third grade in 1959 when a knitting nancy fad hit his school. He says it made an imprint on his brain that carried through to middle age and the creation of his knitting nancy page. Do scroll through and read the final paragraph where he explains this. It is funny, charming and very well-written. Some of his methods look rather complex, but there is more than one way to use these knitters. The six-year-old in this video shows the most simple method I’ve seen. I do something similar, but I wrap my yarn around the peg, and I work in the opposite direction. Whatever method you use and whether you are six or sixty-plus, knitting with a nancy is a blast.
What can you make with a toilet paper roll knitting nancy? So many things …
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