One day, when I was about 6 years old, my mother went into her sewing supplies and got an empty wooden thread spool and put four small finishing nails on one flat end of the spool. Then, she handed me some yarn and a yarn needle and introduced me to the craft of spool knitting.
Spool knitting, sometimes referred to as French knitting, Nancy knitting or Nahliesle in Germany, is a way to make an i-cord that can be used for other projects. The end of the beginning of the yarn is fed through the hole in the center of the spool. Then, yarn from the skein is wrapped around each peg. Next, the yarn from the skein end is set across each peg, with the previous stitch leap-frogged over the top of the peg, while keeping the new round of yarn on the peg. The trailing yarn (that was initially fed through the center hole of the spool) is given a short tug as the stitches are worked, to draw the knitted braid through it. The cord is then bound off once the desired length is achieved. This technique is often used to teach kids the basic principles of knitting.
Once the cord is complete, it can be transformed into many different items. Originally, the cord was used to make piping for the edges of dresses.
I remember spending that particular summer making yards and yards of spool-knit i-cords. Many of my crafting lessons were learned in creating or sewing things for my dolls. I had won a Barbie fashion show dollhouse at a raffle and I would make all kinds of items for the dollhouse using my spool-knit cord. I created my own items like braided rugs, curtains and other home decor items for my dollhouse. The techniques I learned making craft items for my dolls helped me when I made a small braided rug to put in my bedroom and a special rug just for my bedroom slippers. I remember making braided belts, necklaces and stitching together rows of i-cord for an afghan for my baby dolls. It was a spool-knit, i-cord explosion at my house that summer.
A web search also gives many different projects using the i-cord. There are even books dedicated to the art of spool knitting. I did a quick search while writing this column and came up with project ideas such as coasters, i-cord bags, shoelaces and accents including knotted buttons, flower embellishments and book marks.
There are also i-cord looms that have a crank that you turn to make the stitches. There are small latches inside the center of the loom that move up and down to mimmic the leap-frog motion of the hand-worked stitches. Some looms have wide center openings to accommodate thicker yarns. You can also purchase looms that have four, six or more pegs that allow you to make wider i-cords.