Introduction: Cheap and Easy DIY French Knitter

Picture of Cheap and Easy DIY French Knitter

A French Knitter is a fun little toy that allows you to easy knit a very long cord. After creating my Knit Spaghetti and Meatball Scarf , it was pointed out that a French Knitter could be an easier and faster way to make it. True. So I tried one, and decided to experiment with making one.

In this Instructable, I will show you both the most basic way to make one and different ways you can alter it to make it smaller or bigger, and easier to use.

This is a great craft for kids and adults. The easy one is, well, easy, and the upgrades you can do to it make it even more like the plastic ones you can buy from the store.

Step 1: Supplies

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There are only a few basic supplies you need and then a few other things you'll need if you want to make the "fancier" version.

Basic Supplies:

Extra Supplies:

The second image shows the normal Paper Towel roll French Knitter on the left and the upgraded one on the right. They both work, but the one on the right allows you to make smaller, tighter stitches.

Step 2: Cut to Size

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Start by cutting your paper towel tube to size. I would suggest to cut it so it just fits your hand. You don't want it too long and if it is too short, it will be hard to hold.

It will be tempting to flatten the tube to cut it, but don't. You just put creases in it and weaken it. Try to poke a hole in it, and then cut around.

Step 3: Attach Sticks and Tape

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Time to stick on your sticks. I used another tape to just get them into position, but you can use just duct tape.

You want the sticks as evenly spaced as possible. I'm showing how to do this with 6 sticks, but you can use more or less (less might be hard to use as the sticks will be spaced a lot).

You need to make sure the popsicle sticks stick off the end enough so you can at least wrap the yarn twice and so the yarn loops won't just slide off. Mine stick up about 7/8"

If you are doing an even amount, I would suggest starting by putting two on across from each other. Then try to evenly space the others between those two.

Once you have everything where you want it, duct tape it down. I covered the whole thing, but you don't have to.

Also, for the sake of making this one as easy as possible, I did not cut the sticks, but you can see they are much longer than you need them.

That's it. You're done!

Step 4: Make It Bigger

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It's pretty easy to make it bigger, though I'm sure there is a limit of how big you can get it.

Start by cutting two tubes the same size. This time you can cut down the side and then cut the pieces off because you don't need these in one piece.

Carefully start to stretch the tubes out so they hang open like in the second picture.

Take the two tubes and fit them together. I suggest taping them on the inside, outside, and taping over the overlap of what will be the top. Taping the overlap together will help for when you actually use the French knitter. I didn't do this the first time and my hook kept going between the overlap and getting in the way. Taping it will just save you hassle later.

The first image shows you the normal tube along with a smaller one and bigger one.

The last image shows the normal tube (right), compared to your new bigger one (left).

Step 5: Make It Smaller

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This is what I wanted in particular as I like my knit cords to be tight.

Cut a piece of cardboard to size and cut down the side. Carefully squeeze the tube so the sides overlap. Once it is as small as you want it, stick a piece of tape to hold it down. Like with making it bigger, I suggest taping inside, outside, and the overlap.

On the right is the normal paper towel tube, and on the left is my new smaller one.

Step 6: Smaller Sticks

Picture of Smaller Sticks

Again, I wanted to do this so I could make tighter, smaller stitches on my cord.

You are going to need your Exacto knife and cutting mat. Do not use scissors. When I used the scissors, it caused my popsicle stick to break and shed off into pieces. Or, try scissors. Maybe I just had bad luck :)

All you need to do is cut the stick down the middle and then cut those pieces in half. So each popsicle stick makes 4 smaller sticks.

Here is how I did this to get the cleanest results:

  1. Carefully make a cut down the center of the stick (deeper is better, but don't cut yourself, and you won't be able to cut all the way through on one cut).
  2. Cut down the center one more time, same spot as 1.
  3. Carefully bend the stick at the cut until you hear the stick start to splinter and break, stop.
  4. Make one last cut down the center, same spot as 1 and 2; you should be able to easily cut the stick apart now since you aided it along by cracking it in 3.

Now, you can just break your skinnier popsicle sticks in half, but you'll probably get splinters. To get a clean cut, I suggest:

  1. Cut one side of the stick
  2. Cut the edge of the stick (so you can line up your cuts)
  3. Cut the other flat side of the stick
  4. Carefully bend it back and forth to break it all the way.

If you bend it just one way, you'll get splinters, but if you carefully bend it back and forth, you'll get a cleaner break. Though, you can always trim off any splinters with your knife.

When you are done, you can stick these on just like before.

NOTE: I would suggest you have the curves of the popsicle sticks, face the way you pull the yarn over the stick (if that makes sense). I found having them the opposite way (as shown in the pictures above) made it harder to drag the yarn loops over the sticks. Example: I pull the loops over the left side, so I should have had the rounded part of the popsicle stick face left.

Step 7: Hot Glue (I Suggest This Regardless of If You Make the Easier or Upgraded French Knitter)

Picture of Hot Glue (I Suggest This Regardless of If You Make the Easier or Upgraded French Knitter)

As soon as I started using my smaller French Knitter, I noticed that the loops were coming right off (because I was trying to make it tight).

To fix this little issue, I put a small dab of hot glue at the end of each stick. This will catch the loop that stays on the stick.

Step 8: DONE!

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Now, to use your knitter, you are going to need something like a crochet hook to get the yarn loops looped. I suggest a smaller size hook so you can get in between the loops.

Step 9: How to Use It and What to Make

Picture of How to Use It and What to Make

To learn how to use your French Knitter, check out this handy Instructable.

For something to make with your French Knitter, try my Knit Infinity Tube Scarf or you could try and see if you can make some small cords for my Spaghetti and Meatball Knit Scarf.

Also, try this Easy Earmuff Headband.


GeekCrafterGirlz432 (author)2016-03-21

So true!! :)

GeekCrafterGirlz432 (author)2016-03-20

Almost just like mine...

Yeah, I think using toilet paper rolls/paper towel rolls and popsicle sticks is a pretty popular method :) It works well!

Mercy73 (author)2016-03-06

Excellent!! Thank you :)

Penolopy Bulnick (author)Mercy732016-03-07

You're welcome :)

TrissS (author)2016-02-04

So simple!

haste100 (author)2016-01-29

Nice :)

Macattack3 (author)2016-01-24

probably could use a large piece plastic cup to make the diameter bigger for projects like socks or a hat. i bought one of those toy knitting machines once and made everyone tube scarves for Xmas. I made over 12 scarves till the machine broke. Is there an instructable on how to make one of these with a handle for turning?

I haven't seen one, but it would be fun to see :)

MarcG6 (author)2016-01-21

Where are the weave or knot directions? Link please?

MarcG6 (author)Penolopy Bulnick2016-01-22

Thanks for the link!

snowman8 (author)2016-01-17

looks really cool and it would probably be great for braiding long cord for making halters, bridles etc. Just one problem though. I still don't know how to use it! CAn you tell us how or where we can find out how?

Alright, I wrote up my own instructions too if you want to check them out:

Hey, This Instructable gives the basics on how to use it :)

thejets22 (author)2016-01-21

Can you send me instructions on how to use it or better yet put up a link so we all can try this. Thank you

I'm working on an Instructable for how to use a French Knitter now! I'll link it here when I'm done :)

BeckyG3 (author)2016-01-21

I want to try this, but I don't know how to French knit. Where can I find good instructions?

Penolopy Bulnick (author)BeckyG32016-01-22

I just wrote up some instructions on how to use the French Knitter :)

bonmom (author)2016-01-17

Or get some pvc tubing to desired width. Cut to length and sand the ends smooth. Use wood glue to attach popsicle sticks (or wooden chopsticks) and tape to smooth outside.

BlackSheep1 (author)bonmom2016-01-22

If you get a flared end piece of pvc (it's a pre-made fitting; you might try a bushing, but I'm thinking a pair of couplers) for the outside and a smaller (pressure fit) straight piece for the inside, you can "pinch fit" finishing nails in between, meaning you have movable pins (can alter how many you use, how far apart, etc) on the rim. Or notch the insides with a rasp and set in your pins with PVC glue.

suzannerg1 (author)bonmom2016-01-20

This is great!!! Awesome no matter how we decide to make them they appear really simple to make. One could cut the notches out of the top of the pvc tube you use, making it look like the top of an old castle, with a hax-saw, jig-saw or with a drill bit drilling out the parts you don't want then come back and sand those areas smooth

Yeah, for sure :) Kiteman did a nice Instructable on that type of French Knitter:

Penolopy Bulnick (author)bonmom2016-01-17

Yep! That would work too :)

wmistler (author)2016-01-21

Back in the olden days, when I was a kid, thread came on a wood spool. We'd drive in small finish nails and knit through the hole. It was neat and fun to make, but we didn't have a use for it.

maka (author)wmistler2016-01-22

That was my first French knitter experience as well. My grandpa made them for us from grandma's used spools.

threeoutside (author)2016-01-21

I've forwarded this page URL to my kids for my granddaughter. They're always having parties and this looks like a great kids' party idea! I've never used one of these - I was wondering, if you made a big one, is there a way to purl one stitch on opposite sides (like, with say, 20 stitches between on both sides) so it would be easier to flatten to use as a skinny scarf or necktie?

Hmm, do you mean more like this scarf project? Where you go back and forth? If so, yeah, I think this should work for that type of project :)

Hrm, I don't think I thought out my idea very well, there. lol But I do hope my granddaughter and her friends try this out, I think they'd love it!

Oh, and I also meant to add, some people collect antique French Knitters. There are collectors online who show gorgeous ones, porcelain, papièr maché, stunning wooden ones - they can get quite pricey!

Eric C.C (author)2016-01-21

made this for my lady in 10 minutes, i used a 4 inch Pvc scrap and 8 Popsicle sticks, the hot glue was a definite necessity for sure! thanks

Awesome! The PVC will be nice and sturdy :)

shay.simmons.37 (author)2016-01-21

I have one of these in bright red plastic, found years ago at a garage sale. It's also called Knitting Nancy. When your kids get tired of making ropes, there's a free online book from before WWI with lots of projects in it. It can be downloaded as an epub from Project Gutenberg or a pdf from Google Books.

That is great! Thanks for sharing it :)

mattcintosh (author)2016-01-21

I had one when I was a kid. Really easy to make one homemade, but the supplies might be a little hard to find.

1. 4 to 6 finishing nails

2. Wooden thread spool

Pound nails about halfway in, put yarn through middle of spool. Start knitting.

That would work very well and be very sturdy :)

BenMillen (author)2016-01-21

when i was a kid my grandma gave us wooden cotton bobbins with nails in the top to do our french knitting (grandad showed us how to make wind up tanks from those same bobbins :D)

Yeah, I've seen some like that too. Those look like they would work very well especially because the nails would already have that ridge on top to hold the yarn and prevent it from just slipping off :)

Phil_S (author)BenMillen2016-01-21

Amazing what you could do with the old wooden cotton reels - I suppose the plastic ones might work. Does date you a bit though, not a kid of the plastic age. I too amused myself (no telly) French knitting, and proper knitting and embroidering, model-making etc. etc.

The old cotton reel+elastic band+lolly stick+disc of candle tanks actually worked quite well - cut teeth around the rims for extra grip up those hillsides.

audreyobscura (author)2016-01-17

This is brilliant.

It's so awesome because it's pink :D

Chrislee (author)2016-01-16

Excellent and to get my yarn started I need to.....what? I mean how do I get my first

round on the thing? Help please

I wasn't sure whether to get into that since other people have, but I'll think about it. For now, here are some directions :)

fixit2001 (author)2016-01-16

A piece of plumbing tubing could be used too. It would be waterproof and sturdier than cardboard. However, this is a wonderful idea. Thank you for posting.

For sure! That is what Kiteman did, made one with a PVC pipe. I was going for cheap and easy and something anyone could make (no special tools) :) Thanks for looking! Here's Kiteman's if you want to see what he did:

Scarlet Moon (author)2016-01-16

thankyou so much,where I live there is no possible way to get a French knitter except by ordering them from abroad.I will most certainly make this,and let me tell you that now you are my favorite instructabler.Again thanks for sharing.

I'm glad I could help! I like that it really isn't too hard to make one that has similar results to the store-bought one. I actually made one of these while I was just sitting at my desk at work :)

Itmusubiyou (author)2016-01-15

I LOVE french knitters. i have been looking for a diy for AGES! love it!

Thank you! I've developed quite a love for them lately. So soothing to use :)

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