French knitting: Our step-by-step guide

french knitting
Step-by-step guide to French knittingSarka Novakova - Hearst Owned

French knitting is a fun craft that’s been keeping idle hands at bay for centuries. Made by interlocking loops, it’s worked by wrapping yarn around metal pegs or loops in the top of a wooden spool, rather than using needles like in traditional knitting.

We’ve got a handy step-by-step guide and a tutorial video to get you going on your French knitting adventure – read on to find out more and learn this fun new skill.

You may remember such a gadget floating around the house with one of a variety of names – depending on their decoration, you may know it as a French knitting doll or knitting nancy. Less fancy versions were made from a discarded wooden spool of thread (back when they were still wooden – they’re nearly all plastic these days), with four nails hammered into the top.

While the traditional number of pegs is four, looms of this style can have larger numbers of pegs or loops to make broader French knit cords. You’ll even find some automated versions on the market large enough to knit cushions and hats , all knitting-needle free!

Why is it called French knitting?

The term French knitting is said to have been coined by French revolutionists, whose rustic knitted hats were made on similar looms, just with many more pegs for a larger tube. You’re right to think that this technique created the exact same effect as circular knitting – it does, just as a very narrow tube rather than a wider project.

French knitting is great for kids

French knitting is often a gateway to more advanced techniques in knitting and crochet. It’s a great way for kids to get creative and keep their little fingers busy – as well as developing their hand-eye coordination.

It’s super-easy and fun for adults, too. You can happily French knit away for hours and hours, it’s very meditative and calming and you don’t need to know anything about knitting to become a total whizz.

What can you turn French knitting into?

The possibilities are endless with these fun knitted tubes. Coiled up, you can either glue or stitch them to make eye-catching projects.

Jazz up an old (washed!) coffee tin to make an upcycled pen holder for your desk by wrapping a multi-coloured French-knit cord around the sides. Or revive an old pair of trainers with a fun new set of homemade laces.

We love a French knit cord as a drawstring for knitted bags and pouches. It’s always so important to use the same yarn as you’ve made your project in for sewing up and final touches – so French knitting is a great way to use up leftovers to create a matching cord or strap. If you start introducing different fibres and yarns to knitting projects, you’ll soon find they misbehave as they all behave differently when they’re washed.

Try this technique with multi-coloured yarns for an unpredictable, vibrant knitted cord. It’s great fun to watch different colours emerging!

How to do French knitting for beginners

What you need

Step 1

Take the end of yarn and tuck it through the centre of the wooden spool until you can see it coming out of the bottom. You’ll need to hold on to this end later so make sure you can get it through. If needed, use a darning needle or crochet hook to pull it through to the bottom.

french knitting
Sarka Novakova - Hearst Owned

Step 2

Wrap the yarn from the centre, outward and inward around each peg. Move across to the next peg and do the same. Repeat this until you’ve done it twice around each peg.

french knitting
Sarka Novakova - Hearst Owned

Step 3

Using a pick or double-pointed needle, lift the bottom loop up and over the top loop on each of the four pegs until you have just the one loop left on each one. After a few rows of stitches, you’ll begin to see your work appear out of the bottom of the knitting dolly.

french knitting
Sarka Novakova - Hearst Owned

Step 4

Repeat steps 2-3 until your French knit cord reaches its desired length, and then to finish, cut your end of yarn and use a darning needle to bring it through each of the loops on the pegs, and pull tight. You can hide the ends of yarn by stitching them into the centre at the top and bottom of each cord before making something fun with them, like some of the ideas above.

french knitting
french knitting

Got the bug for yarn craft? Maybe it’s now time to have a go at our other tutorials. Try our how to make a pompom page for more fun kids crafts or our step by step how to crochet video for something more challenging.

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