How to Wire Knit with a Knitting Spool

Nov 25, 2008

A New Look at Knitted Jewelry

If you’re like me, when someone asks you to make a piece of jewelry for them you automatically go to beads, findings, wire, and thread. But after reading through Elements of Style, I think I’ll open my mind a little wider next time.

I’ll admit, when I read the subtitle for this book, Knit+Crochet Jewelry with Wire, Fiber, Felt + Beads, a multi-colored 70s-style granny-square brooch popped into my head. But au contraire, mon amie! The pieces within its pages completely changed my view of knitted jewelry. Author Rosemary Hill knits thin-gauge wire into modern-looking tube beads. She attaches wire-knitted swatches to metal links and resin donuts. She crochets, knits, and felts wool to make wonderfully fuzzy components. And she incorporates stainless steel yarn with beads to create numerous freeform-looking pieces. If these kind of off-beat, contemporary projects pique your interest, buy Elements of Style.

It’s true that I’m not much of a knitter. Believe me, I’ve tried. My mom tried to teach me when I was little, but I wasn’t the type of kid to be sitting inside knitting when everyone else was outside playing capture the flag, so it didn’t stick. But when I was an employee at Interweave Press it was an unwritten job requirement . . . kind of like playing golf at other, more traditional companies. So I finally learned and made the required hats and scarves and even a sweater, but I realized my frustration level pretty quickly. I find I have a hard time discerning stitches through the fuzz.

But today, inspired by Rosemary’s book and boosted with the realization that wire isn’t fuzzy, I got out the old knitting spool and set to work. While I was experimenting, it struck me that many people have these handy little gizmos, but don’t know how to use them. Here’s how:

How to Wire Knit with a Knitting Spool

1. Wrap thin wire (28-gauge works well) around the first peg, leaving at least a 4" tail.  

2. Wrap the wire around all the subsequent pegs, making sure all the wraps are in the same direction. Go around again so there are two wraps on every peg.

3. Use the pointed tool to grab the bottom wrap. Pull it over the top wrap and up and over the peg. Repeat around.


4. Wrap the pegs again and repeat Step 3 for the desired length. Once you have a few rounds finished, tuck the tail down the center of the spool. 
 

5. Remove the knitting by using the pointed tool to gently pull the wire off the pegs. (Look at those beautiful stitches! No fuzz!)


6. There are several things you can do with your knitted tube. One is to pull it through a wooden draw plate, creating a crushed chain.


7. Or my favorite technique is to simply pop a bead inside the tube and squeeze the wire at the top and bottom of the bead to secure it in place.  

Do you have some successful wire knitting techniques? Or have you experimented with making jewelry out of non-traditional materials? Share your tips on the website!


Holiday Gift Guide:  If you're starting your holiday bead shopping, be sure to check out the Holiday Gift Guide.  There's a free elegant necklace project inside, plus the results of some recent reader polls on holiday gifts and shopping suggestions from the editors of Beadwork, Stringing, Step by Step Beads, and Step by Step Wire Jewelry.

Holiday Schedule:  We will be holding a special Thanksgiving sale--check your email on Thursday for details.  There will be no Beading Daily on Friday.  As always, the forums and free project library are always open, so please come by if you need a beading fix!


Jean Campbell writes about beading and life every Wednesday on Beading Daily. If you have comments or questions for Jean, please post them on the website. Thanks! 



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Comments

EleanorJ@8 wrote
on Nov 26, 2008 5:53 AM
Oooh! You are up early! What a pleasure. I usually have to wait (here in the UK) for Thursday to pick up Jean's posts. One question thta's always bothered me about knitting and crocheting with wire - isn't it rather scratchy to wear?
AbbyP2 wrote
on Nov 26, 2008 5:55 AM
Where can I purchase a wooden spool knitter like used in the tutorial?
JoyceB@38 wrote
on Nov 26, 2008 6:08 AM
If this technique really appeals to you, you may want to check out the Wyr Knittr made by Bond America. It's a knitting spool with a hand crank - very high tech but simple! It can be purchased at local chain craft stores or from Bond America, visit www.wyrknittr.com. Eleanor, as for the tube being scratchy, that only happens if you leave an end of the wire poking out where it can stick you! The only trouble I've had with hand crochet with wire is that my hands tire very quickly and can get sore. Remember, it is wire...not soft yarn!
BethanyH@8 wrote
on Nov 26, 2008 6:42 AM
The idea to put a bead in the wire tube is so clever! I never would have come up with that on my own! Makes me excited to play with it! AbbyP You can get them at most major craft stores, and online. I think Lionbrand also has a tutorial on how to make one with clay. :)
KathiG@3 wrote
on Nov 26, 2008 6:44 AM
I have the wyr Knitter and find that using the spool method is a heck of a lot easier. Either way the tube of knitted wire is a delight to wear, especially if it has been pulled through a draw plate to tighten it up. Not stickies, no itchies, just fine wire. Kathi
jane6 wrote
on Nov 26, 2008 6:47 AM
Knitting with wire is a terrific idea. I tried to use normal knitting techniq
beadnik13 wrote
on Nov 26, 2008 7:02 AM
After looking at this, I am wondering if I could do the same with Viking Knit. I may need a bigger dowel so I can slip beads in. As soon as the turkey is in the refrigerator after lunch on Thursday, I plan on trying it with Viking Knit.
TonyaP@3 wrote
on Nov 26, 2008 7:04 AM
Hi everyone, My name is Tonya and I'm new to adding a comment... My question here is and I know it may be a dumb one but I don't see how to add a clasp to this knitted project....:-( Is this very simple and I'm just npot using my head yet this morning. I did the spool thing as a kid and made my grandmother a small rug but it didn't need a clasp. Please help...
JayelF wrote
on Nov 26, 2008 7:05 AM
I've tried knitting cord with wire & I can say from experience that a spool knitter with metal pegs, as illustrated, is critical. I tried using a molded plastic spool and ended up breaking a peg off when I pulled the wire from the bottom. That said, I am a fan of knitted cord (or I-cord, as we knitters call it. It can be knitted with double-point needles as well as with a spool--there are any number of tutorials online. I also have a hand-crank machine for making cord quickly. Bond America makes a number of these, including a heavy-duty model, called the Wyr Knitter, made specifically to create wire cord.
JennyR@19 wrote
on Nov 26, 2008 7:12 AM
I'm gong to try this method-- I have the Wyr Knittr and HATE it... the wire breaks all the time! Thanks for the ideas....Jenny at www.CraftTestDummies.com
harper78641 wrote
on Nov 26, 2008 7:17 AM
I took a good look at the finished wire and it looks just like the Viking weave. So it should work using it. I love to do the Viking but have never mastered the knitting spool. Funny, huh?
on Nov 26, 2008 7:25 AM
Tonya- One great bit about this technique is that since it's done with wire, you can use the wire itself to make a loop to connect the clasp. It's thin wire, but if you leave a long tail you can double the connection loops to make them stronger. Hope everyone has a nice Thanksgiving. Don't skimp on the pie! Jean
kallen2 wrote
on Nov 26, 2008 8:18 AM
Wow! I remember when I was a little girl, my dad used to make me knitting spools out of an old wooden spool of thread with four headless nails hammered into one end! The knitted wire tube is wicked! I'm gonna try it!
DebWAZ wrote
on Nov 26, 2008 8:34 AM
Oh Jean! This is SOOO COOL! Now I HAVE to stock some of these spools so that we can teach wire knitting. And, it's ALL YOUR FAULT! Have a good Thanksgiving! Deb - AZ Bead Depot
RubyB@4 wrote
on Nov 26, 2008 8:35 AM
I loved the idea and can't wait to try it. But since I have never tried knitting with wire, I have a question - what gauge of the wire to use for knitting with a knitting spool?
JJCreates wrote
on Nov 26, 2008 8:37 AM
My internet search for a wooden spool lead me to Good Wood Looms. Their spool looks like the one in the above demo. I'm going to try it to capture my husbands glass beads. Jackie J
RubyB@4 wrote
on Nov 26, 2008 8:38 AM
Sorry for the question (wire gauge)- found the answer - I was so busy looking at the end product that I missed the first step!!!!
CatieP2 wrote
on Nov 26, 2008 8:46 AM
My grand-dad make me a knitting spool like this when I was a little girl. Now I get to pull it out and use it again. May be this will be the time to teach my little girl how to use it. My BF said her Dad made her one of these with a wooden spool and nails, so for anyone who wants to avoid the investment just to try this technique that could be a way to go.
on Nov 26, 2008 9:40 AM
I did that with string when I was in Cub Scouts in 1943! I used a REAL spool -- a wooden sewing thread spoo l-- with four finishing nails driven into the end. It wasn't called knitting then -- grandmothers did knitting with big needles and fuzzy yarn, and made you woolen socks and mittens. Addenda: If you take a piece of 2X2 [lumber], about 2"" long and drill a 3/8" to 1/2' hole in the center of end [drilling in end grain] and drill tiny holes for finishing nails, you can knit AND drop in beads. You will need to squeeze the tube on both sides of the bead. Stan B
tigerblue wrote
on Nov 26, 2008 12:28 PM
Hi. I started this kind of work just 3 weeks ago having never done much "normal" beading. I love it! I have already made 3 necklaces and 6 bracelets. I string an assortment of beads on and then bring them up on alternate stitches. I use a plastic knitter by Clover and suspend a weight on the wire to keep some tension in it. I have also just learned to felt so have made some beads and plan to thread them insode some knitting. This will be the first thing I am making for myself as my designs have been so popular I have only made them for others to give for Christmas so far! Hope that more of you discover this work as it is quick and every piece is unique. Happy knitting/beading! Chris
HeatherM@78 wrote
on Nov 26, 2008 12:53 PM
Hi - A few weeks ago I found my old knitting spool my grandfather made for me. It has 5 pegs and you make a star pattern when you use it with the yarn. I tried to use wire with it and had a hard time getting the wire up over the nails and keeping things consistant and not kinked. I then found my daughter's plastic 4 point spool. Same problems. I am going to try again this time with 28g, I had tried 26 g and 24 g. Heather
on Nov 26, 2008 12:54 PM
I have been doing this technique for years - I teach it here is Canberra, Australia as well. One of the nicest pieces that I have made with this has beads directly on the wire - thread all your beads onto the wire first and then begin your knitting (do approx 2 rows) and then begin by pushing a bead up to the top and get it to sit in between each stitch, and continue on until your piece reaches the rquired length, finish it by doing a coup0le of rows with just wire and no beads (just like at the start) - this makes it less bulky when you are adding your clasp. Tips, you need to make sure that your beads are not too big and will go through the hole in your spool. This is a great way to use up left over beads - I put all my left overs (different sizes and types) into a container in the same colour way and when I have enough I weave a necklace or bracelet - you end up with a very random type peice but it really works. Also make sure you never use a higher guage than 28 - the wyr knitter machine tends to have problems with the wire breaking mainly because they recommend 32 guauge wire and it is just too thin for this type of knitting (great for crochet though). Another design tip, try weaving 2 different colours and thread one through a drawplate to make it thinner and then thread it through the middle of the other piece of wire knitting and then squish them together - looks awesome. You can also make 3 or 4 different knitted pieces and then braid or plait them together. As for the ends, adding a bead cap on the end makes it all look neat and tidy. Iif you have a clever Dad or Hubby then get them to make your spools and experiment with different numbers of pegs - I have 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and I just use 2 spools from one of the other knitters when I want something made with 2. To get lots more info, google - wire knitting, spool knitting, knitting nancy. Cheers, Christina
FrancineD@5 wrote
on Nov 26, 2008 1:19 PM
EleanorJ - knitting with wire does not result in 'itchy-to-wear' - it's quite the opposite, very smooth and feels good on the skin. I've done the traditional knitting of wire with beads to make a wide-band bracelet and it is quite comfortable to wear. Plus people are amazed that you can do such a thing with wire and a little intuition. :-) Have a great day!! Francine
45Ratcatcher wrote
on Nov 26, 2008 1:43 PM
interesting idea should work with found objects like shells and gum nuts ect norma
SaraS@34 wrote
on Nov 26, 2008 4:53 PM
I took a class in wire knitting with spools from Sharon Hessoun from Ohio at a bead show in Sonoma, CA, a couple of years ago. She has written a book with designs for spools with different numbers of pegs. I love the tip about running the knitting through a draw plate... I had never thought of that and it would take care of the problem of the knitting being a little fragile. Viking knit took me forever, so this is awesome! Thanks!
AGJ wrote
on Nov 26, 2008 7:11 PM
I made a bracelet without the spool, following a Viking Knit video tutorial. Didn't have a wood draw plate, and scraped off some of the plating pulling it through a metal drill sizing gauge, lol. Now I have all the tools, purchased at a bead show, but haven't made anything with it yet. Now I need more wire!
ToniT@7 wrote
on Nov 27, 2008 4:10 PM
I've been crochetiing with sterling and gold filled 28 guage wire for several years. My first attempt was with a bunch of leftover multi-colored pearls and crystals. I make three to five strands, twist them loosely together, then put cones on the ends. It's really quite easy. The best part is, no two pieces are exactly alike.
ValerieL@14 wrote
on Dec 1, 2008 10:13 AM
I've seen spoole with 4, 5, and 6 nails. What's the difference? Bigger tube with more nails? I'm anxious to try this style of wire knitting as I was not very successful with regular knitting needles and wire. No problem with wire crochet and just love it. Made some beautiful gold wire and Swarovski crytals crocheted bracelets that have drawn admiring comments from complete strangers, so would like to be able to do something with the knitting technique also.
LynH@5 wrote
on Dec 3, 2008 6:12 PM
Where would i find a wooden draw plate?
LizT@19 wrote
on Dec 12, 2008 7:44 AM
I also took lessons from Sharon Hessoun in Ohio - who actually wrote a book about it: http://www.beadeckedonline.com/ It's a different wrap but the same concept. I'm in the process of a copper wire garland for my Christmas tree!
on Jan 5, 2009 8:48 AM
I love the look of wire cords. I have the Wyr Knitter plastic thingie and have never been able to get it to work. Anyone had any luck with this device?
AnnetteB@14 wrote
on Jan 13, 2009 10:34 PM
I also have a wyr knitter tried using it and the wire (32 guage)kept breaking I gave it up as a lost cause but I will try again with a lower guage maybe I will be able to do the necklace I was trying to do go some beautiful gold beads for the middle should look great
EllaDemp wrote
on Feb 26, 2012 5:26 AM

Thanks for all the information but WHERE do I get the 'Knitting Spool' from?

I tried the address but maybe it has changed over time.

My email is   aussie_bobel@yahoo.com   I'm in Australia.  I do look forward to your reply as I loved 'French knitting' as a child and am anxious to do so with wire and beads.

Thanks again,

Ellen Dempster