Knitting Off the Needle

Needles: they’re the most essential tools of the trade, first thing put into your hands when you learned to knit, the thing you’ve collected the most of (besides, of course, yarn itself). They come in metal, wood, plastic, carved bone, polymer clay, and every other imaginable material. There’s straights, double points, circulars, interchangeables, and more. But no matter what form they take, without needles our knitting would be one crazy, tangled, pointless mess.

Or would it?

In fact, there are several fascinating ways to knit without needles! These alternative tools are fun to explore and can be used to create all kinds of funky projects. Check out a few creative non-needles below.

Knitting Spools

Image Sources: We Bloom Here (left) and Ravelry (right)

A knitting spool or Knitting Nancy is, at its most basic, a tube with several small prongs protruding from one end. Yarn is looped around the prongs and the loops are pulled through each other to create a small tube of knitting called an I cord. Of course, many knitting spools are not “basic” at all- they’re made in all sorts of charming shapes and playfully decorated to resemble mushrooms, flowers, and most commonly dolls (hence the nickname “Nancy”). What can you do with the resulting I cords? All kinds of things! They can be braided, woven, or sewn together to create larger pieces like the witty neckwear pictured above.

Knitting Forks

Image Sources: Nova Natural (left) and radmegan (right)

A knitting fork works on the same principle as the knitting spool- two large “tines” hold loops of yarn which are pulled through each other to create something like a double-sided chain. To keep things even and tidy, the chain is pulled through a hole in the fork as you work. The chains can be used in much the same way as I cords- one popular project we keep seeing is a knitterly necklace like the one here. How fun and easy would this be?

Finger Knitting

Image Sources: Flax and Twine (left) and Simply Maggie (right)

Of course, you could also go completely rogue, ditch tools altogether, and use only yarn and your own clever hands to knit! The yarn travels back and forth across your hand, looping around each finger as you go, and then (you guessed it) the loops are pulled through each other to create stitches. Unlike the first two techniques, the result is flat strips of knitting which can be joined to create all sorts of items (panelled afghans, perhaps?), including the cozy and cute ear warmer above.

By the way, I simply had to share the amazing Medusa wig created by a designer I adore, Vickie Howell. The snakes are finger knitted! Isn’t she brilliant?


Image Source: Vickie Howell

Knitting Machines


Image Source: Skacel

Finally, if you’re craving something a little more extreme, there are knitting machines! Our favorite is the Addi Express, an easy-to-use machine that goes anywhere and can knit flat or in the round with the flip of a switch. It’s so much fun to crank away at the Addi Express and see your knitting grow before your eyes (it’s that fast). We’ve seen hats, scarves, and other useful items come from the Addi Express…but we use ours for yarn bombing, as you can see below.


Will these alternative tools replace your tried and true needles? Of course not! The best and most beautiful ways of knitting will always call for good old fashioned sticks. But pushing the limits with other tools is fun, it sparks creativity, and you just might learn a few new tricks- not to mention that simple and fast tools are a great way to introduce younger crafters to knitting! So as always, feel to experiment- and don’t forget to share your adventures with us!



3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Grace
    Mar 22, 2017 @ 11:48:34

    Thank you for the wonderful Wednesday newsletter. The emails are a joy to receive. The letters are interesting, well written and enlighting on new and interesting knitting techniques.



  2. Sandra David
    Mar 22, 2017 @ 11:58:35

    Tools and gadget geek that I am, I found this to be a fun post. I’ll look for you wearing your Madusa wig in the future!



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