Beads-in-a-Net Bracelet

bead bracelet loop

I promised that I’d found a legitimate use for a knitting nancy and here it is. I know my taste is not to everyone’s but I think it’s rather nice. It’s a quick make, too.

You’ll need a tapestry needle or crochet hook, and one of these fellas:

“Who? Me?! Interrobang again?!?!”

If you’ve ever used one of these you might understand why he’s pulling that face. For those who haven’t: thread or wool goes in through his head, and a tube of knitting comes out of his backside like a really long poo. He’s actually mortified. Perhaps I’m being crass – I usually am – but why else are these are made to look like people? You can make one out of a cotton spool and four nails that works just as well and is utterly without expression, similarly without shame.

Now that I’ve made everything super creepy I might as well own it. So here’s a tutorial written in the style of Buffalo Bill*:


It takes some beads and threads them onto some cotton. It threads them until the beaded thread measures 3-4 times the circumference of its wrist.


It threads the end of the cotton through the hole until it comes out at the bottom. Then at the top it loops cotton around the pins like so. Clockwise or counter-clockwise doesn’t matter, it just has to pick a direction and stick with it.

nancy 2

It loops the cotton around a second time, or else it gets the hose again.

We don’t have pictures for this (do we, Precious?), but it takes a tapestry needle or crochet hook, and pulls the bottom cotton loop up and over the head of the pin before letting it go. It does this on all four pins.

It should then have a single loop on each pin, and can loop around again with the cotton to produce new top loops.

It repeats this motion – bottom loop over pin head – pulling the work through the hole as it goes by pulling on the cotton thread coming out of the nancy’s bottom.

It does this every time it’s asked, or until it’s produced a long enough chain to either tie off the bracelet or attach a clasp.

nancy 3

When it’s ready it pulls up one of its threaded beads, and traps before looping its next loop.

nancy 4

It does this before each new loop, creating pretty a web effect.

It stops this only when it has a suitable length for a bracelet, or necklace, or belt, or leash, or harness… whatever it’s making here.

Then it goes back to plain looping without beads, until it has another length for tying or attaching a clasp on the other side of the work.

nancy 5

It cuts of the cotton, leaving a tail. It threads that tail onto a needle and uses that to thread through the remaining loops, pulling them off the pins as it goes.**

bead bracelet on
Would you wear this? I would wear this.

It puts the lotion on its skin, and then it pulls the beaded chain out of the nancy’s ass.

And now I’ve thrown up in my mouth a bit. I am truly (a bit) sorry. Next time: an unholy union of cross-stitch, collage, origami, and Latin.

* If you haven’t seen Silence of the Lambs, be prepared to understand none of what passes for humour in this post. If you have seen it and you still don’t find it funny, please put it down to me having just spent 5 days being Withnail-drunk in a field. BACK

** Sorry about the nose-dive in image quality. That there night-time done went and happened. BACK


What Are You For, Exactly? Knitting Nancies and the Great Haberdashery Conspiracy

Look at him. He’s clearly having an existential crisis.

One of the many things my Nana taught me when I was tiny was how to use a Knitting Nancy. This is also known as French knitting, which is one method for knitting in the round to produce a seamless knitted tube. Excellent for arm warmers, legs warmers, and snoods – which are bafflingly popular of late. Snoods haven’t been this hot since the middle ages. Everything really does come back in eventually.

There are two other methods for knitting in the round that I know of, and they each have their pros and cons. Words are hard so I made a table to lay these out for you (click to en-big-ulate):


The more pins your nancy has, the bigger the tube it produces. You can use roughly 50-60 pins to make one sock, so you can imagine that the four pin nancy I learned on produced a very slender tube indeed.


Trusting child that I was, I soldiered on without asking any inconvenient questions like ‘Why am I doing this?’. It was easy, and meditative, and I could do it while I watched the telly, so I kept going. I kept my nancy for years, picking it up every so often, joining on a bit more unwanted scrap wool each time. Eventually I had a tube of knitting with the diameter of a pinky finger and a length of several metres, all in bits of wool which were ugly on their own and unimproved by association with each other.

At age fifteen I finally asked myself the inconvenient question, and when the only answer my brain offered was ‘You could be the first World Record holder for longest knitted tube?’ I completely lost heart. I have a strong preference for achievements that I’m not ashamed to tell people about.

I wish I had a picture to prove how ugly and massive the thing was, but I don’t know where it is now. My mum probably threw it out. The only sentimental thing she’s kept from my childhood is my milk teeth in her jewellery box.*

I was remembering all of this when I asked myself just what on earth the four-pin nancy was created for? They’re sold everywhere, with their cute little faces and outfits, so they must have a legitimate use? Unless haberdashers and grandparents are complicit in a conspiracy to keep children subdued with pointless labour? I simply won’t believe it.

A quick Google turned up a plethora of articles on how to make a nancy yourself, or how to get started with one, but there were no sensible comments made about the end use of a long, skinny, woollen tube.

“It’s easy! Try it!”, said the internet. Well, so is growing mould in a mug, but I personally wouldn’t know what to do with the end product.

Then I looked a bit harder and found some truly hideous tat produced using these tubes. When I say hideous I don’t mean like an unwanted handmade Christmas present. I mean like an unwanted handmade Christmas present from your cell-mate. Real prison-chic. I’d post some of it here but you don’t need these nightmares.

I will admit that all of this is a little disingenuous, because I did once find a legitimate use for a nancy and that’s why I currently own one. I made stems for the flowers in a knitted hanging basket. Still, are we to believe that every haberdashery in the world stocks adorable little nancy-boys-and-girls for exactly this purpose?

Is this what the inventor intended?

What is going on here? After some serious thought I did come up with something else I could use my nancy for:


It turned out pretty well so I’ll post a tutorial next time. In the meantime feel free to tell me how very wrong I am in the comments. Also, let me know if you want a knitted flower tutorial and I’ll try to remember how I did that.

* Creepy? Yes creepy. I suspect she hasn’t ruled out using them to gain complete power over me through voodoo. Not because she’s controlling as mothers go, but who doesn’t want a zombie butler? I wouldn’t even resent her choice.** BACK

** The fact that zombie-me would be incapable of resentment in no way diminishes the validity of my point.

Jar-full-o-Yarn Centrepiece

2013-03-30 10.35.47

My mum, who must be obeyed, put me in charge of decorations for my nana’s 80th birthday party earlier this year. My nana played a large part in my upbringing and it’s to her I owe my interest in crafting. She taught me to knit, sew, and crochet at such a young age that I find it hard to believe that my pudgy little fingers had the dexterity to thread a needle. But they did, and I am grateful to them and to her.

My interest somewhat abated during my teenage years as I was busy being an entitled little shit in the time-honoured fashion.* But I found my way back in my mid-twenties once I realised that being happy and fulfilled, for me, involved making things as well as consuming things.

That being the background of my relationship with the birthday girl, I felt that just laying out balloons and plastic banners wouldn’t be quite right.

I thought up these centrepieces while lying in bed on a week night when I should really have been sleeping. Originally they were much fancier affairs with a central tube of water to hold long-stemmed flowers, surrounded by tiny yarn balls and pearly beads, all within a statuesque glass vase. I quickly realised that this was (a) really specific and hard to find the materials for, and (b) expensive. I had one month and a strict budget. So jam jars and plastic champagne flutes became my shabby-chic saviours.**

After agonizing over which jar of pickled produce was the right size for long enough that people had started to stare, I selected eight large jars of beetroot, got stared at with greater intensity, and then picked up some plastic champagne flutes to form the central water tube/flower holder. I checked the height of these against the jar to make sure they wouldn’t peek over the edge. After the fact I was very glad I chose the ones with the detachable base. Only the stem is useful here. This sits inside the jar, supported by all the balls.


Then came the labour-intensive part: my balls.*** Originally they were all yarn but this took a long time per ball, and yarn isn’t as cheap as anyone would like. Then I tried using scrunched up bits of paper as the centre of the ball, but it was a lot of faff to scrunch paper just right so that the resulting ball would actually be spherical. Then I moved on to cotton balls and never looked back. They come pre-scrunched and you can get about 100 for pennies.

step 1Beautiful in its simplicity: the humble cotton ball

step 2Start to wrap the yarn around the ball

step 3Once you feel the ball is big enough, cut off the
yarn leaving a tail a couple of inches long

step 4Use a tapestry needle to thread the tail through
the top layers of yarn. This should secure your tail
sufficiently to prevent unraveling

stap 5Cut the last visible bit of the tail off, and you’re done

Repeat as many times as you need. I found I needed about 18 balls per jar.

The pearly beads that pretty-up the gaps between my balls came in two long strings of two different sizes – smallish and smaller. You can get them cheap in lots of places and just take the scissors to them. At first I tried artfully scattering the beads as I layered up my balls within the jar. But then I learned to my surprise that small round things don’t stay where you put them. Ever. So instead I super-glued one or two beads to each ball and left them to dry over-night.


When filling the jar I found it best to stack the balls in layered circles around the walls, rather than attempt to fill the whole jar.

Once my balls were in I measured the circumference of jar’s opening and cut a piece of ribbon about three times as long as it was round. I glued this ribbon around the opening, and let it dry overnight. Once dry I tied a bow and cut off any excess length.


And just like that I had knitting-themed centrepieces for my crafty nana. She liked them so much she asked to keep one, which is the equivalent of actual praise in my family.

Finished table setting

* Drinking my pocket money, racking up massive phone-bills, telling everyone how little they understood me and then refusing to explain myself. BACK

** TOP TIP: it’s a lot cheaper to buy jars with something in them than it is to buy new, empty ones. Why? Because capitalism. As I type this I’m remembering that I have a large quantity of pickled beetroot in my fridge that needs to be disposed of. Although that sounds suspiciously like future-me’s problem. BACK

*** At this point I should warn you that I will be unabashedly throwing the word ‘balls’ around wherever possible throughout this post, just to amuse myself. BACK