When I was a kid we called it “cork work” and I had a kit with a red, yellow and blue spool. The red spool was long and thin with 4 nails at the top. The blue spool had eight nails in the top, a very wide hole in the center and took a long time for the cord to appear from the bottom of the spool. The yellow spool got lost.
I’d not thought of corkwork in years but as I was casting about for craft ideas to take on my summer visits with friends and family, I thought the kids would like corkwork. I turned the spools on the lathe, colored them brightly, and finished with glossy. Was a quick, fun project for me and the kids would have something unique when the visit was over. It just wouldn’t be the same if I only bought them plastic ones in the store.
I also knew that the spools with the paperclip-looking pegs were hard for younger children to use. And, I wanted to leave something different that couldn’t be bought. As it turned out, I made spools from Florida flowering dogwood and sycamore branches, colored them brightly, bought a stylus and wild-colored wool to make the kits complete.
Of course, I also began researching who else was doing this. I found the 1909 free downloadable version of Mary McCormack’s “Spool Knitting” book and a blog on spool knitting (who would have thought!) Hardly anyone called the process corkwork — only a few places in the UK. Lots of instructions on this craft from dolls and faerie creation to necklaces.
Even the Guiness book of world records acknowledges the longest French knitted piece of French knitting by Edward Hannaford, of Sittingbourne, UK. He had worked on the corkwork since 1989 until it measured 16.36 miles on 28 October 2011. You could say he got rather wrapped up in it.
Corkwork or “corking” is the same as “spool knitting” or “French knitting” or creating an i-cord. The lucet, an older tool that the Vikings reportedly used, creates cord much like a two-pronged cork work spool. And since my search more than a year ago, there are more posts popping up about this activity such as Geogina’s tutorial.
That summer, all of my visits delivering and teaching cork work spools turned out well. Everyone (even beyond the children) got into making bracelets (with and without beads), necklaces, handles for purses, snakes, and other imaginative uses I could never have anticipated. It is a great way to get kids into weaving and gives them a great sense of success and exploratory triumph.
I’ve since turned more wood spools from dymondwood (a very hard, colored wood) that you used to be able to purchase in my Etsy store. The center holes are larger than the ones you buy in the stores and that is what you need for the beads to pass through when you are making jewelry.
Do you remember corkwork? Or maybe you had a Knitting Nancy?