Metal – Tin Can Knitter (Weekly Unplugged Project)

By , May 25, 2008 8:09 pm

Above you can see the product of this week’s Unplugged Project theme of metal: a knitted hamster.

I know what you’re thinking: “Wait a minute, the theme was metal, why is she showing us a knitted hamster?” Well, my point here is to prove just how flexible the Unplugged Project can be.

This is not just any old knitted hamster, it is a hamster that was knitted on a homemade tin can knitter. A tin can is made of metal. Voilà! There is the connection! Our finished product was made of yarn, but it was made by using something metal, so it “counts.”

This type of knitting apparatus is known as a French Knitter, a Corker, a Spool Knitter, a Mushroom Knitter, a Knitting Nancy, a Knitting Knobby, and a few other names too I believe. My daughter has a commercially produced wooden one like this with four prongs that produces long, narrow, “snakes.” But you can easily make these knitters yourself (see links at the end of this post).

For even more fun, you can make big ones with various sizes of tin can which will produce different sizes of knitted tube. Ours is made from a 15 ounce can.

I found the instructions for the knitter and the hamster in the wonderful book Corking (Kids Can Easy Crafts) by Judy Sadler and Linda Hendry. There are also some instructions online here.


Here is how we made it:

You will need a clean tin can, some finishing nails (small heads) that are about 1.5″ long, and some sturdy tape. Small nail heads are important because the knitting process involves slipping loops of yarn up over the top of the nails, so you don’t want the yarn to get stuck on the nail heads. The book calls for cloth tape, but all I could find was colorful duct tape and that worked fine despite being a bit annoying to cut (I recommend slicing it with a box cutter instead of using scissors, which tend to stick):

First we removed the bottom of the can. You can usually do it with a can opener, but sometimes the bottom edge is rounded and must be removed with a dremel tool, or small saw. My advice: make sure you use a can whose bottom rim is narrow enough to be removed with a can opener.

Beware of sharp edges. I had a sharp shard that was sticking out on my can, so I squashed it down with some pliers, and then wrapped both raw edges with the tape.

Next apply a strip of tape just under the lip of the can sticky side out. Stick a pair of nails side by side (they should be touching) to the tape. Make sure to have about half an inch of the nail sticking up above the can edge and the other inch below. In order to knit, the nails must be stable so you’ll want a lot of the nail to be attached to the can:

Put another pair of nails on opposite the first. Continue putting on sets of nails around the can. It doesn’t have to be scientifically precise, but try and space them about 5/8th” (1.5cm) apart. After all the nails are stuck to the can, wrap a few strips of tape all the way around the diameter of the can to hold the nails in place.

Press the tape down between each pair of nails. Next cut short strips of tape and apply them to the can between the pairs of nails like this:

Wrap more tape around the diameter of the can. I did two layers of tape, and finished off with more little strips between the nails for added stability and to cover up any raw sticky edges. You can either leave your can like that, or decorate it with glued on paper, fabric , or ribbon. We glued some fabric on and this is what we ended up with:

You can experiment with different sized cans which will produce different sized knitted tubes. If you use a jumbo, restaurant-sized can, you can even make an infant hat!

This was so much fun that after my daughter finishes her own hamster (which is well underway), I think I will steal the knitter back and make some nice, cozy socks for my two year-old. The tube that comes off this sized can looks to be just about the right size for her feet!

So that is it for the metal part of our post. If you want to know how to make the hamster, then you should buy Corking, or borrow it from the library.


Make a Sculpey Clay Spool Knitter

Make a Spool knitter out of a wooden thread spool

Spool Knitting (instructions on how to make a knitter, and how to knit)


What did your family make for the theme metal? If you did a metal Unplugged Project this week, then please leave your link in Mr. Linky (and a comment in case Mr. Linky malfunctions and I have to remove him).

If you didn’t join us, then feel free to explore everyone’s projects to get inspired, and please consider joining us next week. You don’t have to do anything fancy or complicated! For more information on the Unplugged Project as well as instructions about how to participate even if you don’t have a blog, read more here.


Next week’s Unplugged Project theme will be:


So far we’ve done quite a few Unplugged Projects that used paint, but I don’t think that it has ever been the theme before.  Hope to see you here next week!



21 Responses to “Metal – Tin Can Knitter (Weekly Unplugged Project)”

  1. Kayris says:

    We were going to decorate tin can with paper, then plant cooking herbs in them for a windowsill herb garden. But then someone (my husband) put the cans I was saving out with the recycle.

    So no project.

    After that, I thought maybe we’d practice my son’s counting skills and wrap up this enormous pile of change we have into rolls to deposit in the bank. But then my husband hurt his back, took a day off work and we didn’t get to it.

    I’m filing both ideas for future rainy days.

    I love that hamster and I love the idea of using a big can and making an infant hat. Very cute!

    Kayriss last blog post..Coming Clean: My Dirty Little Secret

  2. Claire says:

    I love the hamster and I’m very impressed with your home made french knitter – much prettier than the store bought ones I have seen!

    Claires last blog post..Unplugged Project

  3. warillever says:

    I want to learn how to knit; I want to teach the children hoe to knit. But first I need to learn how to sew. Borrowing some how-to books from the library on our next trip.

    The hamster is very cute, and the spool knitter is ingenious.

    I can’t wait to see everyone’s projects. I gave an update on an ongoing project for my post.

    warillevers last blog post..Unplugged Child Labor

  4. I’m here! I’m here! We actually did this week’s project! :) It’s been too long!

    I love that you pointed out how diverse a project can be by having an end product with something other than metal. I do enjoy these projects so much and it’s wonderful that that we don’t have strict guidelines allowing creative leeway.

    Love the hamster, too! Very cute!

    Becky@BoysRuleMyLifes last blog post..How Much is this Metal Worth?

  5. Tina says:

    This is sooooooooooo cute! We are saving a can or two and making one. What a great idea!
    Paint….We love paint. This will be a fun week! Blessings,

    Tinas last blog post..Every Sandwich Tells A Story Contest

  6. […] it finally worked out for us to do an Unplugged Project again. When I first saw this week was metal I was stumped but then I thought about how the boys […]

  7. I know my boys wouldn’t do a knitting project yet but this is something I’d love to try with the kids someday. I think the hamster is a cute idea!

    Heather & Johns last blog post..Unplugged Project: Metal

  8. Julie says:

    We also took some artistic freedoms for this weeks’ theme (wink*wink).

    Julies last blog post..All Boy Weekend Part 2 – Emphasis: Metal

  9. I love the little hamster! We’re new to your challenges, but we’ve jumped right in with the metal one. Thanks for letting us play along!

    Julie K in Taiwans last blog post..Kids Craft: Metal Wind Chimes

  10. Maureen Ryan says:

    As always, I’m impressed! I’d love to know a little about how you get inspired by inviting you to play the Meme of 5s. Check my blog for the rules of the game.
    Then post your answers to the questions on your blog, and “tag” someone else to play.

    The person who tagged me did a really cute twist by having her daughter answer some of the questions.

  11. Jenny says:

    I LOVE the hamster- what a cute idea! The tin can knitter looked like a lot of fun to make, too- I really do need to learn how to knit.

    Jennys last blog post..Unplugged Project – Metal

  12. MatchMomma says:

    omg! this rocks we are sooooo gonna make some of these! I promise we will do “paint” we just can’t get everything done lately… but paint is too good to pass up!

    MatchMommas last blog post..Boycott Subway

  13. kristen says:

    Sorry I am a little late on this one. We tried some Mexican Metal Tooling. Love your knitter.

    kristens last blog post..Mexican Metal Tooling

  14. Pam says:

    Your creativity always amazes me!

    Pams last blog post..Metal Mania! —Our weekly unplugged Project

  15. Tina says:

    Say my kids are feeling a tad bit left out! No one has stopped by to see what they did this week. Is Mr Linky working?

    Tinas last blog post..Unplugged Topic: Metal

  16. kari says:

    we borrowed the coin sort from a previous poster…lost track of which one, sorry!

    karis last blog post..Unplugged Project Metal

  17. […] a link to a previous Unplugged Project that we did where we made a Tin Can Knitter. (A kind of homemade cylindrical […]

  18. Ryann says:

    I am a Montessori teacher and we do a version of this in my classroom. We use toilet paper rolls and popsicle sticks, not quite as pretty but equally effective. The kids love it and it keeps them busy during circle time!

  19. […] alteriamo e ricicliamo una vecchia latta usata, trasformandola in un telaio per la maglia tubolare. Unplug your kids ci spiega come […]

  20. […] knitting, weaving, embroidery, needlepoint, wool felting. If you don’t have a French knitter, make one out of a tin can.  If you don’t have a weaving loom, make one out of a picture […]

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