Dolly Bobbin

What on earth is a dolly bobbin? And more to the point, what’s the point of a dolly bobbin?

I’m not sure I’m going to be able to answer the second question all that well. But I do know that for my sisters and me the dolly bobbin was hours and hours of contentment. At the end of which we had a long tube of wool we had no idea what to do with.  There were some failed attempts at turning woollen coils into purses. Sometimes we’d race each other for who could do the longest piece quickest.  But mainly, we did it for the pleasure of doing it.  That was the point. And after all, what’s the point of computer games?

The Dolly Bobbin is also known as a Knitting Nancy or French knitting. None of these names seems to make much sense, to be honest, but don’t let that put you off.

I still have the same Dolly Bobbin I had as a child – surely a sign of how much she meant to me. You may find that the hardest thing about learning to do Dolly Bobbin is getting hold of one. Amazon and ebay are likely to be the best bets, unless you’re lucky enough to live near a good old-fashioned haberdashery and crafts shop.

You’ll need the Dolly Bobbin and a ball of wool.  She (all Dolly Bobbins are girls – feel free to give yours a name) will come with her own stick. For starting with try not to use a wool that has lots of bobbles in it or is quite thick.  Both of those will make learning to do this much harder than it actually is. Here goes:

1. Pull out a length of wool and thread it down the hole at the top of your DB and through her middle. You need a length 10cm or so extending out of the base. Hold your DB around her neck with one hand and with the other wind the wool twice around one of the spikes, anti-clockwise. Take the stick she came with – or if not use a crochet hook or big needle – and lift the lower thread over the top of the spike and drop it over into the centre of DB. Twizzle DB anti-clockwise until the next spike is in front of you and repeat.  Do this until you’ve been around each empty spike.  You’ve now cast on. 

3. After each spike has a stitch on it, you’re then only going to loop the wool around once anti-clockwise.  Then do the same thing – lift the lower stitch over the top of the spike and drop it.  Go around each spike in turn anti-clockwise. A little tug on the length of wool at the base of your DB will draw your knitting down through her body and, eventually, a beautiful tube of wool will emerge.

4. Keep going until you’ve had enough. When you reach that point, cut a length of wool 10cm off your ball of wool.  One by one lift each stitch off its spike and thread the wool end through the stitch and pull tight.   Then just pull the finished knitting out of DB and try to think what the heck you might do with it.



Add yours →

  1. I bought a dolly bobbin recently and have just started to make my knitted tube using some fine donegal tweed. I too have no idea what the end product will be but it certainly is relaxing.

  2. Hi Soo. Sorry it has taken me so stupidly long to reply to you. How are you getting on with your Dolly Bobbin-ing?

    • Very slowly! So far I’ve knitted about a metre. Not really sure what I will turn it into when all the yarn is gone but there is probably enough to make a coil of about 12 inches in diameter. I think I’ll sew the coil and use it as the face of a cushion. Ask me this time next year how I’m getting on and I might just have finished by then 😉

  3. I’m an activity co-ordinator in a nursing home, I’ve just purchases a dolly bobbin and hope to get some of the residents interested.
    I also remember having hours of fun making tubes when I was little, but can’t remember what I did with the finished products. :))

    • Hi Janet – what a great idea of an activity for the residents to do. I bet you find that some of them remember doing it when they were younger, and maybe they taught their kids how to Dolly Bobbin. I’d obviously love to hear any Dolly Bobbin reminiscences they have!

      I really think it an especially absorbing and relaxing craft, but you can also have a chat whilst doing it. Those residents sound darn lucky to have someone like you around to think about getting them going on it. I hope they enjoy their Dolly Bobbinning – you too!

  4. Please can someone tell me where I can buy one of these. I live in Stafford and have been unable to find one anywhere. My email address is

    • Hi Sylvia – I am so sorry for not replying sooner! I am afraid your comment was nestled away in spam and I’ve only just found it.

      I hope you have by now got hold of a dolly bobbin and are merrily creating coils of wool. If you are still looking for one, the best I can suggest is Amazon. If you search on there for ‘dolly bobbin’ or ‘knitting nancy’ a few options come up.

      Or you could make one! If you have a wooden cotton reel, you could put four nails into one end and then you’re all set. Here’s a link to what I mean:


  5. Hi, i used to do this all the time when i was younger and wanted to start again. After many, many times of trying to remember how to get going i spotted your explaination of how to get started. I just wanted to say thanks, im enjoying it again now!!! 🙂 tammy

  6. Hi Angela!
    If you are looking for ideas check out the Flickr Spoolknitter Group, OR join us at Yahoo Spoolknitter, there we have lots of files and links with lots of wonderful projects to try. You could also check out my blogspot – Spoolknitter, need to get back to posting. ….. maybe I will see you there, cheers, Marian in Australia

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