Making tomboy stitch

A few weeks ago my son brought home the beginnings of his tomboy stitch (or French knitting as I found out via commenters below). For those who have never heard of it, it’s a crude form of knitting that’s been around for at least as long as my father (and probably longer).

It’s been great at keeping him occupied both at home and at school. When I used to do it at my son’s age we used empty wooden cotton reels but they aren’t easy to come by any more so an empty toilet roll and four wooden icecream sticks will suffice.

Homemade tomboy stitch maker

As the image above shows, evenly space the four wooden icecream sticks around the outside of the empty toilet roll and sticky tape them on. Note that on one end the sticks go past the edge of the cardboard toilet roll. This is what’s used to do the tomboy stitch.

I wasn’t around when JJ started his tomboy stitch but I reckon this will work. Loop some wool around one of the icrecream sticks and tie a knot. Loop the wool around again and pull the first loop over the second loop, therefore creating the first stitch.

Move onto the next icecream stick holder and loop the wool around twice and pull the first loop over the second loop again. Repeat this twice more until you’re back to where you started. This will create the base of the tomboy stitch.

Keep going in an anti-clockwise direction if you’re right handed. I’m presuming a left handed person will go the opposite way.

Pull the wool across the stick like the image below so the existing stitch is underneath.

Making tomboy

Then pull the existing loop over the piece of wool as I’ve tried to demonstrate below.

How to do tomboy stitch

Like so.

Tomboy stitch in the making

Keep repeating this around and around the four sticks until you get completely sick of it.

It’s very repetitive but fun to do because it can get really long and kids love a competition. There’s a competition going at after school care to see who’s got the longest tomboy stitch by the end of this term.

If anyone’s got any questions or comments about this method please let me know.


  1. says

    I remember this too -with a wooden spool and nails (?)

    I don’t remember what it was called (oh I feel so stupid tonight).

    It looks very colourful and addictive.

  2. says

    Planning Queen – sorry I can’t take credit for making it because the after school care crowd did. It brought back memories for me too.

  3. says

    I used to do this as a child too. But we knew it as French Knitting. It’s still known as that around my family.

  4. says

    I haven’t heard of it as French knitting before but I bet this isn’t the only other name apart from tomboy stitch.

  5. says

    I know it as french knitting also – we love doing it and you are so right – it can calm kids right down and man do they focus!!

  6. says

    I haven';t thought about French Knitting for years!
    Thanks for the pics and reminder Jen, this is a great old fashioned activity to entertain kids that doesn’t cost the earth :D

  7. says

    That’s a cool name for it. I would have enjoyed it even more as a kid if it had been called that. I loved being a tomboy!

  8. says

    I wonder if someone coined the name tomboy stitch to get boys doing it because the name french knitting probably wouldn’t entice boys to pick it up. Apparently my dad used to do tomboy stitch when he was a boy.

  9. says

    hello jen ,i think im writing to,in 1962 i started tomboy stitch and never gave it up im 51 now, and over the last few years started putting my designs under glass,away from hungry moths and other insects.
    on the website under shop is a section named spiral french knits, its in here where my vacuum sealed pieces are displayed.
    i also make teddies and coffee jar covers, that are in a online gallery named redbubble, along with some of the spiral stuff just mentioned. happy site seeing, cheers peter coombe.

  10. Reece says

    I thaught this was a great way to wast time in those boring hours of school. I found that after i started i had everyone hooked on it as well. Its very addictive and once you start it really is hard to take the stitch off because you have been working on it for so long. :-)

  11. says

    My husband Peter who’s written here = his tomboy stitch pieces are magnificent, new wall-hangings completed recently. Have a look on our website for inspiration! Hope to put on exhibition of his work in the 2010 Fringe Festival here in Adelaide, South Australia.

  12. Ray Emes says

    I’m a grandfather always looking for something to make for my grandkids.I remember my tomboy, but was not sure how to get it started.I made my own”cotton reel” on a wood lathe and this site has “reminded ” me how it works.
    As an “oldie” I was amazed to google tom boy and get your page almost at once. Thank you.

  13. Tori says

    I’m tori and im in grade six and my tomboy keeps on getting really big holes in it. How can i stop this from happening??? Please help me!

  14. zoe says

    i LLLLLLLLLLOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVVVVVVVVVEEEEEEEEEEE tomboy stitches i love them sooooooo much