Tuesday, May 27, 2008

How to make pom-poms

Includes 8 illustrations, click any illustration to enlarge
A couple of days ago, a knitter on a community board asked how to make pom-poms. Immediately, the little voices in my head led me to sit down and illustrate this subject.

1. (above) The traditional way to wind pom-poms: Cut two cardboard doughnuts of the same size. Sandwich a yarn (illustrated in red) in between the two layers.

2. (above) Wind yarn (illustrated in green) over the doughnut, around and around, working the yarn through the center hole on each pass.

3. On illustration 2, you can see that the center hole is small. As you can imagine, it is something of a pain to wind the yarn through that center hole again and again. When I was 10, I had to make dozens of pom-poms for a project. Being as lazy as the next 10-year old, I figured that, per illustration 3 (above), if one-quarter of the circle form is cut away, it is MUCH faster and easier to wind the yarn around the resulting three-quarter pom-pom form, and the pom-pom comes out just as well. As shown, with a three-quarter form, as with the original full circle form, you begin by laying a yarn in between the two layers.

4. (above) As with the full circle form, wind the yarn around and around whole length of the three-quarter form, making sure that the center yarn does not get lost inside the form. The more yarn you wrap around the form, the bushier your pom-pom will be.

5. (above) Lay the form on a table and press it down firmly. Insert a scissors between the two layers of the form and cut the strands of pom-pom yarn where they pass over the outer edge of the form.

6. (above) Working carefully, pull up the center yarn tightly, then remove the form and lay it aside. Tie the center yarn in a very tight knot--this knot is what holds your pom-pom together. Refinements are possible: for example, you can wind the center yarn several times around strands once they have been cut free, knotting with every re-wind, or knotting just once at the end.

7. (above) Fluff the finished pom-pom into a three-dimensional shape. Trim off any oddly long strands. Remember not to pull on any one strand, or it will pop loose of the pom-pom. The ends of the center yarn can be used to attach the pom-pom to the hat top (or whatever else you are decorating). In real life, of course, your center yarn would be the same color as the pom-pom, and it will therefore be invisible.

8. (above)
a. Some yarns want to unravel when cut. In a very bushy pom-pom, this will not be a problem, because the yarn has not the room to unravel, but in a sparse pom-pom, you may face this issue.
b.& c. You can solve this problem by tying a little overhand knot (granny knot) in the end of each strand of the pom-pom yarn. A sparse pom-pom of perhaps 10 or 30 strands with each strand topped with a knot is quite charming--the knots give the strand ends a little heft and they swing about charmingly when you move and look like a little fountain, or a spray of fireworks.

One final note: You do not need to use a continuous strand of yarn to make a pom-pom. After all, you are going to cut the yarn into lots and lots of little pieces in step 5. You can wind little scraps of yarn over the form just as well as longer pieces--even if the scrap goes around the form only a couple of times, you can still use it--simply anchor it in place by overlapping its end with the next scrap. A pom-pom made of lots of scraps may shed odd bits where the center yarn did not catch the tail end of the scrap, but that is no particular problem--just comb out the pom pom AFTER you tie the knot, and these uncaught bits will fall right out.

Related posts:
How to make a tassel
How to make an I-cord tassel

--TECHknitter (You have been reading TECHknitting on: "pom-pom how-to.")

17 Comments:

Anonymous PrincessPea said...

I spent most of this morning making a pom pom the traditional way - wish I'd read this first!

May 27, 2008 at 6:17 PM  
Blogger La Cabeza Grande said...

I still make them the old-fashioned way: by hand. Literally. What you've described is functionally the same as what I do (tie down string placed prior to winding yarn, double knotting, flatten and trim). I just use two or four fingers, then eyeball it for the trim.

May 27, 2008 at 10:17 PM  
OpenID giftable said...

i do the same as la cabeza-- it seems whenever i want to make pompoms i can't find any cardboard or dont want to use it to make cutouts, so i just use two fingers, hold them slightly apart, and wind-- then tie a scrap in between the two fingers and cut.

btw just wanted to say i love your blog!!! you are so incredibly amazing i don't even know how to explain it.

May 27, 2008 at 10:26 PM  
Blogger Renna said...

That's an excellently written tutorial! :-)

May 28, 2008 at 4:45 PM  
Blogger Laura Jesson said...

i love your blog! i haven't knitted in forever and now i've got some inspiration!
many thanks!

May 30, 2008 at 4:04 AM  
Blogger Colleen said...

A 3/4 circle is clearly better than a whole circle, but a half circle is even easier, and I find just as good as a whole circle, too. So I just cut a circle, fold it, then cut the inside hole and the folds.

Did you know that they make fancy kits of place folding circles, with hinges and everything of different sizes, just to make pompoms? Too much for me! Besides, I would never be able to _find_ it when I wanted a pompom and would end up getting card board out of the recycling bin anyway ;-)

May 31, 2008 at 11:44 AM  
Blogger cedar said...

You are always such a hit...I love the diagrams, so clear and makes me want to jump up and make a pom pom right now! How do you get such clear diagrams, is that a program? thanks for you endless inspiration...

June 4, 2008 at 10:45 AM  
Blogger --TECHknitter said...

Hi Cedar: Thank you for your kind words! The graphics program is called "Adobe Illustrator," and it is a vector drawing program. It DOES make nice diagrams, doesn't it?

June 4, 2008 at 5:44 PM  
Blogger endoftunnel said...

Thank you so much! I've been struggling for years trying to make presentable pom-poms.
See my hub at Online Paid Surveys

June 7, 2008 at 10:19 AM  
Blogger The Style PA said...

My grandad started a carpet company and they always had a rainbow of coloured wools around. I remember making pom poms as a child.

Great blog!

June 9, 2008 at 6:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent graphics and easy to understand instructions. I looked at 3 different websites before I found yours. How clever (I mean that in a good way!)for a 10 year old to figure out to cut out part of the circle. Goes to prove you are just a natural crafter!

September 11, 2008 at 2:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been searching for these instructions as this is how I used to make my poms as a child (in the 70's)! THANK YOU :)

September 15, 2008 at 9:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your directions and illustrations were SO easy to understand! Thank you!

February 2, 2009 at 6:21 PM  
Blogger Dragon said...

Brilliant! Cut out a piece of the circle - so simple, yet so brilliant.

Once again, TechKnitter, you have flabbergasted me with your insight. (In other words: yer cool!)

November 21, 2009 at 5:41 PM  
Blogger Christine said...

Thank you Techknitting for another beautifully illustrated and clearly explained technique. I'm relying now more on your blog posts than all my knitting books put together. Well done! Thank you!

February 21, 2010 at 8:21 AM  
Anonymous TipsyFox said...

Now my bunnies can have tails!!! YES!!!

March 26, 2010 at 3:13 PM  
Anonymous auntbea said...

Try trimming the pom pom and then hold it over some steaming water. It kind of meld together where you can't see the individual strands as easily...Makes it look more professional

September 10, 2013 at 9:48 AM  

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