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.")