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A Corking Cushion

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This post will return very briefly to the subject of cushions. I have recently finished making the round cushion that I mentioned in my earlier post. This cushion has a front of French knitting (also called tomboy knitting, spool knitting and corking) and the back is part of an old jumper.

French knitting is très simple! The hardest bit is the casting on. This was the first time I’d done French knitting for a while and the casting on took me a while but I got it in the end. Spool knitting is done on a ‘doll’, a hollow wooden tube with metal pegs on the top. These can be bought in craft shops. The knitting is worked around the pegs and pulled down the tube. There are also plastic French knitting dolls and there are variations on the number of pegs it has, either four or six, I think. Corking is a great way to use up small wool ends that are too short for anything else. Even better, it’s possible to change colour loads of times because all the ends are simply pushed into the tube, nothing could be easier! The front of the cushion is made with a piece about six metres long, it sounds a lot but it builds up quite quickly once you get started. I then sewed the tube in a coil to make a circle and the front was finished. A coil of French knitting can be round or more oval-shaped and it might turn out slightly domed. The coil could be made into a mat, pot holder or a small rug instead.

The cushion and three of my French knitting dolls.

The cushion and three of my French knitting dolls.

The back of the cushion is also wool but made in a very different way. It was originally an old jumper with holes in it. I felted this as an experiment and some of it has been put to use in this cushion. Before I continue, I have a point to make about the word ‘felting’. I am not very sure that it is the correct word to use in this context because it says in a knitting book I have (The Knitting and Crochet Bible by Claire Crompton and Sue Whiting published by D&C) that felting is felting raw wool whereas ‘fulling’ means felting wool that has already been spun and knitted. However, other sources use felting to describe both techniques. I’ll use the word ‘fulling’ in this post because I think it is technically the right one.

Anyway, you can full any piece of knitting as long as it was knitted in 100% pure wool. Acrylic wool and other mixes have been treated so that they don’t shrink and therefore they won’t full properly. You can full old garments, like jumpers or pieces of knitting that you made specially for fulling. There are two ways to full a piece of knitting: by hand or in your washing machine. To full by hand, you need warm water and soap flakes. Gently wash the knitting in the soapy water. Knead the piece to full the fibres. Be careful and check the piece frequently as you work. You may need to experiment with samples before you do the real thing in order to get the best result. When you think it’s done, rinse the soap out in cold water. The fabric should look dense and fuzzy, it shouldn’t be distorted or matted. Wrap the fabric in a towel and then lay it out flat to dry.

The finished cushion, showing the side of French knitting.

The finished cushion, showing the side of French knitting.

The other fulling method is the washing machine method. This is best for when you are fulling several things at once. Add towels to fill the machine to provide friction. Run them a short hot wash and a cold rinse but don’t spin dry them. The washing machine method is great except for the fact that it will fluff up your machine after a while. Fulled fabric is very useful because it won’t fray so there’s no need to hem it when you use it.

For the cushion, I cut the fabric with a paper pattern and dressmakers scissors. The cushion is  oversewn at the edges with white wool, but blanket stitch would probably look nicer. I stuffed it with loose stuffing as I couldn’t find a round cushion pad in any shop. I suppose it is an unusual shape for a cushion.

Anyway, I’ve rambled on enough so I’ll just finish by saying that this French knitting project is easy. The cushion is a perfect way of using up wool scraps and some old clothes, why not have a go?

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