How to Knit a Candy Cane: Free Pattern

Nov 30, 2015 | Knitting Pattern | 2 comments

What holiday and seasonal traditions do you enjoy during the dark days of winter? I’m a huge fan of a good Christmas tree. I’m American and my husband is German, so my family combines what we think are the best parts of the German and American traditions regarding Christmas trees. On the American side, we set up and decorate our tree as early in December as possible so we have a full month to enjoy it (Germans traditionally set up their tree on Christmas eve!) On the German side we (carefully!) light real candles on the tree instead of electric bulbs. The added scent and the soft glow they give the room is out of this world.

This year however, we have a 1 year old baby. A baby who likes to crawl up to the most breakable looking item he can see, pull himself up to standing and grab and shake said item with all his baby strength. Our Christmas tree will be in daily mortal danger. Real candles are definitely out! Even most of our ornaments, our glass balls and our thin wooden carved stars, probably shouldn’t be hung this year. Which is why I’ve decided to knit a bunch of ornaments for our tree this year. And I’m going to share a couple of their patterns with you here on the blog over the next few weeks in case your tree, like mine, is in need of some soft and non-breakable new ornaments.

First up, a knitted Candy Cane.

It took me quite a bit of trial and error to come up with a knit candy cane that exactly matched my vision. I knew the red and white stripes had to spiral up the candy cane rather than just stripe horizontally. I also absolutely wanted the stripes to be of equal thickness (there are a number of candy cane patterns on the web that are mostly white with only speckles of red dotted throughout.) I knew I had to knit the candy cane around a pipe cleaner so that it would bend and stay firmly in shape. But I found color changes around a pipe cleaner to be trickier than I expected. Eventually, I realized that I couldn’t follow the traditional fair isle or intarsia “rules” when switching colors, instead had to come up with color work rules of my own.

In the end, the candy cane is almost more of a concept than a pattern. The instructions are not written one round at a time, since you just repeat the same color pattern over and over without really noticing the specific round you are on. Working around a pipe cleaner, especially changing colors around a pipe cleaner can be a bit fiddly at first (unfortunately, it is the most fiddly during the first few rounds, before you have any practice at all), but don’t give up, because it knits quickly once you get the hang of it.

inspired by my Pencil Knitting Pattern.

Candy Cane Pattern as PDF

Knit Candy Cane
Finished Dimensions:
If you make your candy cane exactly according to this pattern, it will be 6 inches long. Of course, you can easily make it longer or shorter.

– scraps of worsted weight yarn in red and white (I used Caron Simply Soft Yarn for my red, and my white was a stray ball of left-over yarn from who knows where.) 
pipe cleaner at least 17cm / 7 inches long
3 Double Pointed Needless, size 3.5mm / US 4 (or the size needed to get a firm fabric)
darning needle for finishing
While exact gauge is not necessary, you do want your knit candy cane to have a tight, firm fabric. This means you’ll most likely have to pick a needle one or two sizes smaller than that recommended on your yarn’s label.
-The candy cane is knit around a pipe cleaner to give it a bit of structure. I only had royal blue pipe cleaners in my craft drawer, and it worked fine, but if you are buying a pipe cleaner for this project I’d recommend white or a red pipe cleaner so no contrasting color peeks out.
– The candy cane is 7 stitches around, which is too many stitches for an i-cord and too few stitches to feel nice knitting over three or four needles in the round. It knits up most smoothly when divided over two needles and worked with a third. 
– To get the red and white to spiral along on the candy cane (instead of horizontal stripes) you repeat the color pattern over 8 stitches, one stitch more than the number of stitches in a round. 
When changing colors, always bring the yarn the long way around the back of the pipe cleaner, inside the other yarn, as shown in photo below. (Don’t wrap the yarns around each other as you would in a normal intarsia color change as this would be visible on the outside of your candy cane. Also, don’t keep one yarn always inside and the other always outside as you would in normal fair isle color change -instead, you should always pick up you working yarn from the inside.)


Set up: With white yarn, CO 7 stitches. Divide them onto 2 DPNs, 4 stitches the front needle, 3 stitches on the back. Hold the needles parallel to each other with the purl-sides facing and the working yarn coming off the right-most stitch on the back needle (as shown in photo 1 below). Place the pipe cleaner between the two needles -it should stick out the bottom end about 2.5cm / 1 inch (as shown in photo 2 below). Bring the yarn around the pipe cleaner and knit the round starting with the right most stitch on the front needle. 

Color Pattern: Knitting in the round, knit 4 stitches white, knit 4 stitches red. Repeat this eight stitch pattern until your candy cane is the desired length (mine is 6 inches long). 


The Top: If your pipe cleaner is too long, cut off the top as close as you can to the end of your knitting. Knit another couple stitches to make sure the pipe cleaner is totally hidden within the knitting. Stop at a point when you have 4 stitches on your front needle and 3 on your back. Use your 3rd needle to knit together, then bind off the first 3 pairs of stitches. Knit and bind off the final stitch. 
The Bottom: Cut your pipe cleaner as close you can to the beginning of your knitting. Use your extra yarn tails and a darning needle to close up the end. Use your darning needle to bring any stray yarn tails into the candy cane and then snip the ends close to the knitting. 

Show off your Candy Cane on instagram (#yarnbirdy), Facebook (@yarnbirdy) or Ravelry, because I would love to admire it.


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