How to Make Sock Poi (with stuff you have in the house right now!)

November 23, 2011 Caroleeena Poi

Poi come from the people of the Maori tribe of New Zealand. Poi translates to “ball on string” and that’s literally what they are. The Maori make them by taking a small square of cloth and pouring flax seed into the center, then tying the corners of the cloth together with string. Voila! True Maorian poi.

For beginner poi spinners, though, I recommend that you consider spinning sock poi. There are a lot of advantages to sock poi. They don’t tangle like strings do. Tangles can be frustrating, time consuming and they interrupt your flow, making it harder to learn poi basics. With sock poi, you’ll never accidentally throw flax seed all over your living room. And sock poi pack down very small so that you can stick them in your purse or backpack and have them with you should you find an opportunity to spin. You can also take them into concerts. And if you make them the way I recommend, you won’t hurt yourself or anyone else with an accidental poi thwack. Sock poi also stretch just a bit as the poi spin to help you feel like your hand ends not at the end of your arm but at the end of your poi.

Here’s what you’ll need:

– a pair of long socks that you are ready to repurpose (I prefer tube socks because they are heel-less but any long sock will do. I also prefer striped socks because the colors separate out beautifully when they spin.)

– a pair of old stockings you don’t mind cutting up or a piece of cloth and a rubberband

– some flax seed or birdseed or rice or quinoa or cous-cous (some sort of loose small grain. You could also use lentils or small beans.)

– scissors

Here’s how to do it:

– Pour 3/4 cup of flax seed (or substitute) into the toe of a stocking, then tie a knot in it so the ball of seed is tight but still squishy. Cut off any extra material. Craft the second ball. And make sure they’re the same size. Voila! Two squishy balls. (I know. That sounds dirty.) If you don’t have stockings, take a piece of cloth, pour the seed in the center and close the corners with a rubber band. You may want to do this twice to ensure the ball doesn’t come open inside your sock. It doesn’t have as much give as stockings but it’s still pretty good.

– Drop the ball into the toe of the sock.

– At the top of the sock, use your scissors to cut two straight lines parallel to each other about six inches long from the top of the sock toward the toe. This should leave you with two, equal sizes, flaps of material at the top of the sock.

– Where the cut stops, fold the sock over itself and tie a square not so that the cuts end in the square knot. It should look like your square knot has given birth to two bunny ears. Do the same to the other sock.

– Make sure the knots on each sock are the same distance from the toe so your poi will be the same length. You may need to adjust one of your knots to get them the same length.

– Then take your two rabbit ears and tie them together at the top, creating a small hole you can peek through and put your fingers through. The size of this hole only matters if you want it to be big enough to put your whole hand through. Otherwise, big enough to get a finger or two through is enough. (Plus, it’s going to stretch out as you spin your poi. So it’ll get bigger anyway.)

Ta da! You have sock poi!

You can hold the poi by putting your fingers through this hole or by holding the bottom knot (the one closest to the toe gives you the most control). There are several other ways to hold poi also. I won’t go into them now but it’s important to know that there are other ways and to rotate between different grips to avoid repetitive motion injuries. Plus, some grips just work better for some moves. (Note: You could have simply made the sock poi with no knots at the top or with one knot at the top. I use the two knot method because you can alternate between about 10 different grips simply by leaving that hole.)

Poi spinning is fun, easy and accessible. It is also multi-purpose. In New Zealand, its main purpose is story-telling (similar to hula dance in Hawaii) but poi are also used in dance and to train Maori warriors who fight with a short sword in each hand. Grandmother’s have even been known to craft tiny poi on thread and use them to mesmerize fussy babies to sleep. Poi spinning is done by people of all ages. It is even accessible to the wheelchair bound. It’s easy to learn and feels like you’re remembering something you didn’t know you’d forgotten.


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One response to “How to Make Sock Poi (with stuff you have in the house right now!)”

  • Ella says:

    Ms. Caroleeena,
    My dear friend Vivian has told me so much about you and I am so pleased to have finally found your web-site. She has told me about a circus camp or a poi spinning camp I was quite intreasted in. If you could please e-mail me about the information, I would like to participate in it. Many Thanks.

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