Catch that Cootie! …and knit?

Remember that game we used to play as kids?  Where you fold up a piece of paper in what is actually a traditional origami model, add colours, numbers, names, whatever, then flip the corners back and forth according to a number, or number of letters, until you end up  turning over a flap and learning your fortune, getting a task, or whatever else was written there for you?

cootie-catcher colours

The most common names in English for this game seem to be Fortune Teller or Cootie Catcher.  From looking this up, it doesn’t really seem to be a regional thing, as both names are found all over.   I made dozens – if not hundreds – of these throughout my childhood – and I can’t for the life of me remember what on earth we called it.  If anything.  It’s driving me crazy!

It still seems to be very popular, after a history of almost 100 years in English-speaking culture.  Kids are still making them!  They are used as party favours:


One can find hundreds of templates for theme fortune tellers – for birthdays, holidays, weddings.  The Country Chic Cottage has a Dr. Seuss template.

cootie catcher dr seuss

This one has a mandala of the seasons, and on the flip side different meditations:

cootiecatcher mandala

Amazon has whole books of different cootie catchers

cootie-catcher book 2

cootie_catcher book


Why the sudden interest in a children’s game, you ask?  You didn’t ask?  I’ll tell you anyway.  It’s simple.  The Leethal Adventure Knit Along  2014.  Much much more about this KAL later, but Lee has provided us with a custom-made fortune teller to help randomize the stitch patterns we use in the first section of our project, to make each project truly unique.  Printed out and folded, we got this:

fortune teller closed

Using various methods in the KAL, we flip away:

fortune teller partly open

Until at last our next stitch pattern is revealed!

fortune teller open

It is a lot of fun, and has sparked quite a lively discussion in the KAL group.  So far the names (other than or in addition to cootie catcher or fortune teller) the knitters in the group have for this game are clackers, flutter book, whirlybird, salt cellar, 4 cups, chatterbox or scrunchie (in Australia), consequences (in Britain), Heaven and Hell (in Germany), crow (in Finland), and flea (in Sweden).

The Origami Spirit blog compiled this list a couple of years ago:

  • Catalan: cuatre sabates
  • Danish: flip-flapper, farveskifter, farvevælger, nip-napper, rap-rapper, spå, spå-maskine”, rip-rapper, lusefanger,  saltkar
  • Dutch: knip-knap, peper- en zoutvaatje
  • English: fortune teller, cootie catcher, salt cellar, chatterbox, whirlybird
  • French: coins-coins, salière
  • German: himmel und hölle or himmel oder hölle, salz und Pfeffer
  • Greek: Alatiera (Αλατιέρα)
  • Hebrew: qua-qua
  • Hungarian: sótartó
  • Italian: acchiappanaso,  inferno-paradiso
  • Polish: niebo-pieklo
  • Portuguese: inferno e paradiso, quantos queres
  • Spanish: adivinador, sacapiojos, salero, pollito, comecocos, sapito, cielo e infierno, día y noche, piquito, cuatrobocas, cumpleaños, el poto de doña María, juego de la fortuna, aguaderas, estafador de sueños

So…   What do you call it??

I honestly don’t recall if this ever had a name when we played.  Now I guess I have to go search out my childhood friends and see what they remember.

(Well, at least I still remember how to fold it…  There is that.)


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One Response to “Catch that Cootie! …and knit?”

  1. feelgoodknitting Says:

    What a fun idea for a pattern! We always called them fortune tellers.

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