|Bodkins are usually 2.5- to 3.5-inches long, conical in shape, hand-carved or lathe-turned whalebone or ivory implements, used specifically for knitting lace doilies. Making & selling doilies was a very important income source for Nantucket womenfolk while their men were on whaling cruises that lasted up to four years. Whalers only made bodkins for their mothers, wives, sweethearts, and daughters. Whalers never sold bodkins, as this would contribute to potential competition for the Nantucket women. Authentic bodkins were made with no eyes; the multi-thread lacing thread was tied to the narrow waist of each bodkin. Eight bodkins were needed to make an eight-sided doilie (also doily); six were needed for six-sided. Bodkins were made in several sets of matched pairs, set opposite each other to keep distinction between the matching wedge patterns of the doilie. A knitter may work on several different doilies simultaneously, requiring scores of bodkin pairs.
If a knitter lost or broke a bodkin, she was left with the proverbial "odd bodkin".