Winding & Handling
yarns come in already wound balls – ones that you can work with from
either the outside or from the center.
But some comes in those pretty-looking but impossible to knit-from
skeins like the blue one in the picture.
So how do you wind those skeins into balls?
Here’s some tips on how I do it.
– your two hands and the floor
1 – your two hands and one or two chairs, someone else’s hands, or
a yarn swift. A Yarn
Swift is an adjustable device with jointed arms, rather like an
umbrella, that opens out to adjustable circumferences to fit
various sized skeins. It
clamps on a table or other surface and can usually be used in
either a horizontal or vertical position.
My swift is a KSM brand “Reeling Machine” made in Japan
– it’s aluminum and plastic and is much less sturdy than the
wooden ones. I’ve been using mine for years, BUT found that the
plastic part of the clamp broke shortly after I bought it, and
ever since the clamp has been held together with a small C-clamp
from a tie-flying apparatus.
One of these days I plan to try out one of those bigger
all-wood kinds of swifts. To
see a picture of a swift, try
or other websites that sell knitting tools.
2 – like Intermediate 1, but add a nostepinde or other “stick”
to wind the ball on. A Nostepinde
is a stick used to help you wind a center-pull ball.
For info on notepindes and how to use them, try checking
tool-intensive – your two hands, a yarn swift, and a ball winder.
Winder is a mechanical device that clamps on a table and allows
you to wind a center-pull ball by simply winding a handle.
Works very well when used in conjunction with a swift.
Here’s a picture of the ball winder I use (taken from the
side of the box it came in):
1: Open the skein up into a
single ring of yarn, put your two arms inside and pull the ring as open as
possible & snap your arms wide a time or two to help align the strands
as nicely as possible.
2: Position the skein so that
you can have access to the whole circumference of it so you’ll be able
to wind a ball. This can mean
that you lay the skein out on the floor, put it over a chair back (or two
backs if the skein is large), hang it from a hook, or put it on a yarn
swift and adjust the swift’s circumference to hold your skein tautly.
3: Find and cut (or untie)
the knots on the threads holding the skein together.
Usually there are 2-3 ties on a skein, and one knot will be the two
ends of the yarn tied together. Tuck
one end out of the way and start gently pulling the other end and
4: Wind a ball, using your
hands, a nostepinde, or a ball winder.
However you wind the ball, be sure that the yarn is loosely as well
as securely wound into a ball. The
yarn should never be tight in the ball or the elasticity can be stretched
out of it – some people rewind their balls several times, so that the
ball is as loose as possible (they rewind it because winding directly off
a swift or skein can put the yarn under too much tension and the ball can
end up too tight). My
preferred methods are the “minimum” (when I’m away from home or when
I’m too lazy to get up and find my swift), the “intermediate 1” (I
use a swift or sometimes hang the skein from the lamp shade of my
goose-neck lamp) which I use the most often for yarns heavier than
sport-weight yarn, or the “most tool intensive” method which I always
use for fine yarns or huge skeins of thicker yarns (or I could be hand
winding the skeins for days!).
how I hand wind balls to keep the yarn as loose as possible.
WINDING BALLS OF YARN
1: Set up the skein, cut the
ties on the skein, find a loose end, unwind a foot or two, then wind the
end 4 or more times around the thumb of the hand that you will be holding
the ball with (I usually start by wrapping these rounds around my right
thumb, but later I hold the ball in whichever hand feels comfortable).
Be sure the end of the yarn is under the wraps so that it doesn’t
2: With the yarn end still
around your thumb, wrap yarn around two fingers 20-50 times to start the
center of the ball.
3: Leave yarn around thumb,
but pull the ball beginning off the two fingers and hold between thumb and
index finger. Then wrap yarn
around the center of the ball AND your finger 10-30 times.
4: Pull end of yarn off thumb
and let hang loosely. Pull
ball off of index finger. Hold
ball between thumb and 2 fingers with the end toward the palm of your
hand. Wind yarn about 20 times around ball AND fingers.
Do NOT wrap the ball yarn around the yarn end.
5: Pull your fingers out of
the ball and rotate ball, then wrap yarn 10-20 times around ball AND
fingers before turning and winding again.
ALWAYS be sure not to wrap the yarn around the center pull end of
the ball. Repeat until you
have a completed ball, tuck the outside end under the wound yarn and pull
from the center end to knit with.
BALL-WINDER ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY?
I said above, I find a ball winder indispensable only for fine yarns
(fingering, lace, huge hanks of sport, etc.).
I enjoy hand winding balls of thicker yarn (and I prefer the
roundness of hand wound balls, too, which I always wind to have the center
end hanging out so I can pull from the center if I want), but the yardage
of skeins of those thin yarns makes my hands hurt long before I'm through
hand-winding the balls -- so a ball winder wins out almost every time.
an alternative, though, let me tell you a story.
One of my knitting/crocheting friends called me once to ask to
borrow my ball-winder. But I was away on vacation, so I didn't get back to
her until about 2 weeks later. Then
I called her and asked if she still needed it.
She said "no", because she had found a very useful
alternative -- she had borrowed her husband's electric drill, put a long
nail with a flat head in the drill bit, and wound the yarn around the nail
while using slow speed on the drill.
She said it worked great! I
laughed when I remembered that a knitting friend of mine had said she
admired any woman who owned a drill (implying that she thought that that
drill-toting woman was a handy repairperson around the house) -- so I made
sure to tell that other friend the ball-winding drill story, so that she
would know that she too could own a drill and find it useful even if she
never drilled a hole in a wall!
IF I CAN
ONLY AFFORD ONE, SHOULD I BUY A SWIFT OR A BALL WINDER?
find that I use my swift more than I use my ball winder. But I do recommend that if you buy a swift, that you buy a
good quality one. My swift
(one of those metal ones that's rather like a cheap umbrella) cost me $27
more than 10 years ago, and I use it all the time, but part of the clamp
broke shortly after I bought it, and ever since has been held together
with a small C-clamp from a tie-flying apparatus.
The metal swift is rather small and portable and rotates well,
while the wooden ones are bulkier and I know a few people find they rotate
rather reluctantly, but the wooden ones are more sturdy.
WIND ALL MY SKEINS INTO BALLS AS SOON AS I BUY THEM?
don't wind my yarn skeins into balls until I'm ready to start the project,
and even then I may only wind a few balls to begin with. In part, that's to make sure the yarn is left in the relaxed
skein (if it already is balls or wound skeins that you can knit from, I
sure don't rewind those!). But
also, it's more acceptable to bring back the original skeins to your yarn
store if you need to exchange them or bring back extra skeins. And, most importantly to me (hey, I NEVER bring yarn back
unless there's something wrong with the yarn - I can always use an extra
skein in some future project), if I wind yarn from a skein into a ball and
then don't get back to it until later, I'm not certain that it's a full
skein of yarn. And for a
designer, it's really important to know how much yarn a project uses - to
help with that, I've started sticking the band from the ball under the
last few wrappings of the ball, and I write on that band if I've used any
of the yarn already.
HOW CAN I
KEEP MY ROUND YARN BALL FROM ROLLING ALL OVER THE FLOOR AS I USE IT?
using one of my favorite knitting "gadgets" – Zip-lock plastic
bags (not the ones with the zipper "pulls", use the ones with
the zip-it-shut-with-your-fingers). To
keep my balls from rolling all over the floor or popping out of the basket
they're in, I "unvented" my own ball "bra" by cutting
off the corner of a zip-lock
bag. I take a gallon-size bag
and diagonally cut off one corner at the end of the zipper.
Then I stick the bag of yarn in, pull the yarn end out of the
clipped corner, and then zip the zipper shut.
The gallon size is big enough to hold most of my small knitting
projects (socks, mittens, drawstring pouches, beginning of lace
shawls, etc.) AND needles when I'm not knitting (just throw it in
your lunch bag or tote bag
when you're heading out the door). It
works great. I've even used the 2-gallon size for bigger lace projects
that are on a cone, but I rarely use the quart size for knitting because
it's too small to hold most needles, and big yarn balls don't easily
rotate in the closer confines of the quart bag.
Also, the bags are reusable from project to project.