Winding Yarn

I may not be able to knit thanks to a sore hand and a bad elbow, and I can still wind up yarn for future projects!

Winding Yarn: You vs. LYS

Winding Yarn: You vs. LYS

I have to wind all my hanked (or skeined, depending on the term you prefer to use) yarn myself. While I’m lucky enough to live in Toronto, a city with several excellent and well-known yarn shops, I don’t do a lot of shopping at them because none have a particular good selection of non-wooly yarn. And, a few don’t even offer to wind your purchases for you. So, I’ve got the Amish-style swift that my dad built for me, and an adequate ball winder from Knit Picks, and every few months I grit my teeth and wind up some yarn.

My handmade swift (Thanks, Dad!)

My handmade swift (Thanks, Dad!)

So, why would you want a shop to wind yarn for you? Well:

  • You don’t have a swift and ball winder of your own.
  • It is over 1,000 metres and you do have a life. 😉
  • You want to get started on your project right away.

There are, however, many advantages to winding your own yarn. Such as:

  • You can’t always return yarn that has been wounding into a cake, even if it was done by the store. So, keep your yarn in a hank/skein if you think you might want to return it.
  • It is easier to trade or sell your yarn if it is still in a hank.
  • The shop could wind the yarn more tightly than you like, and it could bounce back after being washed, shrinking your project.
  • Yarn is easier to store in a hank, depending on your storage system.
  • Yarn cakes can trap moisture and smells much more readily than hanks. They also make cozier homes for bugs. Yuck!
  • You can check the ball for knots, weak spots, and strange colour changes as you wind it. This will allow you to be prepared for what might be coming, and also allow you to splice out bad spots.

One thing to watch for when winding your own cakes is tension. A yarn cake is wound too tight if it feels very firm when you give it squeeze. It should bounce back, not feel like a hockey puck!

Balls of yarn ready to go... when I can knit again.

Balls of yarn ready to go… when I can knit again.

What about centre-pull vs. working from the outside? As a non-wooly, I always work from the outside of a cake or ball of yarn. Non-wooly yarn (especially 100% cotton, bamboo-heavy blends, and silk) tend to collapse if you work from the inside. The yarns are slicker than wool. They don’t have the little hairs that wooly yarns have, and those hairs are what helps those yarn cakes stay together well when working from the inside. If you don’t like the idea of your yarn rolling around on the floor when you work from the outside, consider setting the yarn in a small bag or on your lap. (To be honest, my yarn almost never escapes from me.) And when you work from the outside, you can use the centre of the cake for storing your label!

One last thing about yarn swifts. They come in a few different varieties, and can range from reasonably priced to very expensive (just like ball winders). Knit Picks even puts theirs on sale once in a while. But, you can make your own. Check out this Pinterest board I’ve put together for a few ideas.

Wondering how to use a ball winder and swift? Check out this short video from Webs Yarn Store.


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