Hand Winding Yarn

When I shop for yarn I fall in love with the colours, the textures, the feel of the yarn. I usually fall hard for a particular skein ( who is kidding who that word should be plural)  of hand dyed yarn.  While I have a great many talents, the creativity and colour sense of the many wonderful Indie dyers of beautiful yarn out there is best left to them!

But I don’t like to wind my skeins (also called hanks) until I need them.  There is a tendency to wind yarn too tightly which can stretch it out a bit, and that can mean that when the wool gets knit up and then it hits water for it’s finishing bath and blocking… it can try to go back to its original springy form. It can lead to unexpected texture and lengths in your final project.  So I tend to like to leave my yarn in skein form until I want to use it. And by ready, I mean projects I intend to do within a few weeks… it is totally okay for yarn to be wound in advance… I just think is better to work with it soonish, not pop it into a bag to knit some other year.  (this also makes it less likely that I will lose the labels with all of that wonderful information!)

Whether I am using a swift and ball winder or I am winding by hand I like to make sure the yarn cakes or balls are not too tightly wound. The goal is smushable balls not firm rock like cakes (unless you are winding linen..then firm balls are your friend).

Hand winding is a process that we tend to want to get it over and done with and so get going quickly which can put extra tension on the yarn as we wind.  To help mitigate this I like to wind the yarn over my fingers and then remove my finger when it is time to rotate the ball so the yarn is relaxed. I find it helpful to watch tv or  listen to a podcast or audiobook while I do this to lessen the impatience.

Below are a couple tutorials to show how to wind your yarn into balls by hand if you do not yet have the wonderful tools of Ball Winder and Swift.  (Cuz sometimes you just need to wind yarn at 2am when the yarn shop is closed!) It need not be scary, but anyone who has ever tried to knit from a skein and encountered the dreaded mess that can ensue if you accidentally yank the yarn and get things tangled… these are for you!

  • Andrea Mowry has a short and sweet video tutorial 
  • Purl Soho : has a pictorial tutorial ...and links to some of their other beginner friendly tutorials too!
  • This is Knit : has a great video on the various ways to wind yarn! showing the use of swift and ball winder but also how to wind a center pull ball by hand.  

Happy Stitching!

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