Regardless if you are into knitting, crocheting or weaving, if you are working with yarn you probably have spent your fair share of time rolling balls of yarn.
This is such a boring and tedious process to do by hand that many people decide not to use skeins at all and only buy center pull yarn ball.
Which is sad because some of the most beautiful weaving yarns out there come as skeins.
Fortunately, if you learn how to wind yarn with a ball winder such that you can quickly turn those pesky skeins and hanks into center pull balls that are much easier to use.
Why wind your yarn?
We all love working with yarn and transforming it into clothing, pieces of art, etc.
But sometimes working with yarn can be the most frustrating thing ever.
Especially when you discover you yarn is one big tangled mess. Which happens all the time with skeins.
That’s why most people wind their yarn into balls first. Anyone that frequently works with yarn has spent their fair share of time winding yarn.
Even the idea of manually winding balls of yarn every time you start a new project is probably enough to scare away most beginners.
A yarn ball winder and swift are strictly speaking not essential weaving tools, but they are definitely a useful addition to have.
Using a winder will let you turn yarn skeins into center pull cakes in no time. These yarn cakes are a great way of preventing any knots and ties while pulling out the yarn. Also, these cakes don’t constantly flop and move around while you work like skeins.
Rolling your yarn into balls before you start weaving takes some time. But you can trust me when I say that there is nothing worse than finding knots in the middle of a project.
So learning how to wind yarn with a ball winder might take some extra time upfront, but it definitely pays off.
Finally, tightly winded balls and cakes of yarn are much easier to store between two projects. If you store several hanks or skeins in the same drawer, you might find a monster of tangled threads and knots that can scare anyone.
— Bekah (@TangledKnitter) 3 June 2016
How to wind yarn with a ball winder
Turning your yarn into a ball doesn’t take much time.
But if this is the first time using your winder, you will need to assemble it first.
Although this might differ from model to model it normally doesn’t take more than a few minutes.
This video shows how to set up and use a KnitPicks yarn ball winder.
You always want to make sure that the winder is firmly attached to the table so that it doesn’t move.
In the video, a yarn swift is used in combination with the winder to simplify and speed up the process.
But using a ball winder without a swift is also totally possible. In that case, you can ask someone to hold the yarn while you are winding or place the yarn around a chair.
To get started, pull the yarn through the loop arm and secure the yarn in the two groves on the cone part of your winder.
With all of that in place, you are ready to start winding your skeins into a firm ball by just rotating the arm.
Keep rotating until you got a ball of the right size or you run out of yarn. Then take out the yarn end that is secured to the center cone and gently slide off the ball from the winder.
What to look for?
There are many different ball winders on the market. So what do you need to look for to find the best yarn ball winder?
Below are a few things you might want to consider when you buy a new yarn winder for the first time.
1 Manual or electric yarn winder
Yarn ball winders can either be manual or electric. They work pretty similarly though. The main difference is the speed and the price.
Electric winders can do the job much faster but come at a higher price point. Since even manually winding yarn into a ball doesn’t take that much time, it’s perfectly fine to start with a manual model.
Only if you plan on processing huge amounts of yarn at a time would be investing in an electrical model be worth it.
2 Sturdy design
Most yarn ball winders are made out of plastic, but they might also contain wooden or metallic part. If you are using your winder on a regular beating, make sure to buy a winder that has gears that can take a little of wear and tear.
If you model comes with a table clamp, make sure that it is big enough for your table and that it has a good grip. It should be firmly in place while you use it.
Although the size of the actual ball winder isn’t that important, you do want to check the maximum size of balls or cakes it can make.
Some model can only handle 3.5 oz of yarn while other more expensive models can hold up to 16 oz of yarn.
Best yarn ball winder
We normally suggest people buy the yarn ball winder by KnitPicks if it is their first time buying a winder.
It comes at a relatively low price and is easy to use. It makes small 3.5 oz balls so it’s appropriate for most small hobby projects.
Not only is it easy to set up, directions on the box and the arrows painted on the crank give clear directions on how to use it. It might not go as fast as an electric model, but you will have full control over the entire process.
This might be the best yarn ball winder for beginners, since you can experience good value for money, even without committing a huge amount of money up front.
How to use a yarn swift
As mentioned before, you don’t absolutely need a swift when winding your yarn.
If you are only working with yarn occasionally as a hobby, you can just ask your husband or friends to hold the yarn while you wind it.
But if you need to wind yarn on a weekly or daily basis, it might be better to use a swift instead.
Many people like to use the yarn swift and ball winder combo because it allows you to wind the yarn super fast all by yourself.
This video teaches you how to use a swift and ball winder together.
To get started, make sure that the swift is firmly secured in place and can’t move around anymore.
The top part of the swift can move up and down. By doing so you can adjust the circumference.
First set the swift to a pretty small circumference and loop the yarn around it loosely. Then increase the circumference to prevent the yarn from falling down.
Then find the end of the yarn, attach it to the ball winder, and start winding!
Best yarn swift
If you want to buy a swift to complete your yarn swift and ball winder combo it is normally best to buy both from the same brand. Of course, this is not strictly necessary. But the yarn swift and ball winder by KnitPicks work like a charm together.
This swift requires minimal assembly and is easy to set up.
It can clamp onto tables that are up to 1.5 inches thick and has a plastic stopper to prevent any scratches or damage to your table.
When fully opened, the swift measures around 26″ (66cm) in diameter (68″/173cm circumference) and 26″ (66cm) tall. Which is enough to work with most skeins or hanks you come across.