We’ve loved Euroflax linen yarn forever, and are thrilled to offer it in mini-skein sets. Each pack contains five 65-yard skeins, in colorways chosen by the tastefullest person we know, Melanie Falick. O the possibilities!


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  • It never even occurred to me that the change from skein to ball would make such a difference in my yarn world and the process of transitioning would be so cathartic. So a nod to my wise teacher. I like me as ball winder.

  • I don’t have a ball winder, but my husband bought a swift for me several years ago (one of those that looks like an X with sticks stuck into each arm of the X and comes apart for storage.) I like winding my yarn by hand. I like feeling and handling the yarn before I knit with it. I only feel it gets tedious when I have multiple skeins like for a sweater. I used to wind on my thumb into a cake, but now I use a wooden nostepinne my mother in law bought for me. I find it much easier to wind into a cake than a ball. I just slowly turn the nostepinne with one hand and wind in one direction with the other and get a nice cake.

    • Junglewife, you have exposed me to a whole new world! I had never heard of a nostepinne so I looked up some youtube videos. Now I will have to give this a try! I’ve got a collection of old wooden spindles from the textile mills around here (I live in the southern US and my family’s heritage is working in the mills) so I’m going to try this with one of those.

      • Glad to help!!! A wooden spindle sounds like it would work wonderfully. People actually use lots of different things to wind yarn on, including empty toilet paper rolls!
        I recently moved to the south! I’ve been in Raleigh for the last couple years.

      • I’ve used a wooden spoon handle. Tape the first end of yarn to the spoon…(I do enjoy it enough that I purchased a decent nostepinne on Etsy.)

    • Thank you! I always wondered how those worked!

    • I have the same kind of swift as you Junglewife and I also use a nostepinne. Works well for me and I love having a cake to pull from the middle. And before I had a nostepinne an empty toilet paper roll worked just as well!

      • Marilee, I was just going to comment that I know some people have used toilet paper rolls! There are SO many things you can use to wind yarn on! I actually find my thumb less fiddly than the nostepinne, but then again it is nice to be able to put it down if I have to stop halfway through winding!!!

    • I bought an Amish swift, because it was a little cheaper than an umbrella one, and works just as well. I loved my nostepinne to use with it, until I started using laceweight – that took forever and a day. So I switch off between both – my ballwinder is small, so for my worsted and large skeins I use my nostepinne, but use my ballwinder for the smaller skeins, sock yarn, and laceweight.

      • Yes, I think that’s what mine is called – an Amish swift. Ugh, lace weight. It may be worth buying a ball winder just for that!!!

      • I didn’t know it was “Amish” but my husband made me a swift that is 2 sticks crossed with holes for dowels or golf tees to hold the yarn. I wind it then onto an empty prescription bottle from when they were snap-on lids:). Start with the yarn end snapped into the bottle. If I’m worried about the cake collapsing I cover it with a mesh bag/yarn bra.

  • I really like to wind over my knees or furniture also. It’s a way to play with yarn and I enjoy it. I don’t enjoy winding the fingering yarn myself and prefer to ask my LYS to wind that for me.

  • I have a swift and two winders. I use the cheap plastic winder for small stuff and my sturdy wooden winder for heavier gauge yarns. I like the process. I could do it by hand, but not without a swift. I like to get all my yarn for a project wound before starting.

    • I am the same with big projects. I have a hard time winding by hand a large amount of yarn.
      I read one time that using a winder stretches the yarn and adds tension to the yarn that affects your gauge – this was from a yarn producer so I thought she had a point.
      When I have a single skein of nice yarn I will wind it by hand. The process for me is like petting an animal or stroking a child’s hair – so soothing!
      I say – whatever floats your boat!

      • Buuuuut: the tension from the winder: greater than the tension of ball winding? Also: the cake…it relaxes then, from the giant hole in the center.

      • To even out the tension when using a ball winder, wind it twice. Once directly from the skein and then re-wind it. That makes a nice yarn cake and evens out the tension. I can’t claim that this is my own invention. I read it or heard it somewhere. Oooh! Did I say yarn? And cake? Two of my favorite things! Cheers!

  • I am a devotee of the swift and ball winder combo. I consider the effort of cranking the winder to be an aerobic exercise.

    • So does Fitbit! If you use a ball winder while wearing a Fitbit on your wrist, it counts each revolution of your wrist as a step.

      • What??!! That’s crazy!! I need to go buy me a Fitbit as I got my yarn winder in the mail today 😉

  • I am a cake person. If I don’t use center-pull, either my cats chase the unwinding yarn ball, or I chase the unwinding yarn ball, or if I restrain it in a bag it tangles itself up. I have a yarn bowl but that isn’t helpful for on-the-go knitting.

    I used to use a ball winder plus knees/chair/grumpy accomplice but the skein tangled every other time and I spent way too much time in the Untangling Phase before I could finally start knitting. My swift has changed my life for the better. I tend to haul it out when I have accumulated a critical mass of skeins (like, you know, post-Rhinebeck) and do a bunch at once.

    P.S. I do also like pie. Mmm, pie.

  • A swift and winder may be single use but they are a timesaver (probably ⅓ the time) and, for you, a business expense. Treat yo’self!

  • Yep, you’re right—they are both single-use items. But they are worth it. I love the cakes they produce and how those cakes don’t roll under the couch as much as balls. They are especially useful for lace weight and fingering weight yarn, which come in such large skeins that you could need a nap halfway through the windup. The only drawback I’ve found is that if you get going too fast the cake can torpedo off the center piece and zoom across the room.

    • As someone who produces very slippery yarn (LGF Suri Alpaca Yarns) we learned early on, after terrible experiences with suri lace, to put a “broccoli” rubber band on the neck of the winder! Perfect!

  • And smallish children can be quite good at using a ball winder. Keeps them busy and gets your yarn wound.

  • Single use…a minor con. My swift and winder are not fancy, and I’ve only had them for about two years, but I always get excited when I set them up on the craft table in our sunroom. I find winding to be very zen–it makes me happy! Plus, I find much happiness watching the skein transform into the yarn cake. The yarn seems to take on a new dimension, as if it knows it’s closer to being knit and becoming something else.
    Even hubby knows I will be surrounded by a cloud of happiness when I take out the swift and winder, so he duly compliments the finished yarn cake! Plus, the cakes photograph so well… And that, too, brings me more joy! Photos of yarn–yippee! (As teen daughter bemoans my phone’s photos.) When winding is finished, I have a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment when I put the swift and winder back into the cabinet. I like having my own set so I can enjoy this process in the comfort of my own home, rather than at my LYS. Simple joys, yes, but much appreciated. So, I’m completely okay with having these single use items in my cabinet, as they are part of my craft and lead to many smiles.

    • You nailed it! I feel the same!

  • Over the knees is my preference. On the sofa while watching tv.. I used to use the back of a chair the way my nana taught me, but you have to have the right style of chair and my wooden chairs have a piece across the top where the yarn catches. I use a bowl with the finished ball–the first being a unused Tupperware lettuce saver I spotted at my mum’s that fit perfectly in the bottom of my tote bag

  • I have a winder and swift and really appreciate them because they save me a lot of time — time that I can then spend knitting rather than winding yarn. I have hand-wound a ball on occasion, usually when I was away from home and didn’t have access to a swift and winder, and I do enjoy the process of getting hands on with my yarn. But a yarn cake is really nice, too.

  • I have a winder but I don’t’ care for the “collapsing cake”, and the small skeins. Also if I use the winder on a small skein (koigu, for instance) it makes a pretty small cake that collapses pretty quickly. So I wind my yarn by hand, on my knees or across the back of a straight chair. If I had a swift, I would certainly use it! The clamp would fit on the chair seat!!

    • Cakes don’t have to “collapse.” You may choose to knit from the outside of the cake and then it retains its shape.

  • I do both. The so-called den is part fiber studio, and the swift and ball winder are clamped to a bookcase, ever ready to do their single use duty. What I don’t get are the yarn bowls that are popular these days. I’m not likely to lug one around. Also, they only make sense if one is pulling yarn from the outside of a ball.

  • Though I don’t think it’s the *right* way (just like there’s no “right way” to knit) I use a ball winder and swift, partly because I tend to pull and wrap my yarn too tight when winding by hand. Stretching the yarn out while winding means that the first time you wash your FO it will likely shrink a good deal – reverting back to its original state and causing stupendous gauge problems. So for this reasons (and because I knit mostly socks where I divide skeins into two, or sweaters where I have to wind a lot of yarn) I use my swift and winder.

    The winder is a single-use gizmo for sure. The swift is just a skein holder but that can be useful for winding handspun off my wheel, holding an unruly tangled skein while I detangle, or holding a fresh skein for winding, so it’s almost multi-purpose. Multi-contextual at least.

    Also, I knit from the outside of the cake not the inside, so that the structural integrity doesn’t break down.

    • I’m becoming intrigued by the reference to single-use items. I suspect we all have our collections of single-use items: scissors used only for fabric; a canning pot (although I once used to canning pot to cook a lobster); a mandoline for perfect veggie slices; and the list goes on … Some single-use items are essential to our individual lives. I think the operative word is “use”. We also have our collections of single non-use items (my Mom called them dust-catchers).

    • I came here to add the comment you made about knitting from the outside of the ball. It stays nicely seated, yet the cake will not collapse on itself. It is possible that the yarn unwinding around the cake adds (or removes) some twist, because the cake is not able to roll around. But I am not sure about this; does anyone know?

  • I love my swift and ball-winder! Like Ingrid, I enjoy the process and the product. Is there anything better than a center-pull cake? So efficient, so tidy. Santa brought the swift and winder to me; what a guy.

  • I use a hybrid method -I wind by hand from a swift. I solved the where-to-put-swift problem by buying a handsome cherry swift and attaching it to a small heavy side table that lives near my favorite tv and knitting chair. It stays there always, reminding me that yarn is important in my life and ready to go at all times – like post-Rhinebeck or a yarn tourism trip (just back from the Baltic). Years ago, I developed a hand winding method that produces a cross between a cake and a ball and which is center pull. The key, like all knitting, is muscle memory. Practice, practice. I now can produce a lovely, symmetrical ball with minimal concentration that is time well-spent getting to know the yarn and makes me smile.

  • Love my ball winder and swift. Like others, it saves me time and I get to practice counting to 100 over and over — getting into that zen moment :> What I would love to know is do you wind clockwise or counter-clockwise? I’ve heard counter-clockwise is better, but not sure of the reason.

    • Depends on which way the yarn is coming off the swift… for a tight firm cake, make the path of the yarn straight across, like a cassette tape. Or like the letter “C”. For a somewhat squishy cake, make the path of the yarn like the letter “S”. (Think “S” is for “soft”.) If you want to make the resulting cake even softer, experiment with using your non-cranking hand to hold the yarn a bit away from where it naturally wants to travel from the swift to the wonder. This can increase the slack between the two ends, and also puts your hand in a good position to slow down or stop the swift if needed.

      • Thanks so much for the feedback. I’ll have to set up the swift and ball winder and play around with this. I use the “C” version and hold the yarn with the non-winding hand, seems to take off some of the tension. I will try the “S” version and look for differences. Thanks again — most useful.

  • I bought a swift earlier this year after facing the sad fact that I no longer have a willing set of hands to hold the yarn while I wind it. The swift is the wooden sticks kind, and I feel very professional when I take it out. But I like making a ball of yarn myself.

  • Several years ago my husband made a wooden swift that I use with a ball-winder. Shaped like a windmill, it is made from cherry wood and another wood called Purple Heart, and it is quite purple. It is heavy enough to stay put as it sits on a table top when in use (although if I wind too fast, it will walk a bit and I sometimes have to hold down its feet with my non-ball-winding-cranking hand). When not in use, it sits on the floor in my “momcave,” somewhat flat against the wall. I enjoy using it. I don’t mind the collapsing cakes either. A few years ago a friend gave me a handy-dandy see-through plastic yarn holder. It is travel-bag sized and barrel-shaped and has a zipper on the top for inserting the yarn with a hole on each end for using two colors at once. It lays on the floor beside my knitting chair without worry it will pick up lint or pet hair. This spring I carried it all over Europe and stuffed it in my backpack while I traveled. Knitting managed.

    • I really hope you will tell us the name of this magical yarn holder!!

  • I have a ball winder and swift, but have to be clamped to something… so I use a nostespindle. It really is about as fast as any winder ( except an electric one…). With this single stick I can make flat cakes, egg shaped, or round balls. These will pull from the center or outside edges. I have a a variety of sizes and shapes of this device, so I use a small one for a little bit of yarn and a large one for a bit skein. I’ve learned to use the lathe and this is the first thing I made!

  • I use a swift and ball winder because it’s quicker and I want to get to the knitting.

  • This is a great topic!
    I have a winder and 2 swifts. The heavy duty winder and the umbrella style swift are anchored to a wooden Ikea sawhorse-style table leg and are a permanent, yet easily moveable fixture in the house. Although they are single use items, they’re tools that get a lot of use.
    I also have an easy to assemble table swift that I use for winding into ‘Granny Balls’, which also travels with me.
    I frequently wind a skein twice. Often a cake is a little too firmly wound, and benefits from the second, looser winding.
    And I now pull my cakes from the outside. Then it doesn’t collapse and tangle near the end.
    Either way, I’ve handled every inch of my yarn prior to knitting. I stop if there’s a knot or funky spot and determine whether to cut (or break for splicing) Joining. That would be an interesting topic, too.

    • I don’t understand why everyone is going along here with calling these items “single use.” You made the point yourself, “they’re tools that get a lot of use.”

      Which means that by definition, a ball winder and swift are NOT single use items. Using that term to describe them makes no sense at all.

  • I am typically anti-single-use appliance, when that appliance is used for an activity I rarely do, but if it performs an activity that I am regularly partaking in, then I’m all for it. For example, I love my dishwasher. All it does is wash dishes, but I use it all the time. An electric can opener? Not my thing.

    I once asked for a ball winder as a birthday gift, because it seemed like such a luxury item. It wasn’t long before I was scouring the internet looking for deals on swifts. Even if I’m in a situation where I don’t have my swift and ballwinder handy, I still won’t wind my yarn into a ball. I love a center-pull skein or cake, so I will cut a slit in an empty toilet paper roll and hand wind my way to a cake if I need to, but I will never go back to knitting from a roly-poly ball of yarn.

  • I’d never hand-wound a ball until I was in a hotel room this spring and realized I’d forgotten to wind the skein I’d stuffed into a bag for a new project just before leaving. I was kinda surprised at how quickly it went. But I’m not a very confident swift-and-winder user either, even though I’ve done it for years. My first few attempts were disasters and, even though I’ve gotten better at it, I always imagine there’s a smarter way that a real expert would place the yarn on the swift, and I anxiously await some disaster — the swift grinding to a halt with yarn tangled around it, or a half-formed cake flying off the winder (both of which have happened to me more than once). And to echo Penny’s question above, I also think that “real expert” would know which way to crank the handle. I’m a clockwise-winder myself, but I imagine one way must be better than the other. A lot of times yarns like to kink up on me as I knit, and I blame myself for this, thinking my winding technique could have been better.

  • I love my ball winder and my swift – neither was top of the line, but careful use has made them valuable and enjoyable tools that enhance my knitting world. However, I recently acquired a nostepinne thinking it might be a useful tool for my travel knitting – the joy of a center pull ball made with all the appeal of ball winding by hand!

  • For about 50 years, it was just me and the moment of winding yarn. It was part of the process and I had a hard time justifying the expense. Then I broke down and got a winder. A bliss and speed and yarn cakes were achieved using the back of a chair going slowly so it didn’t tangle. Then my daughter was in horror that I didn’t have a swift and got me one for Mother’s Day. Ah, speed and yarn cakes were achieved. I love it but if I didn’t have them I would be ok. Plus, I don’t pull from the center. After a couple of collapses with tons of yarn barf, it really didn’t seem to be worth it.

    • It’s been the same process for me, Linda, and I completely agree with you. However, it never occurred to me to knit with my swift-and-winder skeins from the outside. Great suggestion!

    • I’m in total agreement here. I don’t know what possessed me to wait so many years to buy a swift and winder, but I recently did, and I love them. My husband never wanted to hold the yarn for winding, and I hated doing it on the back of a chair. So slow and still I had tangles. It’s so fast now. The only thing I don’t like about the swift is that sometimes I feel I need three hands to hold up the yarn while I open the swift fully.

      I don’t pull yarn from the center either (even on factory-made pull skeins). It’s not worth it with the collapse and barf about two thirds of the way through.

  • I am bi-windable. One skein and I’m feeling lazy? By hand it is! I picked up 3 skeins of a lace-weight mohair/silk blend at MDSW and brought out the swift and winder yesterday to deal with that. I find that lace weight is hard for me to wind by hand without tangling the skein.

  • I am a machine knitter so a swift and ball winder are a necessity if you want to knit with yarn that doesn’t come on cones. Turning the crank on a ball winder can keep young children involved in mom or Grandma’s hobby!

  • My swift sits flat on a table or even on the floor so it can go anywhere. It has ball bearings and spins easily and quietly. Plus no ridges in your table! Can you tell that I love it? Add an inexpensive ball winder, I like the knit picks one, and off you go! I recently bought some yarn on Ravelry and the balls were wound so tightly that I had to redo all of them. Ten minutes vs an hour or more? Easy choice for me.

    • I’ve recently been looking at various flat swifts, I don’t think the ines I saw had ball bearings, do you think they are a “must”. I’ve been looking at low cost flat , can’t afford the gorgeous ones that used to be the only option. ( greatly dislike an umbrella swift for the dimensions of my home)

  • I love my Nancy’s Knit Knacks Ballwinder – It was a birthday gift from my husband
    It is truly amazing – there is no better way to wind your yarn. You can even get it motorized – mine is not. She also sells a swift, but I haven’t acquired that just yet – I have a cheep umbrella model.

    • My husband bought me Nancy’s Ballwinder for Christmas last year to replace a cheap plastic one that was wearing out. I love it! It is always set up on my desk in my studio ready to roll with my umbrella swift at the ready on the other side of the large desk. When I want to knit, I want to knit NOW! From skein to cake just takes a few minutes and I’m off to do the best part of the project…the knitting!

  • I have a swift and 2 ball winders – one for huge skeins and one for normal-sized ones. But, I NEVER pull from the center of my cakes. Too crazy-making when the cake collapses after being emptied out and what’s left becomes a hot tangled mess. The cake doesn’t move when you knit from the outside either – stays put just like you want it to.

  • I’m a ball winder with my little old hands.

  • I think it comes down to laceweight. I like to wind yarn into a center pull on my thumb, but usually just partial balls. The winder and swift are essential if you use a lot of laceweight. Or you think you will use a lot of laceweight.
    Side note, when I use my ball winder I always pull yarn from the outside. Ha! 🙂

    • Virginia: Help! I have been gifted with a large blob of laceweight yarn in an absolutely sweet shade of shell pink. Now what do I do? I’ve never handled laceweight. It appears to have been a very soft cross-wound ball/blob/cake? It’s absolutely lovely just to sit with it in my lap like a cat and pet it…silly me! pj stitches!

  • I have a swift and two yarn winders, but lately I have only had trouble winding them as the cake always got messed up and I had more trouble with it. Hence, I wind by hand and I have ordered a nostepinne.

  • I have a lovely Otto Strauch swift which was a birthday present in 1998. It sits on its own little three legged stool looking beautiful in my family room. It is definitely single use, but since I have used it 2-3 times a week for 18 years, it has earned its keep, and justified its high price a hundred times ove. My cheap japanese ball winder has been sitting in a box for over a decade, never used (it was my mothers, perhaps she used it). It probably doesn’t work, and as i write this, I realize that it is slated for donation. I love round balls and vastly prefer them for all the reasons others have stated. Mine sits in a little cloth “yarn bowl” on the floor, and is fully portable that way. Cakes are way over rated, in my opinion.

  • I am a center pull gal unless the yarn has “slip” such as silk, in which case I miiiight hand wind, but definitely would pull from the outside to avoid a messy collapse. I have been known to make do in a hotel room by using a loosened lamp shade as a swift and a toilet paper roll. I’m sure the maids don’t understand the pile of tp left behind. I have seen Cornelia just lay the skein around her knee, knit and then retwist the skein, but I am not brave enough for that!

    • Loosened lamp shade! Brilliant!

  • I have a swift (I am also a spinner, and it’s definitely useful for plying and stuff). I do not have a ball winder. Years ago I turned myself a nostepinne, and sometimes I use that. But sometimes I just wind a ball by hand, put it in some kind of drawstring bag, and go to knitting town. There’s something restful for me in winding yarn into a ball.

    My swift only clamps onto one table in my apartment, and so sometimes that’s a pain, and I use the back of a chair to hold the skein.

  • One can also use a swift to re-skein yarn as one rips out something gone terribly wrong, or to reclaim something one wishes to use for something else. I also use a ball winder to divide yarn in half or whatever fraction needed. For that, weigh the skein or ball one is winding as it is wound. At the desired number of grams, cut (I know!) the yarn, or put a slip knot, and keep on winding until done.

    The slip knot can tell you when half of a side to side shawl or half of a scarf is done, and ready for the second half. The cut is most useful if you have a skimpy skein of sock yarn and you want to be sure at least the visible part of the sock is in the yarn chosen. Or you are dividing for sleeves.

  • A swift is only a single use appliance, if you don’t leave it out for the cats to play with. 😉

    • My first thought..exactly! Clearly a perfect cat toy.

  • My ball winder only fits onto our dining room table, but we have great light in there and a view of the neighborhood, so it’s not too bad. I love not dealing with the ball of yarn rolling around the table as I knit! also my husband was handy and made a tabletop swift for me. It’s nice!

  • I have a vertical swift and my ball winder clamps on top of it I got from the Yarn Barn. A great buy.
    Sometimes I wind by hand. Like if it is one ball of yarn and I am too lazy to go upstairs. This swift is an excellent set up since it is an all-in-one. Sometimes I carry it (easily) outside with bunches of yarn and knit in the shade.

    For real yarn winding entertainment, though, try the Japanese Butterfly. Amaze your friends. There’s an ancient post about it

    • Thanks for that great link – I mostly use my swift and ball winder but love to hand wind too. Must try this Japanese butterfly.

      • That is awesome!

    • I am in awe!

  • I love my two-arm swift and ball winder. I’ve had them for four years. My swift breaks down and stores nicely in the custom-made cotton floral bag from the manufacturer. My swift is also a pice of art because it is hand made. There’s two marks made by a Sharpie that let me align the arms properly. My swift is also totable. I bring it to my friends’ after we’ve been to a festival and we wind our new acquisitions into cakes, reliving the experience of sharing our love of yarn, our perfect choices, the kindness and craft of the vendors, and the wonderful fiber lovers who attended the event with us.

  • I wind by hand, especially since I am not knitting that much, especially in the summer. It gives me a chance to see how the yarn will ‘work’ before I ever put it on needles. However, the 10 skeins I bought for a sweater I let my LYS wind for me!

  • My husband gave me a swift and ball winder for my birthday in 2005. No gift before or after has been used or appreciated as much.

  • I prefer to wind yarn myself (I never let the yarn store do it, no matter how nicely they ask). I also prefer center-pull cakes so that a ball of yarn does not travel across the floor as I’m knitting. (Too tempting for dogs that otherwise ignore my yarn!) And I frequently knit in public and don’t want to drop anything. (So, circulars – even when knitting flat, and center-pull balls.) I’ll use a nostepinne and a chair back for a singular skein to be wound. (I often think of my friend who taught me to knit who used to say the beauty of knitting is that you need very few tools and can do it anywhere! Don’t over-complicate things!) But for multiple skeins, I’ll pull out the yarn swift and winder. And, both of my swifts can be used on any tabletop (no clamping) or the floor – which is where I frequently do it. (Cordoning off the dogs, of course! Too exciting for them!) Here’s a link for pic of the swift:–dirty-swift (see last picture for purchased version, in storage currently).

  • I have a swift and a ball winder, which I have used a lot, except lately have been having terrible problems with the winder “slipping” and losing tension. Can a winder wear out? I’ve been double winding, once off the swift, then again to get a useable cake. Perfect timing for this post!!

    • Yes, ball winders do give out after time. The gears in my old blue plastic one are finally starting to slip after more than a decade of use. I’ve got another to replace it, but I’m holding off until it totally goes.

      • Thank you Samina. I was thinking it was something I was doing. Makes perfect sense to me that the gears are slipping.

  • I have a swift and ball winder and my husband and daughter think it’s fun to wind the yarn, so I let them have at it. Occasionally I’ll wind smaller amounts by hand if I don’t feel like setting up the swift and winder. Personally I have no preference for in the ball vs. cake debate. Some yarns grab themselves when working from the center pull, and I find that really annoying, so I end up pulling from the outside instead. And then the cake rolls around just like a ball would. Thank goodness for yarn bowls!

  • I bought a winder/swift years ago when I started knitting lace, which necessitated winding skeins that were 400+ yards. No matter how I wound (the doorknob, my knees) the skein would mess up before the end of the winding, and it would take me 3x as long to unknot and clear up the mess. So the skein/swift was a good investment (plus, kids loved to work it, at first, that is…) Prior to that I did what my mother taught me – I wound by hand. Then again, she was a sweater knitter.

    But, like knitting techniques, to each her own.

  • The swift and ball winder combo changed my life…

    First I just bought a swift and used a huge (size 17) DPN as a nostepinne. That was amazing. Especially towards the end of the skein, the whole thing gets a bit tangly for me if I’m not using a swift. It took a bit to get the hang of the whole nostepinne thing, but it was fun.

    Then I acquired a ball winder, and it made everything more fun. I do get a bit annoyed at a yarn cake at the very end, but I’ll usually run it back through the ball winder at least once. And at the very very end, I usually wind the very last bits into a ball by hand, so that hasn’t been lost either.

  • I’m a faithful swift & ball winder devotee. I really prefer the way the center pull balls look, but more importantly, my cats would have a field day with a roll-around ball. Plus, my hand-wound balls just look terrible! I generally pull from the outside, though, since I don’t care for the way they collapse as they get used up.

  • I love my swift and ball winder! I always use the yarn from the outside of the cake because I don’t like how the cake collapses and eventually tangles as the yarn is used up.

  • I have a swift and am on ball winder #2. The first one was inexpensive and when it died — it really crashed. But the great thing about it was, it had a handle, so I didn’t have to clamp it but rather I could stand up and position myself in exactly the right place for where the swift was clamped, to get the yarn moving just right from swift to winder — a real advantage in a city apartment where it’s hard to find the surface and space for the right relationship between swift and winder! Winder #2 is much sturdier but didn’t come with a handle, which makes for some challenges, though I believe there’s a woodworker out there who will make a handle that fits most winders.

    I love the beauty of yarn in a hank, and am always sad to de-hank it. But then I love how effortless it is to work from the inside of a center-pull cake. When it starts to collapse I deal with it as long as I can, and then rewind the remaining yarn into a little center-pull ball.

    I once had to hand-wind a skein of sock yarn on a long flight. I laid the yarn over my knees. The man in the seat next to me was stone silent; poor guy – I just don’t think he got it!

  • Years ago I wound by hand but, have been using my swift and ball winder for quite some time. Cakes of yarn stacked neatly make me very happy. This signals the start of a new project. I would not want to live without either of them. By the way, I knit mostly in my bedroom where I have two wooden snack tables set up to hold both the swift and the yarn winder. (clamps fit perfectly) When not using the yarn winder, I easily pack it away and use that snack tray to hold knitting needs such as beads, patterns, cable hooks etc.

  • I have a swift and a winder. The swift is a cheap wooden expandable style, but it was my grandmother’s and is still going strong. My mum used it for a while, but she doesn’t knit very much anymore, and if she does need some yarn wound there’s a swift in the craft room at the senior center that she can use. I usually wind into balls, but if it’s a big skein or a big project I’ll get out the ball winder. The swift sits on the table (or floor) so it’s easy to use, but the winder clamps to the side of the table and takes a little more setup. I rarely pull from the center of a wound cake — not a fan of either yarn barf or a collapsing cake.

  • I admit to having 3 swifts as they are handmade and I loved them! I do handwind Bartlett Wool because I love the scent and feel of lanolin.

  • I’m pretty pragmatic, or maybe it’s opportunistic, about yarn winding.

    My ballwinder and the nostepinne both make center-pull cakes, but sometimes I pull them from the outside to avoid the self-entanglement feature or if I’m using a yarn bowl or if the yarn wants to be unwound that way.

    I prefer swift and a ball winder for laceweight yarn that has several miles per skein, and for any project that requires more than three or four skeins, like afghans or large guy sweaters. I use a swift and a nostepinne sometimes if I’m too lazy to set up the ball winder (or just don’t feel like it). Hand-winding on a nostepinne is so relaxing, and having the yarn on a swift makes it that much more relaxing. If there’s no swift available, I drape the skein over whatever is available (knees, chairs, kid) and wind away. If I don’t have a nostepinne, I use my thumb. I also hand wind into the classic ball if the yarn calls for it.

    I’ve knit straight from the swift a couple of times, for totally uncooperative slinky yarns like pure silk.

    After years of enduring cheaper plastiic swifts, I bought a high-end wooden umbrella swift, because it doesn’t squeak, it doesn’t break, it’s highly adjustable and it has a floor stand so I can sit anywhere – no clamps. I love that thing.

  • I would be lost without my swift and ballwinder. i recently knit a cowichwan vest and used them to make a 3 strand yarn from a huge stash of lighter weight wool. I strand different yarns together a lot and the neater balls make it possible to easily strand a lace weight angora with a heavier wool.

  • What is that pattern in the photo? It’s beautiful!!!!

  • I have a wooden ball winder and a squirrel cage. I cake most yarns but will occasionally wind by hand into a ball. I always put the skein on the squirrel cage to wind. Both my winder and cage are hand made by craftspeople. A dishwasher is a single use item but I’d give up a cabinet to have one.

  • I use a swift and ball winder for most of my yarns. And in fact, cannot imagine winding a cone of Habu Tsumugi by hand. You set the cone on the ground below the winder, use a finger to guide it, and it flies off the cone into the winder in a miraculous way. All 500 yds, in a matter of minutes. There are some yarns that fare better wound by hand….Shibui linen, Firefly linen, etc.. As cakes they become a hot mess. They are much more manageable as balls.

  • After all these comments, this will sound blasphemous: I avoid winding yarn whenever I can. The center-pull skein is the greatest invention since sliced bread! If the yarn doesn’t come in center-pull skeins, I get the store to wind it for me.

  • My table edges are too rounded for clamping my wooden swift so I clamp it sideways to a door. The skein hangs vertically and the swift is horizontal. It works great that way.

    • This is GENIUS. Thank you!

      • Brilliant!

  • I have a nice wooden umbrella swift, a plastic ball winder, and a nostepinne but most of the time I just hang the skein around my neck and wind a ball by hand. I have never been fond of center pull due to collapsing and a tendency to tangle so I always pull from the outside.
    If I had a place to keep my swift and winder permanently set up I would use them. As it is I don’t have a single piece of furniture that fits their clamps. I have never gotten the nostepinne knack and always end up with collapsing eggs.
    How wonderful there are no absolutes or rules about winding yarn.

    • Hanging the skein around your neck–never thought of that but it makes so much sense.

  • Swift and ball winder. For years I had just a ball winder, and that was a total PITA – I can tangle yarn just by looking at it. Looking to upgrade both, especially the swift (I’m not entirely certain that whoever designed my current swift has ever actually *seen* yarn…).

    As for looking for places to clamp on…depending on the model of both swift and winder, you may be able to set them up on a vertical plane. In my old apartment, I had both attached to a bookshelf, the swift looking more like a water wheel. In my current apartment, my winder has been set up on the handle of my freezer.

  • (1) A trick for the dreaded internal collapse (not mine – got it from Ravelry): When the cake (or commercially wound skein) starts getting all wobbly, hanging onto the working yarn (so it doesn’t get tangled), turn the whole thing inside out. Then you have a ball/cake with what was about to turn into yarn barf on the outside and the still neatly wound former outside safely on the inside. From here on you knit from the outside of a fairly small ball!

    (2) Even though I’ve been told this is not an issue once the cake is removed from the winder, I worry about stretching the yarn too much when I wind directly from the swift. So I always unwind a bunch first from the swift. Then I can have plenty of slack as I wind it into the cake. For the same reason I don’t wind more than a few skeins at a time, so any stretch I might have introduced doesn’t get baked in.

    (3) I view the whole process as an opportunity to listen to NPR or a book so I definitely look forward to it!

  • All knitter’s tools are single use!! It seems pointless to avoid using a swift and ball winder.

  • I bought a swift and ball winder and used them for 30 years before I had to replace the swift! Over the years more and more yarn was sold in hanks instead of balls so it was a very good investment. Now I’m finding that some indie dyers are selling hanks that are too big for my swift so I will invest in a beautiful wooden swift that will hold up to 100 inches. I hope it will last 30 years too! Best investments I ever made. Much easier on these 60-ish shoulders.

  • After years and years of slinging skeins around chair backs and winding a ball, I broke down and ordered a swift and ball-winder. I like knitting from a center-pull ball and was never able to wind an adequate ball for center-pulling.

  • I love my swift and winder because they were the first knitting gifts my husband gave to me after I started knitting. I go back and forth between using it and handwinding, depending on mood, yarn, and whether I feel like perching in the awkward spot in the living room where I clamp the two.

  • I know most would advise against having an open skein in your lap and winding it into balls but that is exactly what I like to do. Needless to say I am not in a big hurry when I do this, so I usually don’t have any big problems. If anyone comments I usually say I’m looking for knots.

  • I hate hate hate winding by hand

  • On a trip to Norway at 17 my cousin showed me how to wind yarn by hand into a center pull ball. It was magic, and I use that technique still. A swift is a great help, but I usually use my kids arms..easier, no set up.

  • Either. Swift & ball winder most of time. I feel like a legit’ crafter guy using it. Right tools for the job and all. Although my cheap Japanese winder has a little clicky piece inside that seems to be busted – very noisy. Those cakes looks so tidy, even non crafty people seem to like checking them out. I always knit from the outside of the cake.

    Hand winding into a cartoon yarn ball is good for an unplanned knitting fix, say bad planning while travelling with no project packed. Yarn and needles from the nearest yarn shop, a hand winding sesh. good to go.

    I also doubt you would want to pose kittens next to a yarn cake – that just wouldn’t look right.

  • The only horizontal surface that will take the swift and ball winder at my house is the pathetic laundry area counter in the unfinished basement. But there’s nothing like startitis to motivate a girl, so I consider it a small price to pay if it means I get to stay knitting sooner. The only thing I’d consider hand-winding is a non-stretchy plant fiber like linen or hemp, because the cake falls apart so easily.

  • I love reading these comments! They help me remember sweet times of my childhood, when I held skeins of yarn for my mother to hand-wind into balls. (I was the only family member with the patience to do this; I’m sure my mother saw a future knitter in me). She taught me to wind a ball of yarn over my thumb, so that there would be plenty of stretch still left in the yarn. I still do this for small balls, especially when untangling a mess. But for big projects, it’s definitely swift and ball-winder. Both were gifts from my husband, who really hated serving as a Human Swift.

    • Human Swift! That’s a good one!

  • I particularly like to cake the yarn if I am knitting 2 socks from the same skein. I do them 2 at a time, but each on its own 2 circulars. I do around 20 rows before alternating. Then I put the passive sock under the cake and work the active sock.

    If I am doing my socks in striping yarn, I will wind that into 2 cakes. It’s so fast and I am prone to overtensioning the yarn if I hand wind.

    I do keep the ball winder clamped to a side table in the living room. My swift is a flat style and I set it up on the foot stool.

  • I put the yarn on my knees and hand wind into center-pull balls. It helps me get to know the yarn.

    It also allows me to find any knots ahead of time – the bane of my existence – but I’d rather find them ahead of time, not when I’m in the middle of a row.

  • I use a swift and used to favour a ball winder made cake. Now my favourite ball is hand wound, into a centre pull ball. Similar to one wound on a Nostepinne. There’s an excellent tutorial here:

  • I have the big wooden kind of swift that reminds me of the series of X’s that hold up bridges and railroad trestles. It’s about 30 years old. When I bought it, I felt like I had become a real fiber artist—I had graduated from the acrylic crap that comes in a skein to “real” yarn. In my eyes, it is a beautiful thing. It was made by Glimakra, and I’m still saving up for the loom that goes with it.

  • I wind by hand because I can feel for knots and know in advance what I’m dealing with. (Talking to you there, Noro.) I use a horizontal swift that sits on a low coffee table. No clamping. No stretching the yarn because you can “stretch” it loosely by moving the pegs as you wish. I am careful to pull yarn, let it relax a bit and then wind. It’s a zen process!

  • Love my swift and ball winder and wouldn’t be without them, but I pull from the outside of my yarn cakes to avoid a messy collapse. The cake sits next to me on my right while I knit and the only time it ever moves is if a cat bops it. Surprisingly enough, that almost never happens anymore.

  • I prefer winding my yarn into a ball by hand, using the back of a chair. I like the process and watching the ball roll around in the yarn bowl, and it is easier to roll the yarn back if I make a mistake. For big projects, I enjoy taking a break to wind the next ball or two gets me motivated to keep going.

    I found that I prefer the ball to the cake wound at LYS, even though I am in love with looking at yarn wound into cakes. I just look at the cakes of other knitters to fill that need.

  • I use a swift and a ball winder. I clamp them to chairs not to a table. And I clamp the ball winder to the back of a chair so it’s not even vertical. It doesn’r seem to matter.

    I never heard the ball of yarn called a cake. I save netting bags that onions come in and put the ball in it and collapsing isn’t a problem.

  • Starting a new knitting project is my favorite part of the process! Using a handmade cherry windmill-style swift adds to the tactile enjoyment. I found mine on Etsy It’s so beautiful that I’d leave it out all the time if I had more room. I use it with a Royal plastic manual ball winder which isn’t as appealing but it does the job.

  • I am a committed winder-into-balls. I like “real” balls of yarn, too! I will even re-wind a center-pull skein or cake if it is not wool. Cotton and other non-wool fibers slip around too much in cakes or skeins, IMHO. I don’t mind cakes, I am just not a fan of ball winders. I did get a swift two years ago, however. I used to use the back of a chair or my knees…or would even drape the skein around my neck like a necklace and wind from there. However, 2 years ago I knit a HUGE shawl, with many different skeins of laceweight yarns. As much as I like yarn running through my fingers, winding all the laceweight nearly broke me. I borrowed a swift from a friend for that project, and then purchased a swift at my next yarn festival! I still wind short yardages by hand (MadelineTosh Unicorn Tails, anyone?), but the swift regularly gets a workout.

  • I have a swift and a winder, which I would like to use more often, but the beautiful handmade wood swift doesn’t play well with the winder. This makes me beyond cranky.

    So I do the over-the-knee winding more often than not. I have somehow grown into being able to make a more-than-adequate cake on my own.

    DH gave me the beautiful swift, so he gets a little put-out that I don’t use it more often. Whoops.

  • I have a swift that was only usable in lurky places also, so I had my darling husband cut the gap in the clamp wider (it is made of wood) so now I can use it at the kitchen table, the social hub of the house. Much improved. I haven’t tried a ball winder because my swift is stubborn and I worry about the yarn being wound too tight.

  • I was given my swift fairly recently as a birthday present by my brother. He is not a knitter, so I sent him a link to the appropriate website and was handed my present with the wonderful line ” Happy Birthday – I haven’t got a clue what it is!”

  • I used to wind by hand but a few years back acquired a swift and winder and for the most part they have served me well. I store my yarn skeined (or as offered by the mfg.) and rarely wind it until I’m ready to use it. I even sometimes re-wind yarn that has come already balled so that I can find any flaws before I start to knit.

    I don’t find the swift or winder a hindrance to “getting to know” the yarn. I carefully inspect my yarn as I unbundle the skein and load it onto the swift. Then I run the yarn thru my hand between the swift and the winder to accomplish the knowledge of any knot or imperfection in the yarn as it passes thru my fingers.

    I don’t understand the belief that yarn that has been caked is under any more tension, since once the center of the winder is removed from the cake the yarn “relaxes” into the center and any residual tension is removed. I’ve observed much more tension remaining in yarn balled by hand than I have in caked yarn. Not everyone is experienced in the methods of winding yarn without tension.

    In either case tho, I feel that waiting to wind the yarn into cakes closer to when it will be used will prevent most of the issue. Hope I’m right about that. It’s worked well for me thus far.

  • I have a swift and use it for winding from balls into skeins when I need to do so for dyeing. I don’t use a ball winder to take it in the other direction, because I like to wind by hand into pull balls. Besides enjoying the feel of every inch of yarn passing through my fingers, it helps be to find breaks and knots in the yarn before I encounter them when knitting. And I even love the more organic look of a hand-wound ball.

  • I wind a “cake” by hand. It can evolve into a ball dependind on the type or amount of yarn.

    The cake produced using a ball-winder is to tightly wound for me!

  • I used to use a nostepinne with good results, but I really prefer using a ball winder. I use it slowly, feeding the yarn through my fingers, too, to prevent stretching and to find any knots. I also have an X-shaped swift that my wonderful brother-in-law made for me, and I love it! I made a zippered bag for it, so it stores in a very small space, and it makes managing a skein so easy; I used to get tangles when I tried putting the skein on a chair or my knees.

  • I love this post…great insights. I enjoy using an old Swedish swift that has some great patina on it from hands of a bygone era. As I watch it turn my yarn into exquisitely stackable cakes of artful color I think of those knitters of the past. I also have an small Italian swift with an accompanying hand held ball winder owned by a woman named Mary which I bought from her granddaughter. I use this one a lot and think fondly of Mary as I wind. My friend Margaret gave me an old swift that actually doesn’t work very well…but it is old and the wood has character…as did Margaret who isn’t with us anymore. I just enjoy looking at it and it fits well into my creative “décor”. Then there are the 2 I picked up at the thrift store…one cost $1…tiny, made in Sweden and great for travel. The other is very large, was missing the tightening screw, and fixed by my friend John…and it squeaks. Any suggestions?
    So. Swifts. Not just useful tools..but memory holders and great sculpture rolled into one.

  • Such a timely post for me. Ann, how did yoy know that after never having or really wanting these items, last week I began browsing the interwebs for them?

    Obviously, I hand wind. Always with knees. I almost always used to use a tolet paper tube or part of a paper towel tube for large skeins, because I’d read somewhere that that keeps it from being wound too tightly. But I don’t know how to do a center-pull with that method. I like a center-pull for long-tail-type cast-ons to remove the guesswork, I just use my hand to create those. It’s easy peasy!

    I used to want the contraptions, but I don’t like umbrella swifts for my home & back then I could only find beautiful but very expensive flat swifts. I had planned to get the KnitPicks ballwinder because it used to be usable with or without clamping, & at that time I didn’t have a place to clamp it to.

    But it’s a whole new globalized world now, so I guess Chinese children are now making the flat wood swifts these days, given the prices I now find. So I was all set to jump into the buy-more-crap-for-my-hobby boat, until I read some of the comments above, & learned how many other people don’t have this items either. Perhaps I wanted them because somehow I’d been feeling left out bizarre, I agree, but it’s my only explanation other than boredom, although I think boredom accounts for 99% of Interwebs sales. (I’m not posting my 3rd theory for fear of starting a war in here.)

    Anyhow, now I’m thinking even though the swift I wanted can be found for a reasonable price, maybe the ancient hands and knees are fine ancient tools to use. Besides, then I can use my spending restraint to justify spending that money on yarn. Maybe a yarn I normally would restrain myself from buying. Don’t worry, I’ll knit it curcular, too.

    Then again…. Those flat swifts….

  • I have a swift and a ball winder, but having live for a while on two different continents during the year, I was not about to own 2 of each so I can wind a very nice ball using a pencil or a nostepenne which ever I can find first. I get a center pull ball and it is sits pretty flat. Probably 105 of the above people have given you similar advice. 🙂

  • Oh and I got my swift in Italy about 25+ years ago. I’ve retied the wood slats over time when the ties finally gave out, one at a time. The ball winder is my second one as I got the first about the time of the swift. But in honesty, I also spin and hand dye yarn and these tools make that job much easier.

  • Winder and swift. I wind a lot of yarn! I give myself the option of center-pull or from the outside, depending on the yarn. Slippery yarn gets used from the outside. Also nice to have both ends available for a two ended long tail cast on.

    My winder and swift are always available in my studio; I never take them down.

  • better than tp rolls: water bottle. i use my klean kanteens – put the end into the cap, wind into cake, center-pull. also: tension on clockwise/counter clockwise should depend on the twist of the yarn (s- or z-twist). i don’t have one in front of me so i can’t say which way to wind. just, you know, a little not-so-useful info. WATER BOTTLE is good for winding, though, for the reals.

  • I usually use my deft and ball winder as I am anxious to begin my new project. If I choose to wind by hand, I use my Nostepinde which gives a lovely egg shaped center pull ball!

  • Don’t you have a Nostepinne ? It’s a pretty carved piece of wood that can be used to make a center-pull ball easily. It’s easy to carry around in the bottom of your knitting bag and might make a decent defensive weapon in a pinch.

  • I am a combo winder. If it is under 200 yards, I use my knees. Over 200 or a project with multiple hanks I will get out my swift and fight my cats off. They think that yarn flying over their heads is a wonderful toy. They also like to nibble on the ends of my swift if I leave it out. I use the thumb method and get a cake like product. I almost never have my lys wind for me. Winding is part of the process. You get to know the yarn a little better and even wonder “why in the world did I buy this yarn” sometimes. Plus the dreaded knots. Depending on how I feel or what the yarn is, I either start a new ball at the knot, or tie a big bow where the knot is so I can see it coming as I knit. I love winding the yarn almost as much as knitting sometimes.

  • Swift and winder all the way! I do, however, rewind after the initial winding – I feel like the first cake the swift/winder combo makes is too tight, so I take cake off the winder and rewind, and it’s much looser, and happier in my opinion.

  • Does anyone knit from the hank like I do? I just carefully untwist it and knit away. When I’m done, I just twist it back up and stuff it in my bag. It means I knit with yarn draped on my lap (but who doesn’t like that?) and I only do it with sock or heavier weight yarn. But I can get to my knitting so much faster if I don’t stop to wind the yarn!

    • I have done this also – but I drape it over one shoulder. works like a dream.

    • I do this too, with no problems. I do hand wind a ball when there is only a small amount left in the hank and it doesn’t twist as well.

  • I’m a over the knees ball winder. I need to touch and spend time with my yarn. it’s the only way I know how it will knit up. I know, it sounds strange. And I drape the hank over my shoulder when I’m knitting something that will take multiple hanks – son’t have to stop and wind the yarn.

  • This is a timely post as I recently invented a new no-tech way of ball winding. I don’t own any of those mechanical things or even have a clear idea what they are. I’ve always used a chair or my knees. Sometimes a horrid mess resulted, but I’ve come up with a new and improved method. Put your foot through the skein and rest said foot on a coffee table or ottoman or whatever is handy. The yarn will rotate around your leg as you unwind it, so no tiresome back and forth with your arm around the chair back. Tangles are easily spotted and dealt with before they become a problem. I don’t know why I never thought of this before. I happy enough knitting balls from the outside despite their tendency to roll. I knit on the subway and sometimes they get away, but my fellow riders just pass them back to me.

  • I have a lovely wooden swift and a ball winder. The swift pleases my aesthetic – I like pretty toys – and the ball winder is plastic functional. Together they team up to announce the beginning of a new project. It is a sort of overture for the knitting to come and as I let the yarn run through my hand enroute to the ball winder I become acquainted with it. It pleases me to start my projects in this way and so my conclusions is to do what pleases you and starts off your projects best for you.

  • I love, love love my rickety swift and sturdy ball winder. I CAN wind into a ball by hand, but only do so under duress- for example, if I am not near a winder. I’m sure that if I had to spend more time winding, I would have less time for knitting.

  • I have the loveliest cherry squirrel cage swift that I ordered from Bill Hardy and picked up at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival May 1988. It is well-loved and well-used. I clamp my ball winder to the top and away we go! At the time it seemed quite extravagant, but it has been worth every penny and more. I love winding yarn into cakes!

  • I love both. The bemoaning husband necessitated the need for a swift and winder and I never regretted the purchase. Great for when I need to knit NOW. But there are times when I find the hand winding relaxing and it makes me feel closer to the wooly goodness.

  • I usually use my single-use swift/ball-winder set up (am also stuck doing it on the living room coffee table as clamp issues abound). I did recently discover that the ball winder works marvelously with the hand-held attachment thingy!! I’ve had it for years and never trusted it would work out right…yet it did!
    If I ever need to wind smaller amounts, I use my hand-made nostepinne. A couple years ago my boys needed magic wands (Harry Potter pretend play), and while making them those, a nostepinne just kinda happened (mostly I didn’t want to spend money on something I may hate to use). I adore it, and love the little center-pull balls it makes!

  • I wind mine by hand, into a ball. Sometimes I use the back of a chair to hold the wool, or my knees, or if desperate, a teenager….. There is something satisfying about doing it myself.

  • When I remember. I ask for them to wind my yarn in the shop. Last year I was in a shop where I purchased several skeins of yarn. In winding the last skein, the winding thingy malfunctioned, and they hah to make it into a ball, winding it off of that accordion like thing. The lady wound the ball so tightly, she stretched out my yarn. I was so upset, but managed to keep my mouth shut. Ages ago, I was taught to wind yarn into a ball loosely, 3 wraps at a time, then change direction.

    I recently made a little pull from the center ball by winding my yarn around a cardboard tube from a paper towel roll. Interesting, but I am with Ann. I like winding it into a ball best.

  • My lovely and amazing husband bought me a ball winder and swift for xmas a couple of years ago after watching me wind sweaters’ worth of yarn by hand. It has changed my knitting- I can just choose a yarn and be knitting in 5 minutes. Maybe that’s why my WIP pile has grown so much.

  • Ball winder and swift all the way at my house! They do make these little yarn bras now, mesh tubes that are open at both ends, that you slip on the cake before slipping it off the winder. It gives the outside of the cake a bit of stability and greatly decreases the chance that it will implode and spew yarn everywhere.

  • I wind my yarn by hand, draping it over the back of a Windsor chair. A friend taught me to do it that way when she gave me my first yarn that came in a skein. I love that, as with so much of my knitting knowledge, it’s passed-down information. The whole process is strangely soothing and a nice preparation for beginning a project. I don’t knit laceweight, though, so if I ever start, I might invest in some tools.

  • I use my swift for un-knitting: frogging projects that aren’t working out or salvaging old pieces for the yarn. The resulting skeins are easy to soak and weight to dry to relax the knitting. I store the yarn in skeins until I’m ready to use it.

  • I love my single-use swift and winder! (I also love my salad spinner, which I avoided buying forever). Since I’m off topic (this is quickly becoming a list of things that I love, I also love my immersion blender! OK I’m done. Maybe now that I’m a little more “mindful” I can try winding by hand, again. 🙂

    • I too love my salas spinner & imersion blender, but this blog post & comments have convinced me that for me they don’t compare because I can’t get the same results at the same level of ease. The soup never tastes quite right when I try blending it with knees.

      But I’m truly glad you like all of your gadgets!

  • I was sitting most of the day, knitting and then winding yarn. According to my fitbit, I “walked” almost 15,000 steps yesterday. LOL It IS aerobic exercise~ Who knew?!

  • My husband bought me a ball winder and swift as a Christmas present, but really it was self defence. He was tired of holding his hands out so I could wind yarn.

    I like to knit fine, so it is very welcome as most of my skeins are DK or lighter. Usually fingering weight.

    Also, I’d rather knit than wind.

  • A yes, and I use my ball winder to frog. It is very satisfying to just wind that yarn back into a cake lickety split!

  • My husband is very supportive of my knitting obsession, but yarn mystifies him. He loves tools, however; so early in my knitting career, he gave me a yarn winder, and God bless him, he MADE me a swift. It is a thing of beauty and works like a charm; I love to use both my swift and my winder. It seems that some yarns are better wound into balls though — I had a lovely cake of Handmaiden Sea Silk collapse into a tangled mess toward the end of one project…

    • Thank you for the sea silk warning! Even though my only option is hand winding. But definitely will do ball rather than toilet paper tube.

  • Forgot to say the big plus for me in hand winding with only body parts for tools is I can do it anywhere. Having to set up the equipment & remener where I’ve stored it… Perhaps my reality is the ultimste deal breaker.

    PS sorry to write 2 posts. But since I’m in Moderne Log Cabin fog, — learned applied icord todsy — I am not responsible. May need to learn some croKay tomorrow….

  • Untangling recently dyed skeins that “someone” put through the washing machine and tumble drier is a good use for a swift. You just need to get a centre hole in the right place and then as you s-l-o-w-l-y wind from it, it gradually gets larger and larger, eventually becoming a real skein just before you finish. Aside from that I don’t use it unless I have a jumper’s worth of yarn to wind.

  • We love our swift so very much. And… my husband and I (both spinners and I’m a knitter, he’s a weaver) love love love balling our own yarn. It the tactile thing…

  • I think single use is a red herring here. I mean, put it that way and my knitting needles are single use tools also. I sure don’t use them for anything other than knitting. But then I have 2 swifts (for big and small skeins), a ball winder, and a nostepinne. I also knit from the outside edge of cakes.

  • Depending on the yarn I ball some by hand and use the winder and swift to make cakes of others. If I am knitting a project with a lot of long-tailed cast-on stitches, I always use the winder so I can use both ends of the skein for the cast-on.

  • I’ve always wound my own center-pull balls. Except once when I was still a rookie and the store offered to wind a skein for me. Hated. It. Now I actually look forward to the winding process because it seems to put me in a sort of Zen state. And if it’s a really long skein, it can be a killer shoulder workout too. ;o)

  • I have a swift and ball winder, but every once in a while it’s just plain fun and relaxing to pop a hank over my knees or stretched-out feet and wind a ball of yarn while I watch a movie or a long, sleepy afternoon of golf.

    (I don’t even follow golf, but I watch it a lot for the pretty scenery, and it NEVER gets jarringly loud.)

  • I’m always late but I am with you – I don’t own a ball winder or swift and I rarely take yarn store owners up on their offer to wind them for me – LYS or online. I usually don’t want to bother making them wind the yarn and I really want to go home fast and do it myself lol I use one of our dining chairs or my knees – whichever!

  • I have a table top swift from the Oregon Woodworker I love it. And I use a ball winder with it. I’ve seen similar swifts on Etsy. It really makes the job go more quickly.

  • This topic is so interesting ~ My desr husband purchased a ball winder and swift for me almost before I knew I needed them. He’s a sweetheart and my fiber enabler 🙂 I use them most of the time – I mean my cats would feel SO left out if I didn’t let them help. They are a live saver on my lace & fingerling weights! (Not the cats!) I have gotten to where I use the cakes from the outside to solve that collapse problem ~ and in a yarn bowl so there is less opportunity for it all to end up down the hall with a kitties “help”. But I must find a nostepinne ~ I have these 665 yd hanks of alpaca and this item sounds perfect for winding them. Thanks for all the info and assistance everyone!

  • I wind my yarn using the cover for my iron in the middle of the skein, it’s the size of a football but about 10 inches tall. The first time I tried to use my knees it failed miserably because there was a fire alarm and we were evacuated for the night. It was a bit of a mess.

    The swifts look awesome but I prefer to spend my money on yarn when I have something that works. I tend to ball my yarn.

  • I once broke both my baby toes in one evening of winding yarn—I was walking circles around a kitchen chair and watching Mad Men. I stubbed them on the wooden feet of the sofa, one while walking one direction and one while walking the other.

    Ball-winder and swift it is.

    • Sounds like it’s a matter of personal health and public safety. I once broke a toe trying to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Sadly, this is not a problem that has a simple solution.

  • 170 comments already but here’s my two pennorth – I put the skein across my knees and wind it into a ball from there. It does sometimes tangle a bit towards the end but I’m one of those weird people who likes untangling tangles!

  • I turn one of our dining table chairs upside down, slip the skein over three of its legs and wind it by hand in front of something decent on the TV. Simple but always works for me. I find it quite soothing and mindless.

  • Wow people do have opinions on ball winding.
    I like a yarn cake. I always ask my mother to do it – she has a swift and winder. She says she enjoys doing it.
    Yes I think I read years ago in an Amy Singer post that non-wool yarns should use the outside strand. Sometimes I use the outside for potentially tangly lace weight too.

  • I’m surprised no one mentioned the simple Notespinne. Just a handy short stick for making center-pull balls. A super handy tool and not nearly as bulky as the modern yarn winders

  • I wind by hand (using my thumb, to make center-pull cakes) because it’s fun and soothing.
    I haven’t seen any mention of yarn cakes being helpful for storage–easy to stack on shelves without falling over, or to hang on a peg-board like my beloved yarn wall. This idea came from the Knits For Life blog a few years back… the ends of yarn cakes make a beautiful display (if you don’t have to worry about moths/ dust/ pet attacks).

  • I use a winder and swift. I always seemed to have a tangled mess when winding by hand. I leave the winder and sift set up on a table in my living room. I’ve found that it is a great conversation piece when I have company and everyone wants to try it. So I supply the yarn and they wind. I’ve gotten a lot of yarn wound that way.

  • Single use, true, but I’m now obtaining a stand for said winder and swift. It is not single use as it has a lovely rack below for cones of yarn. So I will have transformed two things I can never seem to get in the same place into part of an integrated yarn station. Score!

  • How do you wind yarn with beads on it already? Should I do this by hand only?

  • I wind both ways. I pull the yarn from the outside of the cake… Much less stress on the yarn and no center collapsing.

  • Small architectural triangular rule. The semicircular divot running through the middle of each side is perfect to hold the tail.. Wind by hand.

  • I like winding my balls by hand. I find all the naughty knots that way. I bought myself a beautiful walnut swift with the arms and pins so I don’t have to use my knees to hold the skein anymore and it’s a lot more enjoyable and goes faster. Not to meantion easier for to get up in the middle of winding if I need to.

  • I may be a tad spoilt but I have both and my ball winder is electric. I place my skein on the umbrella swift, feed the yarn through the tensioner, and use a dial to control the speed of the winder. I put it on a low slow speed to avoid it getting too tight, and the swift slowly rotates to match.
    I then go get a coffee and wait 15-20 minutes for it to finish. it’s worked for all fibres thinner than 10ply without snags. 🙂 Pure lazy but I love it!

  • This is such a bizarre question. Of course a ball winder and swift are not single-use items. To be “single-use” means literally that after you use it one time, you throw it away because it’s no longer useful. And obviously you DON’T use a winder and swift only once. I’ve used them to wind scores of yarn hanks into center-pull cakes.

    It makes absolutely no difference how much yarn you buy. The point of a winder and swift is to wind it at your own convenience, when you choose. If you get your yarn wound at a shop when you buy it, and don’t feel the need to invest in your own winder and swift to use on your own time, that’s one thing. But to suggest that those items are single-use is ridiculous in the extreme. It just doesn’t make any sense to think of them that way.