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Atlas Insider: The Long and Winding Road

October 3, 2021

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1,178 Comments
  • I wind my yarn over my own arms when I’m too tired to do anything else but my hands are itching for movement.

    • To wind my yarn I prop it on my knees or sometimes over a chair back. Most of the time it gets quite tangled but that’s okay because I really enjoy untangling yarn! Does anyone else? And I much prefer knitting from a ball than from a skein or cake.

      • I love a challenge to untangle a messy mass of yarn that others would have given up on.

        • I wind by hand- from swift or knees. Sometimes I rewind cake thingies because they are too loose.

        • I know someone else who loves to do this!

        • @cynthia you are not alone in the joy of untangling a wad of yarn! (Yes, I have too much time on my hands…)

          Sometimes I use a cheap metal paper towel holder from JYSK to aim in my yarn winding.

        • Agreed!

        • Cynthia: Me too!

      • I’ve had a few blowouts on my swift with sock yarn. One I hung on the newel post of the stairs and untangled over a few nights. The other I sent to a friend to untangle (who, like you, loves the challenge). Thank goodness for people like you!

        • I use a wooden swift and a plastic ball winder for most of my yarn. I learned the hard way to wind lace by hand. I also LOVE untangling yarn!
          Will you be publishing stats on how we wind?

      • I’d forgotten about winding (newbie knitter) but you’ve reminded me of holding a skein, sitting on the floor in front of my Granny, while she wound wool when I was a kid.
        Good memories!!

      • I wind my yarn with my husband who kindly holds it for me as I wind. He says it reminds him of when he did this with his mother back in the early 50s when he was a kid.

        • I use a yarn swift and ball winder. I like doing it as it is the first step in a new project.

      • I also love untangling yarn. It’s meditative. I know I’m crazy but it’s brainless work and you get something accomplished.

        • Wooden swift and ball winder

      • I’m with you – I enjoy untangling yarn – it’s so relaxing and satisfying.

      • Most of the time I hand wind unless the shop offers and they dont seem busy. I enjoy it.

    • Fortunately the cat has never shown any inclination towards the yarn, but I run a swift and ballwinder household.
      I get enough of rearranging yarn when putting handspun on my niddynoddy and when I have to rip out. No need to do more.

    • I use a wooden swift but have been known to curse it and finish the process by hand when it doesn’t behave.

    • My grandchildren love to wind my yarn into cakes using my yarn winder and umbrella swift! Instant entertainment!

    • Until recently I always wound yarn by hand. 78 years old and shoulder pain has me really enjoying the swift and winder I was gifted last Mother’s Day!

      • Until my last birthday, I have always wound my yarn by hand placing the skein around the backs of two chairs. I even rewind balls of yarn as I don’t like mid-project yarn barf tangles. My kids bought me an Amish swift and ball winder and I am now having fun with it.

        • I’m a big fan of the Amish swift. I get much nicer cakes with it than I did with an umbrella swift.

    • I have several swifts and winders, always opt to winding my yarns by hand using the thum method! takes a wee bit longer but the inner pull ball are awlays perfect to use !

    • I have my own winder and swift. Love to do my own winding. Gives me a chance to feel and get to know a yarn before you cast on!

    • I use a wooden swift and a plastic ball winder. I also occasionally wind by hand.

    • Slowly, by hand.

    • I have a swift and crank winder for big skeins and anything is sport weight or thinner. But I do enjoy hand winding the big yarns, and doing toys or small projects is so much more cozy with cute little hand-wound balls 🙂

    • Usually using a swifter, but sometimes over a chair back!

  • To wind my yarn I start with a cone of bare yarn and make a skein with a knitty noddy. Then I dye the yarn and let it dry and put the dyed skein on a yarn swift. It goes from the yarn swift to a yarn winder to make a cake and from there I wind it onto a cone with a cone winder….. from cone to cone! I need a cone for my circular sock knitting machine. I have also been know to use the two arms of my children if I am making a ball for hand knitting.

    • Put the skein around my knees and start hand winding!

    • Well, I looked up squirrel swift and found a lot of information on suits to wear for gliding and base jumping . . . Probably not what you use. I use a ballwinder and a table-top swift of a design I’ve heard called an Amish swift. It is possible to use those without going a million miles an hour, and I do find the knots and other pitfalls along the way.

      • I started out with the skein around my knees, winding by hand. My husband helped me on occasion when things threatened to get out of hand because of a knot or cross in the skein. He decided to build a swift for me! He looked online for directions, and found some wood which he thought would work well. It not only works well, it is beautiful! He then bought me a wooden ball winder to go with the swift! Priceless!

      • Try using the phrase squirrel cage swift. There are even some clips demonstrating how they. work. They are very neat looking but I have no space.

  • Wooden umbrella swift and a plastic ball winder, it was an extravagant impulse buy. It has been used monthly for years. I had no idea the road ahead would be filled with beautiful yarn & lovely knit items:)

    • Always, always by hand! Ball winding devices stretch and torture the yarn and turn it into unnatural “cakes!” I like to get to know the yarn as I’m winding it into a nice ball.

      • I hang the yarn over the back of a chair and use a ball winder.

      • I use a Stanwood swift and winder. As a bonus, it can be very entertaining to a young child. My grandchildren beg to “wind some yarn” when they visit!

  • I use a Beka swift and a hand cranked yarn winder. Although that doesn’t seem to count as winding “by hand,” the swift is so very swift that I find I have to maintain continuous hand contact with the yarn as it feeds into the winder to keep the yarn from over taking the winder and creating a tangled mess. It gives me ample opportunity to assess the yarn. I’ve also used a nostepinne, but mostly just for showing off.

    • Ditto here about catching problems by hand with a swift swift. As for when, it can only be done when the cats are deeply asleep three rooms away.

      • Depends on the fiber I usually wind linen, cotton and silk by hand, wool with a metal swift and plastic, hand cranked ball winder. I bought the swift and ball winder after a big, multicolored shawl project for which it took me longer to wind the yarn than to knit. Sometimes, especially for small projects I just knit from the skein, opened up and hung over a chair arm. (Must admit there have been a few dog induced tangles with that method)

  • I hang it over the top of a knobby chair, put on my step counter, and listen an audio book – all bases covered.

    • I actually enjoy winding yarn on my heavy duty wooden winder.

  • I use an umbrella swift and plastic ball winder. I’ve made a little station so I can leave them out. Without it, I would “save up” winding to do in batches which took a long time plus a tired arm!

    • I spin and ply my own yarn from roving I have dyed, or purchased indie dyed. I then wind it from the spinning wheel bobbin onto a niddy noddy. Next, I rinse and dry it as a skein, and secure it over two wooden chair backs set at an angle to accommodate my large skein. (Chairs built by woodworker spouse). I wind it into a ball in my hands as I shift my weight and hands back and forth in a relaxing, rhythmic motion.

      • Plastic swift and ball winder. About half the time, I encounter a problem and finish by hand. Maybe I’d have less frustration if I learned to hand wind from the start like you do…

      • I have always wound skeins into balls by hand. In the past there were times I wished I had the money to buy a beautiful swift but then I realized how much I loved the feel of every inch of yarn as it moves at my pace through my hands. I’m a process knitter and handwinding is so much a part of the process. Plus, as noted, this way I know from the outset if a given yarn comes with lots of knots, weak spots, or other challenges. Usually these daysI wind with the skein draped loosely around my knees. In the past I often draped the skein around the back of an antique rocking chair that has since moved to another home. I can wind into flat cakes but really prefer balls which then sit nicely in my hand-turned wooden yarn bowl.

        • And I too am one of those who love to untangle yarn.

  • I am about 50/50 hand balled yarn, and caked yarn. I use the Amish style swift, recently got a new wooden winder, after discovering that my last winder had been used so much it had developed a wobble . Hubs says he can fix, but my when response earned me and new winder. I hand wind when my hands start to hurt, but I still need to feel the yarn.

    • I set my husband up with the good scotch, cushion under his feet on the coffee table, and the remote in hand. I set the yarn between his two big toes, and I hand wind perfect balls.

      • I love it!!

  • I drape the skein round my neck then wind by hand.
    I did try a nostepinne to make a centre-pull ball but it took ages.

  • Skein is put onto wooden swift or on weasel since I need to measure yardage. Count and record that. Reverse skein on weasel so the payout is done counter to winding onto the weasel. Wind onto large wooden ball winder with TP tube (split) or index card for the core details written thereon. Of course, on the go, arms, or chair backs with an improvised wooden stick for hand winding has happened.

    • Ack! First squirrels, now weasels?

  • I use a wooden squirrel swift that sometimes catches the yarn underneath the center, grr, and a plastic ball winder. It does give a feeling of accomplishment on those days when other things aren’t going well.

    • Wooden swift and an Artist Supply Co wooden winder. THAT was a splurge because the 2 plastic ones I had were crap. It winds like butta.

  • I use a cheap swift and plastic ball winder. Pieces have broken off of these devices over the years but with a jiggle and tightening of clamp they seem to keep winding for me. I’m a fan of the flat bottomed cakes.

  • I hand wind, usually by draping the yarn over my knees. Once in a while my husband will help and that’s okay too. But I really enjoy doing it myself as I find it meditative. As long as our dog doesn’t decide halfway through that he has to go outside, then it becomes tricky.

  • Oh the dreaded winding….and I’ve been able to convince my hubs to help exactly one time – lol! When winding is necessary, i can be found with my knees bent and up on the sofa, netflix on and my body doing some rhythmic gymnastics movements as i get it all together from the yarn the us hanging/draping around my bent knees …. Oh what a sight!!!

  • I love the “between-ness” of winding. The beauty of the skein transforms into a tidy ball where the colors may look very different. As a spinner with a walking wheel, I also use a niddy noddy, reel, umbrella and squirrel cage swifts, plastic ball winder, and nostepinne. If I plan to ply the singles I use a weaving bobbin winder and wind onto weaving or spinning bobbins. Like you, I enjoy touching and seeing every inch of the yarn.

  • I use yarn winding as an opportunity to pull two vintage Mexican ladder back chairs away from the never used dining table ever so slightly away from their accustomed position to accommodate the span of skein.
    Then with the public radio hopefully playing a favorite piece, I set about to create my ball of yarn. I have no end of help from the Tabby cat on the table ready to assist or just take over. So I guess my tools are two chipped green cane seat chairs and a resourceful pesky cat named Chico.

  • I drape my yarn over the back of a kitchen chair and wind my yarn by hand.

  • I use a wooden umbrella shift and wind balls so all the yarn runs through my hands

  • I used to wind by hand with my husband holding the yarn (my personal swift). Since he is no longer with me, I use an umbrella swift to hold the skein. Sometimes I also use a ball winder but I really prefer hand-wound balls – and my cat has learned to leave them alone 🙂

    • Ah, the cat! I only wind when my two goofy boys are slumbering.

  • I use a wooden swift and a plastic ball winder. I occasionally wind by hand but I like the center pull better than having my ball roll around the floor

    • Ditto! So much faster than winding by hand too.

  • I have been using an umbrella swift and a plastic yarn winder. It is fast but I usually end up with a snarl and a snag which causes cursing. I am rethinking now based on this article. Hand winding might be in my future!

  • I do both. . .hand wind and use umbrella swift w/winder. Depends on mood and available time as well as quantity to wind.

  • When I was young my mom hand wound yarn with me holding my hands up like goals posts (forever) to keep the skeins from tangling. She liked making afghans so this would be a weekend project just to wind the yarn. My mom then got a colonial era reproduction yarn skein holder that was shaped like a four posted Ferris wheel so I was off the hook as holder. I didn’t learn to knit until I was in my 40s. I was gifted with a plastic swift that lasted a while but broke when I didn’t realize my yarn was caught on the clamp holding it to the table. Really strong yarn! I always found the little cakes hard to pull off the swift and some would unravel. I now use an adjustable yarn skein holder and happily wind the yarn by hand.

  • Swift and ball winder all the way, or just the ball winder if I’m taking care of the yarn that is already “pre-wound.”

  • Sometimes i don’t, if it comes in a skein that i can pull the center out, if its a Hank, sometimes by hand, sometimes by the umbrella swift.

  • If my hubbys arms are not free (he has threatened to charge), i use my knees.
    Its funny because my knees were put to use by my mom and auntie, so i feel connected to them in this sweet act.

    Mmmmmmm gleem in burnished

    Cmon, y’all know you want to bust down that border and pick a Canadian

    • I use a swift and winder. I don’t like to do it. So tedious. I just want to KNIT. LOL

      • Same!

      • Always a hand winder, often to the consternation of my shoulder. But audiobooks definitely help, esp when preparing an over-1000 yard ball of worsted weight for a Christmas gift!

  • I use an Amish swift and ball winder, except for super bulky yarn which I wind by hand.

    • I have used an umbrella swift for years, but it has gotten cranky. Based on a few comments I just ordered an Amish swift.

  • I drape the yarn around my legs, or around a laundry basket if I think I may have to stop before the skein is finished, and wind by hand most of the time. I do have a plastic winder and umbrella swift. The plastic winder is very squeaky and when I use it family members always ask what is going on due to the squeakiness.

  • My mother taught me to wind center-pull balls starting with a figure right core but I confess to using the lazy method – a home built spinner and commercial winder. It does end with my hands hurting but it is fast.

  • A plastic swift & a wooden winder. I do wind it rather slowly, so it doesn’t get caught up in the swift

  • I put the yarn on the back of a chair and then hand wind it.

    • For many years I used my knees and a nostapinne plus occasional hand wound balls for smaller quantities. I recently found an umbrella swift at a resale store and have been using that with my trusty nostapinne from a long ago MD sheep and wool weekend.

  • Wooden umbrella and plastic yarn winder also. Not spectacular but satisfying in its anticipatory soon to be project.

  • I wind my yarn into a ball by hand sometimes with my sweetie’s help, sometimes by myself using whatever brilliant idea I can come up with to hold the skein.

  • My husband has hand wound every ball since I started knitting 15 years ago, I hold the yarn and he says he finds it meditative but I think he likes that he is part of the process of what I create as well

  • If the yarn is for knitting I lay the skein across my lap and wind it into a ball by hand. If for weaving, I use an Amish style swift and Strauch ball winder.

  • I use a wooden swift and a Fiber Artist Supply Co. winder which makes the prettiest cakes! I love the process of winding my yarn, watching it go around and around as I hold the tiniest bit of tension as it feeds into the winder, imaging what my project will look like when its knitted.

  • Not up for this after rewinding yarn that was supposedly ready to knit.

  • I use an umbrella swift and ball winder … I think it’s fun.

  • Like DG,I prefer to wind my yarn by hand, for much of the same reasons. I get to know the yarn before I start working with it. I know how it will feel in my hands. I get a sense of how it will drape, how heavy the resulting project will be. It’s all part of the knitting process. Besides, the swifts and ball winders are pretty expensive!

  • I will wind some yarn by hand but mostly I use my wonderfully cone holders and a drill

  • The swift works for me…I can do it on my own at the kitchen counter and prefer knitting from a cake.

  • Try to avoid it but have a hand winder that clamps to a table. Not fun but needed with a particularly great yarn that comes on a skein.

  • I have a collection of swift’s and ball winders, a cheap plastic umbrella swift, a sunflower wood swift, a wood umbrella swift that I picked up in a charity shop, 2 different Stanwood ball winders and a heavy duty capable of very large skeins Strauch winder. It depends where I am which ones I use or if I am winding at a yarn festival.

  • If I’m making a large project, but I usually ask the knit shop to wind it. Otherwise, I wind by hand with the yarn slung over anything convenient—chair, feet, husband. I make sure to put two fingers on the ball between my winding hand and the wound yarn to prevent winding too tightly.

  • I hand wind from over the knees. It usually makes my back by the time I’m done but I too love the methodical rhythm. I consider it part of my yarn therapy, so I always turn down offers from vendors to wind it for me for free. Love my yarn in all its tactile goodness!

    • Hurts my back. LOL

  • I use a wooden umbrella swift and a plastic ball winder. I don’t turn the winder that fast so I can feel knots if they pop up. I love having a flat bottom cake!

  • I’ve been a hand winder all along but recently bought a swift and winder – haven’t used them yet though!

  • When the cats are asleep!

  • If I am in a hurry to get the thing wound so the knitting can begin, I use my swift and ball winder. But, more often I will put the skein in my lap and wind by hand. I just enjoy the feel of the yarn in my hands, and it’s a good way to know if there are knots or blems in the yarn.

  • I made my own with a 6” lazy Susan for 6.00 from Lowe’s, two small square blocks of wood for a base and and top plate to which I attached two rulers, they are drilled at 3/4” intervals to allow me to move dowels to accommodate different size yarn loops, After I run it perpendicular and have my balls wound, I can place the rulers parallel and together and it finds on a shelf. It mimics a design I had seen at a yarn shop, where it was a much more refined version, but mine only gets out in my sewing room when needed and no questions ever, I don’t let many in there…..

  • On my lovely swift and ball winder!

  • on the couch, watching tv, skein around my knees

  • I’ve had a swift for ages (ugly cheap plastic, but it works), and I’d then wind my ball my hand. I treated myself to a ball winder for my birthday this year, and sometimes use that instead. It works fairly well with fine yarn, but seems kind of a hassle with thicker yarns. I don’t yet trust it with my handspun yarn – that always gets wound by hand!

  • I cheat and get the store to do it. Or very carefully drape it around something and painfully do it.

  • Hand winding, around my knees, is part of the joy of handling yarn! I much prefer a hand wound ball to a gadget wound cake, which somehow reminds me of impersonal machinery. Also, when I purchase a gorgeous skein of hand dyed yarn I like to admire it in its skein form until I’m actually ready to knit with it, winding at the store robs me of that pleasure.

  • Wooden umbrella swift and a plastic ball winder, I’ve had both for over 30 years. Hand wound balls are pretty but too time consuming for me to do regularly.

  • I have a hand winding “umbrella”. My watch always congratulates me on my awesome movement

  • Once, when the yarn needed to be held out firmly and there was no swift available, I draped the skein over a lamp shade, loosened the top thingy so it could spin, and had a grand time!

    • Now that is an ingenious idea!

    • Thanks! I’m going to try that!

  • My knees! I just drape the skein around my knees, turn on the TV, and wind up happily.

  • I use a wonderful handmade swift that sits flat on my winding table and can be disassembled, along with an industrial strength ball winder. My set up is in a guest room where I can close the door so my cat doesn’t take part in the process.

  • (Deep breath) this is hard to say publicly…I have not even come out to those near and dear to me, but I am Bi-Windual! I sometimes use a swift and sometimes (choke) do it by hand. Please do not think less of me. I just can not dedicate myself to one method. It is hard to just do it one way in this world. Some yarns just call to me for me to touch each inch and I HAVE to wind them by hand.
    There..I said it. A weight off my shoulders..

    • Admitting it is the first step, Judy. Keep coming back!

  • Alas, after reading your article – I do agree with you that had winding allows you to get to know you yarn. I do use a yarn swift and a hand winder. I remember as a child holding the yarn on my hands as my mother hand wound the yarn. Another wonderful memory was my mother taking apart a used store bought sweater and hand winding the yarn to create a new sweater for one of us. I will, in the future try hand winding and see where it takes me. 🙂

    • Silk or linen or mohair? Hand winding only!
      Most of the rest? Swift and cake winder!
      Although, If some irresistibly luscious yarn mysteriously leaps into my arms while yarn shop hopping on a road trip (it has been know to happen!), it might just need to be hand wound in the car while someone else drives.

  • I mostly use a swift and ball winder. I crank the ball winder slowly and run the yarn through my fingers leading into the winder, so as to check for knots, slubs, etc. Finally, swatching helps my yarn and I get to know each other better.

  • I wind with the yarn over my knees. Can be rather meditative.

  • I love to wind yarn. When I get overwhelmed by knitting and need a break. Winding gives me the headspace to dream of what is to come

  • I spent countless evenings holding out my arms so my mother could wind yarns. When my own children got old enough they would disappear when they saw the yarn come out (so they were gone a long time) so a chair back had do. Now I have a swift and ball winder but find the yarn gets too tight in the ball. I prefer to put the skein on a swift and wind the ball loosely.

  • I use my generic wooden swift and my trusty Royal winder. I sometimes wind center pull balls by hand.

  • The word grudgingly comes to mind. I haul the swift and ball winder out and have to coax myself to do them all not just half of the skeins so I can get to knitting faster. Your comment that hand-winding was the best way to get to know your yarn was helpful. I’ll think on that next time.

  • I use a wooden swift and a plastic ball winder. I do like knitting from a cake that sits in a bowl my daughter-in-law gave me.

  • I loved seeing the different ways everyone winds yarn! I usually use the arms of a chair in my office/library/craft room.

  • I alternate between winding by hand and using a swift made of tinker-toy bits together with a ball winder. The cats like the tinker toy assembly the best!

  • My husband likes to hold and I wind while we have time to talk.

  • I put aside a lazy weekend to wind. I listen to something great and use that broken umbrella looking thing and a ball winder.

  • I hand wind using my knees, kitchen chair backs, upside-down laundry basket, or husband’s hands; whichever is convenient and handy.

  • Into balls from a chair back. But I just purchased a nostepinne from Stephen Willette!

  • I look it around my head and wind wind wind. Have a nice Amish swift but more tangle tragedies have occurred with that. I don’t want to talk about looping it around knees–bad.

  • I usually use one of my two Swift’s. One i purchased a few years ago that is pretty standard and always set up to use at a moment’s notice in my spare room. The other one is an old one I found in an antique shop that is a tabletop version and looks so pretty (I think), I display it open on a shelf in my living room.

  • By hand, using back of chair or knees.

  • My swift and ball winder are in storage, so I am hand winding right now, and I find I really enjoy it! I may pull out the swift once we move in, but I think I will continue to hand wind. I find I can really feel the properties of the yarn, and make this part of the whole zen of my knitting!

  • By hand – I loop the skein over two chair backs positioned back to back, then away I go!

  • I use an umbrella swift. My cat does like to try to put her face in the swift so getting her away does slow things down.

    • I turned the piano bench upside down, draped the hank around the legs and wound by hand. Just did that once, though.

  • I use an umbrella swift and ball winder. They’ve taken up permanent residence at the end of our dining room table. If I wind fast enough my watch records it as exercise!

  • My sweet husband does all of my winding while watching sports.

  • Wooden swift + plastic ball winder!

  • I have a lawn chair that holds the skeins. I sit in a matching chair on my patio and watch my pond and garden while I wind.

  • I live alone, so winding my yarn involves a chair. I use my office chair, pull it up to my couch, backwards of coarse and drape the skein over the back. Then I wind, usually accompanied by Netflix.

  • I have an umbrella swift and ball winder that I use to wind my yarn. Sometimes (often lately!) the yarn slips down the ball while winding and I end up with loops of yarn hanging out of the center. This can cause great problems – knotted messes when knitting. I don’t know if it is the way I am winding (inconsistent tension?), the yarn (superwash, round and slippery?), or my winder (gears slipping?). Would love to hear about other’s experiences and how they’ve achieved success….but please, no hand winding for me.

  • Well! This has been an educational morning so far! I had no idea that so many knitters are hand winders! Nor did I know there were so many types of swifts! Mine, I’ve learned, is called a “peg swift,” and I like it for ease of set-up and it’s ability to live quietly in its cloth bag between winding sessions. Umbrella swift’s kind of scare me, with their moving parts ready to pinch my fingers. Never heard of a squirrel cage till today, and I imagine my dog would bark at one just as he does with real (and imagined) squirrels in the yard! After this exploration, I’ve decided that my wooden lovely swift (and its accompanying plastic baller thing) are just right for me.

  • I almost always wind by hand amd use my knees or the back of a chair. Or sometimes I conscript my teenage children to stand and hold it for me – the natural consequence of interrupting mom during a lengthy stitch count or before I finish a row!

  • I usually use a swift and winder, unless the amount is too small to and i’d end up with a cake that was all ganky. My swift was made by a local (to me) artisan and my ball winder is a stanwood. I end up running the yarn through my hand before it reaches the winder to catch those blips and to help with tensioning.

  • Wooden swift, plastic winder most often, unless on long car ride, then over knees and hand wind. occasionally will drape yarn round my neck and wind if I am in need of next ball of yarn and swift/winder, knees not a viable options because of non knitting life interruptions into knitting life.

  • I have a wooden hand winder set up and use a chair back to hold the skein rather than a swift, winding very slowly while I gently separate the strand being worked from the rest. It is slow but it works and it allows me to see every part of the yarn going into the wound ball. It’s meditative!

  • In time-honoured fashion, I wind my yarn from the outstretched arms of a grandchild. It’s how I first got interested in knitting as a 5 year old, and now both my grandchildren can knit too.

  • I open up the hank and drape the loop over my knees and wind it with a nostepinne. My oldest son, who is in college, also enjoys woodturning. He saved up money from lifeguarding and bought a lathe and learned from a Master Wood Turner who also sponsored him to join the International Wood Turning Guild. He makes writing pens as well as beautiful handles for pizza cutters, ice cream scoops, and other implements. He even makes pens that look like a cigar —custom made with your favorite cigar label —they look remarkably realistic down to the burning ash tip.
    He occasionally makes me nostepinnes in a very handy size from exotic wood and uses the same 18-step finishing process that he uses for his pens. I wish I could include a photo to show!

  • Confession: I have been known to choose yarn *because* it’s ready to knit. But mostly I bust out the swift, attach it precariously to one side of the TV tray table with the dinky plastic winder on the other side, and grind away.

  • In place of a Dad-made squirrel swift, I have my husband. When we met, he told me stories of holding yarn for his grandmother as she wound. Now he holds the yarn for me. It makes great boding time. He is a captive audience!
    Come on, DG! I really, really want that Gleem Lace. LOVE THE STUFF!!!!!!

  • I use my ball winder and swift. However there are some that I end up winding by hand as the skein is a mess. In this car I usually use my husbands arms and occasionally I will have to resort to a chair when my husband is not around

  • I recently purchased a ball winder. I love the ‘cakes’ that result because I often double up my fine yarns to get a worsted weight. I can pull from the center and the outside, which I prefer to using 2 individuals balls or cakes.

  • I always use the swift and yarn baller. I wind slowly to check the yarn for imperfections. I don’t have the patience for hand winding

  • I have a wooden swift and both a plastic winder and the big wooden one which are set up all the time, so I make cakes but don’t pull from the inside anymore – too big of a mess towards the end. I sell yarn on Ravelry (the why did you buy this, yarn) and always happier when it hasn’t been wound. Skeins are flat and cheaper to mail. Nothing squishy about a cake of yarn!

    • I use my wooden swift and plastic ball winder. Had both for decades and they’re still going strong.

  • I use a ball winder and swift. Enjoyed your article. Thanks.

  • By hand. Over my knees in front of junk tv, or over the bar stool in the kitchen — it’s the right height. I love winding and unknotting!

  • Lately I’ve been using a ballwinder but I like to wind by hand with the skein draped over my knees too. That way is a lot more portable, and I agree that it’s a really good way to get to know your yarn. Mostly it depends on the yarn – I tend to wind finer yarns and bigger skeins on a ballwinder because otherwise it just takes too long and I rather be knitting!

  • I have my own swift and winder, and use them. After years of winding yarn by hand from a pulled-out drawer, I decided to use my time for knitting instead of winding. I’ll never go back!

  • I used to handwind yarn off the legs of a kitchen chair. Now that I have a swift and ball winder things are much faster!!

  • I mostly use my swift and ball winder these days but I have wound off a skein 1200 yards of lace weight yarn in the past. Sometimes the yardage is too much for the ball winder I have.

  • I did use the back of a chair, or occasionally a willing kid to hold. Years ago I invested in an umbrella swift and ball winder. I always have tension on the yarn at the winder so do find the knots, etc.

  • Old plastic and metal umbrella swift and plastic ball winder. I keep contemplating a new swift, but this one still works, if a bit squeaky! Even though the ball winder has a tension/guide arm thingy, I still guide the yarn with one hand.

  • I wind yarn by hand or on a swift. I have been told it’s best to wind yarn right before you plan to use it so I usually decline yarn store winding. I figure it doesn’t hurt to follow this practice even if untrue.

  • I put the skein around the back of a chair and, with an empty toilet paper roll acting as a nostepinne, create a sorta-flat-bottomed object (often it is a bit more akin to a football than a cake, but it works).

  • I use a Strauch floor model swift and a Knitters Pride wooden ball winder with the colored wheel. I love the manageable cake it produces when winding linen.

  • After decades of hand-winding, I asked my husband for a swift for Christmas and never looked back. It’s a beautiful instrument, although it sometimes gets ahead of itself.

  • I set up two cans of red enchilada sauces on my cats mat and use my winder clamped to the desk. Weird but it works!

  • I have 2 beautiful nostepinnes that I use to wind mini skeins or delicate yarn, like lace. Otherwise I use my swift and ball winder and I let the yarn run through my fingers as I wind so I can check for knots or other imperfections.

  • No no no no! Never again am I hand winding my yarns. Never ever.
    I use my swift and wonder and will never go back. You cant make me.

  • I wind with the simplest of swifts I received when a LYS upgraded to electric and a Royal ball winder. I also use a chair and wind by hand. My LYS winds yarn willingly.

    • LYS is first choice. Wooden tabletop peg swift with ball winder, tall brown plastic pill bottle as makeshift nostepinne (yes, trapping yarn in the bottle with its lid for center pull) Me, too.
      Winding around my thumb if I have to.

      As long as I have a yarn cake I’m a happy camper! I LOVE YARN CAKES!!!

  • I enjoy winding yarn, sometimes I use my arms or knees, but I ‘ve also found that a certain size brown box from those people who deliver goods can sometimes be a perfect size for a skein, sitting on my lap while I watch the goggle box. I wind the yarn onto an old pill bottle, placing the first end into the container, so it be comes a perfect start from either end cake of yarn, with a little reuse and recycle thrown in.

    • Clever. We often have old pill bottles so I think I’ll try this.)

  • I finally bought my own swift because I’m the weirdo who feels guilty asking the yarn shop to wind for me. If the yarn is a quantity smaller than 150 yards or so, though, I prefer to hand wind in a ball.

  • I hang the hank around the knob on a kitchen . Then just pick up an end and start winding by hand.

  • My umbrella swift and my husband’s hands.

  • I use a wooden umbrella swift and a wooden ball winder. If I need to wind yarn when I am not home I use my knees.

  • I love my swifter to hold the yarn, but hand wind it! My husband is so glad I got a swifter as he used to have that job!

  • I learned to make a center-pull ball from my grandma when I was a child. I didn’t realize what a rare skill it was. I do wind bits, bobs and deflated cakes by hand. But I can hear the Hallelujah chorus playing when the yarn is whizzing from around my Amish Swift to my ball winder, especially on the 3rd or 4th skein of the day.

  • With my mother’s umbrella swift and my yarn winder.

  • drape my yarn over a wedge pillow and wind away.

  • I must be part of DG’s family: I am a strong believer in the hand wound ball!. i have a gorgeous Struach wooden swift (now over twenty years old) that sits on its own legs in my family room, and i generally wind the balls one skein at a time as I need them. I actually have two winders: one was my mom’s, the other a gift from a well meaning daughter, that are only very rarely used, usually when I will be needing several colors all at once. Mostly they sit in their boxes, gathering dust. Time is not an issue: I can wind a round ball by hand in less time that it takes to situate the skein on the swift, set up the winder, and turn the little crank.

  • Depending on the size of the skein, I wind by hand or with a swift and yarn winder . The only time I really felt it was when winding a Powerball- I was convinced it wouldn’t fit, but it did. Make me happy that I had invested in one of the wooden winders- the plastic one would have never survived.

    • Hank, not skein. And I’ve used a nostepinne, only sometimes successfully.

  • Amish swift… love the cakes all wound so neat!!!

  • I bought a ball winder first and thought I could just loop the yarn over a chair. What a disaster. So the swift came next. I just want to get to knitting so hand winding takes too long.

  • I wind yarn carefully on a wooden yarn swift but into a ball, no fancy crank thing. I also do it while watching TV.

  • My husband holds it for me.

  • I recline on my couch with feet flat and knees up. I gently lower the skein over my knees, adjusting the tension as if I were on one of those torture machines at the gym Where you sit and push out from your hips hips using your knees against the machine pads. I start winding.. Very relaxing.

    I do have to say that the last time I bought a dozen skeins for a big project I went out after the 3rd skein and bought a swift and winder.

  • I used to use two chair backs and hand wind. Now I use an Amish swift and a ball winder. I still keep a hand on the yarn as it winds though to catch inconsistencies.

  • I use a ball winder and swift, unless it’s a tangled mess; then I hand wind it.

  • Large quantities get the umbrella swift and wooden ball winder treatment. I couldn’t make myself buy a plastic one, so waited until I found wood. Single skeins I wind by hand, yarn draped over my knees. Have used a nostepinne but don’t really love the movement. Only had yarn wound in a shop once, don’t remember why.

  • I would LOVE to see your family’s “Dad made squirrel swift”. I mostly use my swift and ball winder but before I bought that I’d sit back in my recliner, wrap a hank around my bent knees and wind by hand. When I was a kid and my Mom was a knitter she would use the back of the dining room chair. Btw, the shape that Lopi comes in is called a bullet.

    • He used to occasionally make them for my sister’s shop and one was once posted on Instagram, which caused an unprecedented number of inquiries and attempts to purchase – turns out interest mostly waned when people found out it cost almost a hundred dollars to ship one. So now the rule is: never show anyone a photograph!

  • Alas, I wind by hand as I have not yet splurged on a ball winder.

  • Why get any more complicated than me & my knees!

  • Anyway I can and quickly….I just want to get to the knitting part!

  • I use an old gifted nordic swift…huge, wooden, and a ball winder for big projects. Hand winding is really meditative and I do that for small projects.

  • I used to always hand wind, b/c I didn’t have the tools for the other method. I now have an Amish spinner and the hand crank ball winder. It depends on the yarn, and if I am at home so I can use the tools. Sometimes we are on a long road trip and I use the visor to hold the skein while I hand wind.

  • I sit with my legs up, wrap the skein around my knees, and wind.

  • By hand into a center pull ball as my Mum taught me or a swift and ball winder for major yardage.

  • Well in my early days as a beginning knitter, the store would offer to wind. Now with all my purchases on line, I wind myself with a spare pair of hands. And yes winding helps you know your yarn.

    Gleem Lace is gorgeous.

  • If I have more than one skien to wind, I drag out the wooden umbrella swift and ball winder that I purchased back in the 70’s. They still work just fine. If I’ve only one skein, I drape it over my knees and wind using one of several nostipinnnes that have drifted into my knitting bag over lo these many years.

  • Usually with cursing, something always seems to go wrong whether I use the winder or do it by hand.

  • I have a swift and use it…..but I don’t always have yarn that the swift likes! The swift will decide it doesn’t want to “pull” the yarn and it turns into a bit of a giant knot. At that point – after much swearing- I finish by hand winding the cake. Sigh….

  • By hand with the skein over the back of an old office chair that’s just the right size to hold it in place with very few tangles.

  • I use my swift from The Oregon Woodworker and hand wind my balls off that. I much prefer to work from my balls than cakes off a winder.

  • I love my swift and ball winder—I think they are magical! And I don’t know about yours, but when my ball winder encounters a knot it comes to an immediate halt, like it’s encountered a yarny stop sign.

  • By hand-

  • I loop the yarn over two dining room chairs and set myself up with a good TV show and wind away!

  • For years I have been under the impression that winding yarn on a winder was preferred, not only for the neatness of the cakes but also for the more even tension of the yarn. So I have both a wonderful and a swift at home.

    Just this week I read in one of the MDK articles, someone speaking to the beauty of hand wound balls! Didn’t appreciate that before. Today MDK brings even more useful and important reasons.

    I have heard that you should not wind a hank of yarn until you intend to use it because it stretches the fibers. Is that true? Is that concern more relevant for hand wound than winder wound yarn?

    Please spend more time on this issue! Good learning here!!

    • The way I understand it (which is roughly equivalent to a caveman’s understanding of a jet engine), winding too far in advance is less than ideal for “springier” yarns – the tension in the cake or ball is stretches that spring and it won’t quite bounce back after a while – and two balls wound at the same time but used, say, a year apart can actually produce two different gauges. And from a practical angle: I don’t know of a single yarn shop – online OR bricks-and-mortar – that will allow the return of wound yarn. So there’s that!

      • People RETURN yarn??? I am aghast! I have given away some no longer beloved, but never return!

  • Perfect timing- last night I hand wound 6 large balls of dk (skein over knees) and I’m still traumatized. I told my husband “this is a great way to get to know your yarn” but then confessed that I was lying – honestly, I have plenty of time to get acquainted with it during the knitting. Must. Get. A. Winder.

  • I wind using an Amish-style swift that my Dad made except for mini-skeins. I wind those by hand.

  • Two, marble paper towel holders – they can accomodate any width of unpretzelled yarn skein. The yarn ball happens with entire family’s help. Hubby, Mom and cat included.

  • I hand wind it at home

  • Love winding yarn. Reminds me of my mom who was a beautiful knitter. I wind around a chair back and enjoy every minute

  • I hand wind balls off of an Amish style swift. I had never heard of squirrel swifts and now I want one.

  • It’s a bonding experience! My husband holds the yarn, and I run it through my hands as i feed it into the winder.

    • I use a wooden swift and a plastic or jumbo ball winder, depending on the size of the hank. It takes a little longer, but I don’t crank at warp speed because I don’t want to add a lot of tension to the cakes.

  • After winding yarn at my local yarn shop for years, I moved to a place where the local yarn shop is in a tourist town forty minutes away. And forget trying to find a parking place anywhere in town during summer or leaf-peeper season. So I bought my own swift and ball winder.

  • I prop my feet up on an ottoman, drape the yarn around my knees and away we go. I’ve never done anything other than wind by hand.

  • Wooden swifter and plastic winder. Sometimes by hand especially if I’m traveling.

  • I use a swift to hold a Hank and a nostepinne for hand winding into cakes or amoebae.

  • I wind handspun by hand, and commercial sock yarn with a swift and ball winder.

  • I usually use a swift and ball winder. The bigger problem in my house is where to attach them. I will choose my next house (or dining table) based on the number of places I can mount those things properly. Sometimes it’s the kitchen counter, if that’s not being used for something else, occasionally it’s the back of a toddler-sized chair. The best one is when my husband simply held the base of the swift and I wound off of that. I think the moral is that I need my own yarn room with a special space for winding.

  • After being so disappointed in my otherwise perfect husband’s absolute inability to grasp the concept of holding my skein on his two hands to provide me a base to hand-wind from, I bought a swift and winder. Best investment I ever made. Our marriage has remained intact for 49 years now.!

  • I use a swift but I remember working with my grandma to wind by hand.

  • Depends on how much yarn I have for a project, but I agree that hand winding is the best way to fall in love with my yarn.

  • Wind by hand with the yarn draped around my knees. Have a ball winder, but prefer to do it by hand.

  • I sit on the floor, legs straight out and wrap the hank around my feet and wind it up. Not always perfect.

  • I prefer cakes, with their graphically pleasing diamond patterning, to balls, which inevitably roll where I don’t want them to. I use a wooden umbrella Swift I bought ages ago in Oregon and a plastic ball-winder. I love the process: the way the winder turns and the Swift twirls. I love the squeak of the Swift and the growl of the winder at high speed. I love the way the cakes squish when i take them off the winder. I love how easily they stack for storage.

  • By hand. On swift, hand wound without ball winder.

  • I wind my yarn on a ball winder and swift. That is until it goes wonky and I finish by winding it off the swift and into my frustrated little hands!!!!

  • On a homemade Amish swift and a ball winder.

  • It depends on the weight of the yarn – the heavier weights I wind by hand (it’s relaxing)! Lighter weights I do by wooden yarn swift and plastic winder (they tend to know when I wind my hand). My dream is a permanent winding station in my craft room!

  • Sometimes I just hold the skein up with my left hand and pull the yarn off into a pile. Then I wind the yarn ball from there. Both can be done without much starting/stopping and tangles are rare. The yarn pile looks cool!

    • Sorry, ‘hank’, not ‘skein’. There’s nobody here to talk about yarn with me!

  • After years of using the back of a chair, my husband (that didn’t last long) and various friends, I bought a swift. My husband, the mechanical engineer, insisted on the winder because he loves a machine, I’ve never looked back

  • This is a story about beveled edges on tables. After having my store-bought wooden table swift fly off like a rocket a few times – beveled edges! – my husband jury-rigged a solution by building me a fine wooden stand that the swift fits into so I can set it on the floor. I then attach my ball winder to a child’s wooden play ironing board (I’m a teacher so have lots of that kind of stuff) – with no beveled edges – so that I can wind it up. Looks a little weird, but it’s quite perfect.

  • I put two dining room chairs back to back and set the unbundled skein over them. I have neons about 5 loops by hand and wind them into a ball. And repeat. (Walking around the chairs winding is too awkward for me.)

  • I enjoy winding yarn on my heavy duty wooden winder.

  • Although I have a yarn winder, I most often roll with the yarn being handheld as a fond, fond memory of my father who insisted on rolling bags and bags of yarn for my adorable mother. My mother crocheted hundreds of afghans and hats as donations to numerous crisis nurseries. Winding yarn is reminiscent of their cheery banter and charmingly lovely relationship.

  • Sometimes with a swift and ball-winder, sometimes with a swift but make the ball by hand, and sometimes with my yarn hank over my knees and by hand. Depends on the quantity and if I am motivated enough to get out the tools.

  • Yarn winding is a medical diagnostic tool for me! Years ago, I realized how ill my father was when he was short of breath holding his hands up to hold the yarn I was winding. We forgot about the yarn and got him to the hospital right away.

  • By hand. Usually I have the skein hanging over my knees toward the floor. Once I had it around the backs of 2 chairs and stood ON the chairs to wind it. Nothing like a little danger!

  • Back of a chair and the ball winder usually, but I hand wind minis and small skeins.

  • I used to wind yarn in my lap on long car rides. Now that I am the primary (and responsible)driver, I no longer have that luxury. My grandson begins Driver’s Ed in a few weeks so who knows what the future holds?

  • Winding a skein of yarn can be almost therapeutic. And if you like a nice center pull skeins winding by hand can achieve that nicely. And also I find my skeins are not as tight and solid, but more soft and fluid.

  • I loop the skein around an upside down round laundry basket and wind in an old fashioned round ball. I put on something relatively mindless and wind away.

  • I used to had wind my yarn from the wrapped around the knees position while watching TV. At some point though I realized that I could use that time for knitting so I bought a wooden umbrella swift and plastic ball winder and now my sock drawer is full!

  • I use a ball winder and swift, except for those times when for some reason that process gets screwed up. At that point, I’ll spend hours untangling and rewinding by hand. Not very pretty!

  • My husband when he is zoned out watching football on TV.

  • An Amish swift that always traps a loose end of yarn in the middle screw mechanism at least 3 tumes per skein and an old, rickety, always too small plastic winder that I hold in hand.

  • I usually wind my yarn in my recliner with it looped around my knees. It’s very relaxing to me. I do have a Knitty noddy which I use occasionally.

  • I like to put the yarn around my knees and hand wind. I like the round ball as a result!

  • I am very fortunate that, having started by using my husbands outstretched arms while he was watching football, I got him interested in the swift and ball winder, and he now, somewhat happily, winds all my yarns into beautiful perfect cakes. He knows which yarns will go easily and which will give him trouble. he sticks the label carefully into the center of the cake when he’s done!

  • I use my swift and ball winder to wind skeined yarns. However I do wind by hand when I am traveling and my equipment is back at home or when a skein is all tangled up. I also machine knit so winding yarn into a cake is a necessity!

  • I use a table top swift ( sits flat on the table) on the floor and a plastic hand crank winder from KnitPicks. Both are at least 20 years old. The family room coffee table( bought from. Ann Arbor art fair many years ago) is the only table that works.

  • I used to always wind yarn over the back of a chair or two. Recently my two best knitting friends and I purchased a swift and ball winder to share. We did a lot of research and much to our delight it was easier to assemble and use than anticipated.
    We each use it. But I do often prefer to feel the yarn between my fingers and try not to let my cat know what I’m doing!

  • I use my swift and winder when I’m home, but when I’m away, I’ve been known to put the hank around my knees and wind a ball around the end of my thumb. My boyfriend thinks I’m nuts, but at the same time kinda cool.

  • Swift and ball winder – just faster way to get to knitting

  • I use a small wooden umbrella swift (sometimes it is too small) and a hand crank ball winder — they are early gifts from my now spouse and I will not give them up as long as they are functional.

    My cats definitely prefer this method as they know the sound of me setting up to wind and come running to help.

    • p.s. I also use my other hand as a guide/slight drag on the yarn, so I do get the hands-on experience plus feel any knots that may be present.

      • p.p.s. And cakes, I like making stackable yarn cakes.

  • I place the yarn around my knees and hand wind.

  • I love the look of my ‘cakes’ after winding on my Amish swift and Stanwood ball winder!

  • Swift and ball-winder. But in my poorer, low-tech days I have draped the skeins over the back of a dining room chair, or over my knees (slower and aggravating) and occasionally, I have had a friend or roommate who would hold the yarn on outstretched hands while I wound tidy balls. I drop balls of yarn into a vase to keep them from the cats.

  • I have done it many ways – over the back of a chair, laying the yarn down on the floor and carefully wind it, used my husband’s arms (while he watched football!), and, horrors, used my machine!

  • I drape the hank over a chair back or sometimes my knees. If I’m lucky, my daughter’s arms get involved.

  • I always wind my yarn by hand. I think it is comforting to get the feel of the yarn before I start a project.

  • I was given a winder but sometimes it doesn’t work so I will hand wind using the back of a chair!

  • Swift and winder all the way! I’m too impatient to get started on the knitting

  • I use an Amish swift and Knit picks ball winder. But when those fail me, and they sometimes do, it’s back to hand winding.

  • draped over a chair back…always by hand!

  • I wind yarn on a chair back. I love it! It is like a zen massage. I think about where the yarn came from: the sheep, farm, people who processed and colored it. I have a mini digital food scale nearby to weigh equal balls when I am planning mittens and socks.

  • Swift and ball winder

  • Around my knees is how I was taught to do it by my grandmother. She would pay a nickel for every ball wound-great pay for a kid in the 60’s.

  • When I started knitting, I used my kids Tinker Toys and built my own swift. Worked like a charm. Now use a table swift.

  • I love my Amish swift and ball winder. Less time winding, more time knitting. Still getting to know my yarn, but not for hours…

  • I use an umbrella swift and a beautiful wooden winder unless it’s a small skein. Then I hand wind off my knees.

  • I use a wood umbrella style winder and a hand crank ball winder, both gifts from my now husband on our first Christmas 15 years ago. Luke someone said earlier, I let the yarn flow between my fingers so I can feel every issue before it becomes one. There are some “knit ready” center pull yarns that collapse into themselves and make a mess. Those I wind into a ball by hand.

  • I just bought a big ball winder because sometimes you need BIG balls.

    • Ha! So true!

  • I sit on the floor, cross-legged, and drape the yarn over my knees. Sometimes I’ll hit a big snag – often of my own making – and winding a skein will take a very long time. I somehow enjoy the challenge.

    Loved reading that so many knitters hand-wind. I was feeling some pressure to join the cool kids with the fancy gadgets. Thought about buying a gadget. Now I’m settling back into the comfort of low tech.

    Or two cats are always on standby, ready to help out. They are selfless.

  • By hand!

  • I am a handwinder although this usually results in a yard of knotted mess which I promise myself I will get to later. Thanks for asking.

  • My knees and my nostepone; no battery or electricity needed.

  • Finally, broke down during this homebound siege, and bought a swift and a winder for a large project. Gone are the days when I could sit on the floor, and use my feet to be the posts for winding the yarn. Great exercise to lean forward, and touch your toes, while winding. The swift/winder does a great job, as it can wind the way you need it to be. If it’s a project for socks, or a few skeins, I hand wind, using a wooden chair to hold the skein.

  • I wind my yarn by hand with a swift via my husband to control the speed and tension. Works well as long as you have a husband who cooperates! LOL

  • First knees, as long as that works, and if needed I will add a chair back or foot. Then once I have a beautiful hand-wound ball that incessantly either tempts my dog or rolls around picking up her black and white hair, if the yarn is another color, I use a horrible plastic winder and a lovely sheep-headed yarn bowl to reform it into a cake. If the yarn is one that dog hair blends with, I sometimes keep the ball.

  • I usually use my swift and hand-crank winder, but I sometimes wind by hand.

  • Welcome back, DG! OK, if you really want to know, I use a ChiaoGoo wooden swift that my daughter bought for me at Yarnavore in San Antonio, and a metal Stanwood Needlecrafts winder that I clamp to the kitchen table to wind my skeins into cakes (that can be pulled from the inside or outside). I highly recommend both. I would rather knit than wind yarn!

  • Of course, by hand. I sling the hank around the back of a chair and sway back and forth. Reminds me of when the kids were babies and I swayed them to sleep.

  • To wind my yarn I have a wooden swift which I will use if I have the time and inclination. However, more often lately I have been hand winding my yarn, using my knees to hold the yarn apart. The advantage to hand=winding is that one can do it anywhere!

  • Until a few Christmases ago, I placed my yarn around 3 legs of a stool and wound by hand. Now I have a lovely swift and winder, which goes faster but I have to remind myself to switch arms.

  • By hand with the yarn over a throw pillow. Works perfectly!

  • Plastic swift and ball winder

  • I use my knees 🙂 or a chair

  • I wind on an old, temperamental, blue plastic and metal spin swift. Somedays it’s smooth winding, others, not so much.

  • I loop the yarn skein on the back of a chair & gently pull it up with my right arm, wind into a the ball held in my left hand. Gave up trying to get a family member to hold their hands apart so I moved to the chair method.

  • I love my swift, but have no use for a winder. I have not yet had the patience to learn to use my beautiful nostepinne, but I can hand wind a good center-pull ball, and even a respectable cake!

  • I’ve done both over the years and the flat bottom cake is the clear winner for me.

    I started out as an accidental hand winder. I’d never seen yarn that wasn’t pre-wound before, so ended up several thousand yards of yarn to wind by hand. It wasn’t horrible, at first, but if I had a tense day, I’d end up with tight balls of stretched yarn.

    After I ended up with a 1000 yards of hand dyed laceweight over the back of a chair that was a nightmare mess in it’s original skein, and nearly 8 hours of fixing that, I was finally convinced me that I needed to save up and buy at least a swift, if not both a swift and ball winder.

    To avoid the yarn stretching that people worry about with the ball winder, I wind at a leisurely pace on days where I’ve set aside the time to relax, listen to music, and wind for a project. I have no problems stopping to take care of any issues I see in the yarn as I go.

    Plus, the flat cake is less tempting to His Royal Highness, Mojo Sugartoes, the Yarn Bane, who likes to find hidden unwound skeins of yarn and drag them through the house like his hunting trophies.

  • I use an Amish style wood swift and a plastic ball winder. I’m old and got lots of aches and pains when I wind with just my hands and then yarn.

  • I use a swift and ball winder, although I would love to learn how to hand wind…

  • I wind yarn by hand all by myself.

  • I use a swift and ball winder to wind but I let the yarn run through my fingers as I wind to check for knots or other imperfections.

  • I hand wind it into a ball, but then I re-wind on a ball winder. No swift here but I agree about the whole getting-the-feel-of-your-yarn thing and this is a way to do it, but also to end up with a flat bottomed cake I won’t be chasing all over the place. (Have no cats. Wish I did. I’d make them their own yarn balls.)

  • I usually have my lys wind the yarn, but after this article, I may be a convert to wind my own. I have some unwound skeins – so when i get to them – here I go.

  • I use my knees to hold the unwound skein, then wind it around my thumb (See Andrea Mowrey’s video!). I can do it on a plane, a train, a boat….pretty much anywhere! For me it’s part of the experience….very relaxing….almost mesmerizing. I used to do centre pull balls, but now I much prefer to knit from the outside of the ball. Much tidier! I take almost as much pride in how my wound balls of yarn look as I do in a nice even gauge knit! And I love Gleem Lace!

  • I love to wind by hand! Sit on the couch, place the yarn around my knees, and off it goes, ’round and ’round. Very meditative, and if your day is becoming stressful, it’s a delightful and productive way to get back on track!

  • My swift (and most of my stash) has been in storage due to a moving situation (new house not ready so I’ve been banished to a tiny apartment with 3 other people and 2 dogs), so I’ve been hand winding. Can’t wait to be reunited with my yarn, but I will likely continue to wind by hand.

  • I actually enjoy winding my yarn using my swift and a ball winder…it is hypnotic to watch the colors slide by and I do seem to be able to catch any irregularities as I go. That may be because winding is not a race for me but rather an evenly paced meditation…

  • A wooden swift and plastic winder. I love not having to spend the time hand winding or relying on a yarn shop if I buy from a yarn show or something.

  • I wind various ways, depending on the yarn, but mostly I use an umbrella swift and a ball winder. I slowly and methodically unwind the yarn from the skein a bit at a time, then slowly and methodically wind that onto the ball. I don’t want to torture the yarn with too much pulling and stretching going from swift to ball winder…or maybe I just don’t know how to do it right…
    If tangles happen I channel my mother, who was aces at untangling anything of any gossamer weight no matter the severity of the offense. But spit-splice? I need to learn that!

  • Lol….always by hand, always on the coach or on my sunporch,support, with my best friend….its always during a night we devote exclusively to “ripping stuff out ” if a project went awry or to balling.We help give each other courage to fix our mistakes and the reward of newly prepped fiber to feel and smell and envision the b ext project.
    All of course with wine or hot tea or cocoa!

  • I hand wind, looping the skein over a top open drawer in my dresser, listening to Marketplace on NPR. The mechanical winders scare me. Such a relief to read that hand winding is the “preferred” method. Hahaha!

  • For me, an Amish swift and hand cranked ball winder. I wind, then rewind for less tension, handling the yarn the whole process to keep the yarn from tangling, catching knots, seeing all the colors and texture, trying not to let it all go a thousand miles an hour. Love the harp music, btw!

  • I have a pretty table top swift. It squeaks as it turns. I could easily fix this with a drop of oil, but I don’t. The squeakiness is part of my joyous celebration every time I wind yarn for a new project.

  • I spread the skein on a table and wind it by hand. I actually prefer this to yarns that don’t need to be wound as they so often get tangled toward the end of the ball.

  • I put my yarn over my knees and wind it into a nice round ball by hand. I don’t own a swift and haven’t felt the need to invest in one yet!

  • I tried hanging the skein around my neck but nearly choked myself! Switched to a wooden skein holder and plastic ball winder. Much better.

  • Over the years I have wound my yarn in a few different ways. I have put it over the back of the chair and wound it alone. I have asked my darling husband to hold it around his arms while I wind the yarn. Finally, I bought a swift and now use a swift exclusively. I do try not to wind too fast so the cake doesn’t get too tight.

  • Over the knees, because every time I think of buying a swift and winder I think “I could spend that money on yarn.”

  • I generally use a ball winder and swift for full skeins, but I also have two handmade nøstepinne that I like to use for smaller samples.

  • A wooden swift and ball winder or for meditative purposes, a nostepinne.

  • Crank the music! I use 2 chairs and lots of space…..love feeling the yarn.

  • I have a swift my husband made me which I use with a ball winder. I keep one hand on the yarn close to the swift so I can feel for knots and stop if I need to.

  • Most of the time, I am too lazy to take out the swift, so I put the opened skein around my neck and wind. If it gets tight around my neck, I wake up from my zen winding moment and take out the knot! The cats don’t seem to care as much about the moving yarn around my neck as they do if it is moving on the swift.

  • Hand winder here! Use dining room chairs and find process relaxing.

  • I use an umbrella swift and ball winder. I worked in a small yarn shop for a while and would wind 40-50 balls during a shift after a big sale. It is a tough job!

  • I drape my yarn on one of the ends of a foldable laundry drying rack and wind by hand. As long as you don’t go fast, you avoid the tangled mess.

  • I wind my yarn using an antique swift

  • Sometimes it’s a swift and baller, sometimes it’s a knobby chair back, sometimes it’s using my hubby’s willing hands – just depends on the yarn.

  • I have the best yarn winder EVER. His name is Michael he’s an engineer and in his “spare” time he winds almost all my yarn! And oh yeah he’s a great husband too!

  • I use a swift and a ball winder. I’ve had them for years.

  • I use a swift and ball winder, but I run the wool over my left hand between the two. I enjoy the process.

  • My trusty Royal ball winder finally died after 20 years of service. Fortunately, I had another one in reserve that I’d purchased on clearance a few years ago. The new ball winder + my equally trust swift = ball winding nirvana for me.

  • I have both swift – an old metal one I got for free at one of my weaving meetings, a large Stanwood winder which is wonderful. sometimes I just hand wind if I have several small balls of the same yarn that I wind into a bigger one. also sometimes when working on a larger skein it becomes deflated so I rewind it again. I rather work from a neat smaller ball than one larger that is becoming loose and sloppy. Piece of cake 🙂

  • With a yarn swift and ball winder gifted to me by my dear knitting friend Sally. Sometimes by hand, standing in my kitchen with the skein draped around a wooden kitchen chair.

  • I flip a chair over…wrap the skein around the four legs and wind.

  • A squerrel swift, for sure. So much easier to use!! Mary in Cincinnati

  • Swift and ball-winder, all the way. If I have to take the fledgling ball off and wind by hand due to some awful unsurmountable problem with the swift I re-wind the round ball on the ball winder to make it into a cake. Pulling from both ends – the way to go sometimes.

  • I use an umbrella swift and hand crank ball winder. I love seeing the skeins turn into perfect cakes! I bought my 8 year old granddaughter the Skill Set book, app, and accessories and set out to teach her to knit last month. She lives out of town, so when it came to turning the skeins into balls, we did the first by hand. She held it and I wound. That one was wound a bit tightly. The next two I wound using a chair back. Much better with practice, but I think I’ll return to winding with my swift and cone, thank you!

  • I use a plastic ball winder, sometimes with an umbrella swift and sometimes with the skein dangling from my hand. When I dangle it from my hand and crank slowly, I get to see if there are any knots/flaws that need to be looked after before I start knitting.

  • It was many years of using an upside down laundry basket to hand wind my yarn. I know feel quite decadent using my second hand swift and vintage ball winder.

  • Always use a swift, for swiftness!

  • Hand wind, but I do get cakes the way I wind it. I do have an Amish swift that I use sometimes for fingering or lace yarn, but I still hand wind my yarn. It’s a way to talk to the yarn before we get cosy knitting. And sorts out any irregularities- knots, weirdly dyed sections.

  • After hand winding one too many skeins of sock yarn I purchases a swift and ball winder!

  • Wooden umbrella swift I found at Church yard sale for twenty five CENTS….for real! And plastic winder – prefer the cakes if it suits the yarn and hand wind the yarns that don’t like being caked.

  • I have a wooden umbrella swift I’ve had for decades, through college days, multiple moves, a long career and now into retirement. I’ve had to retie just about every join, usually with cotton twine. I also use a Royal ball winder but those last maybe 5 years or so.

  • I use (and love) an Amish swift to cake my yarn.

  • I typically use a swift and ball winder which is upstairs in my studio. However, I do most of my knitting downstairs in a comfy chair in the hub of the house. So if I’m feeling lazy, I wind my yarn by hand.

  • I finally sprang for a wood swift and plastic ball winder, hand turned. I love the neat cakes it turns out, don’t know why I resisted and waited so long to buy them.

  • When our LYS was an eighth of a mile up the street (oh, those halcyon days gone by!), my dutiful husband walked up with my young daughter and told them he wanted to buy me a “Swiffer” for my birthday. Of course, they knew exactly what he meant, and helpfully sold him the ball winder to boot. He earned his cred as best husband of the year that day!

  • I put the skein around my largest teddy bear ( we’re a family that loves bears) and wind by hand.

  • Swift and cake winder…..love the movement of both.

  • I sit on the couch, feet on the edge of the coffee table (my house, my rules). Loop the hank around my knees, lean back, and crank away.

  • My kind and generous daughter gave me a winder and swift as a gift. The assumption was that I would now be the family winder….

  • I almost always hand-wind into slightly pointy football shaped balls. (This simply happens, it is not intentional.) I either drape the skein over my knees, or if something goes horribly, terribly wrong, or my husband is interested in the yarn’s color, he will hold the skein for me.

  • I wind my yarn carefully around my knees, making a soft ball. It allows me to bond with the yarn before my project.

  • Oh my, how I wind yarn really depends on my mood or the yarn itself. I’m (almost) ashamed to say that sometimes I feel too lazy to get out my Tinker-Toy-like table top swift & cake winder so I hunker down in my comfy chair with the hank around my knees or feet & hand wind. I’ve actually encountered some yarns that refuse to hold a caked shape, so they have to be hand wound – usually with rubber bands strategically placed throughout the layers to give the slippery strands something to hold onto in hopes I don’t end up with a tangled spaghetti mess. More often than not I use the swift & cake winder but I always keep a finger on the yarn as it’s being wound to catch any imperfections/knots so I can fix them before the actual knitting or crocheting commences.

  • Sometimes on a chair but often by hand while my husband holds the skein!

  • I have a cheap-ish plastic-y swift and a handcranked winder and both demanded many learning experiences. Can’t count how many balls flew across the kitchen, having slipped off the pillar. Or how many times the swift changed direction and it’s too grotesque to describe what that’s like. The winder may be reaching the end of it’s life because it makes this loud and ominous snapping noise after winding more than two balls of yarn. Still works, though. And both devices fit right into their scraped and dented areas of the kitchen island edges. I get why MDK doesn’t want to wind my yarn!

  • I sit on my couch put the skein around my knees and happily wind around my left hand, as my Mother taught me 70 yrs. ago. I love the rhythm and the feel and the growing ball in my hands.

  • I wind my skeins with a ball winder and an awesome handmade swift my partner made me for Christmas several years ago. I love it!

  • Before I got my ball winder and swift, I used the top of a dining room chair. This worked well for worsted weight yarn…fingering not so much. Sadly my patience level is rather low for hand winding yarn; and balls of yarn tend to roll. Swift and ball winder now.

  • DG, I love your stories and your wit! You are an excellent writer and I always look forward to your posts! Excellent!

  • Swift and wonder all the way for me. I’ve encountered one too many spider webs to try it any other way now. I’ve had a few minor webs on my winder but they are easier to tackle and I think I’ve figured out my mistake when winding. So hopefully my spider web days are in the past. Just thinking about hand winding sends shivers down my spine.

  • Depends. At home, i use my umbrella swift and handmade winder from Fiber Artist Supply. When on the go, I improvise!

  • I put the skein over a chair back and start winding. If I want a real challenge I go for a center pull ball but my cat prefers a regular wind.

  • I use a winder and swift. But those times when it gets all garbled up, I cuss and say “in hindsight” I wish I hand wound the skein, 🙂

  • I used to wind by hand until the day I got in a fight with some lace weight. After spending hours untangling the mess, I decided to invest in a Stanwood ball winder. Then came a lot of research into the different styles of swifts. Storage space and cost narrowed it down to an Amish-style table top swift. My lovely woodworking husband decided to make one for me, so I now have a custom wooden swift dyed purple. Both have saved time, wear and tear on my joints, and my sanity!

    • If I’m with my knitting group, I use a friend to hold the yarn and sway from side to side to keep it going while I wind.
      I used to use my husband to hold the yarn, but he’s not so good at the swaying to keep the yarn going and not tangling up.
      If I’m alone, I use a chair back and tell the chair how to sway!
      Sometimes I’ve used one of the wooden swifts that DG’s father built. It, along with the winder thing, is the fastest. And I get mesmerized, watching it do it’s thing…..like watching my sewing machine wind a bobbin of thread.

  • My excellent husband bought me a ball winder and swift for solstice several years ago. Yes, he is a keeper. Before that, I would walk around and around a pair a chairs that I used in place of a swift. It was dizzying. Even with hand winding, a swift is a solid investment in knitting joy.
    I’ve used my swift to unravel a 2 strand mohair ufo, and it actually worked. I have two separate balls of mohair now!

  • Hi DG (& MDK awesome people),
    i wind my yarn on a swift, mindlessly musing about how great this sweater/scarf/stole will look with x- article from my wardrobe(or next on the sewing list…), until I make a mistake & it’s wound wrong and I have to start over by hand.
    However, I’ve started winding by hand as I love the feeling of the yarn on my hands. Also a great indicator of how it will feel when knitting/ worn. Great way to determine if it’s the right yarn for the project.

  • I wind by hand – drape the yarn over a chair back. It’s part of the process for me, and honestly it’s easier on my arm. I used a yarn swift at a store once and said “never again.”

  • I ALWAYS hand wind my yarn. I drape a skein over the back of a tall mission chair and, using a paper towel tube, wind a lovely center pull ball. There is great satisfaction in using these.

  • I keep telling my husband that the best gift he ever gave was my umbrella swift and ball winder.

  • I use a winder but run the yarn through my fingers as I wind to find irregularities.

  • I use my swift and ball winder. I used to use my children as my skein holders until they staged a coup. Seems they don’t like holding their hands up for hours while I hand wind balls of yarn any more than I did when I was a tiny tot doing it for my mother.

  • Skein looped around chair back, winding around an enormous wooden spoon handle.

  • I use an umbrella swift and wooden ball winder.

  • By hand, even though I have a swift.

  • My husband made me a swift out of a small kids’s wagon wheel, the end of a broomstick, and some dowels. It works great. I don’t use a ball winder, I enjoy the process of winding it by hand.

  • Over my knees quite slowly to prevent tangles.

  • Hand-winding wool is a nice way to slow down, breathe, and enjoy the process.

  • i use a swift and ball winder. Too impatient to wind by hand!

  • I wind my yarn with a Stanwood winder and umbrella swift attached to my kitchen table.

  • I use whatever method works for the yarn. Some yarn is too slippery or doesn’t hold to its fellow yarn strands to wind with a winder and swift. Skeins with lots of yardage are easier to me to wind with the swift and winder, We all have our ways–best to do what works for the yarn and person winding.

  • My two armed husband serves as an indispensable yarn tree while I roll up the yarn. This works best during baseball pennant races or world series play.

    • Same!

  • Place the skein over the back of a high-backed, padded chair and hand wind. It is the perfect height for me to unwind walking backward and wind moving forward. It feels better moving my entire body than just arms and back.

  • I still wind my yarn by hand….it takes me back to when I was a kid and held the skein looped over my hands while my mom wound it into a ball….. I had to pay attention and dip and swirl the skein so it wouldn’t slip off my hands. Nowadays I’m winding solo using the back of the dining room chair…it’s not nearly as fun, but I still enjoy the memories.

  • I use a swift and winder. I still run my yarn though my fingers also while winding.

  • I use a nifty little yarn winder I bought years ago. Unless it’s very small amount of yarn — say, for socks. Then I hand-wind.

  • Start with plastic ball winder, remove tangled mess from ball winder, finish by hand

  • I have an antique yarn winder that holds my untwisted hank and I will use my ball winder (if it’s out) or wind a center pull ball by hand. I agree, winding a ball myself gives me a chance to experience my yarn a first/extra time-I always turn down ball winding offers at yarn shops!

  • Ah yes the winding…
    Well as luck would have it I actually do have a Swift, winder and a husband who teaches physics and finds it absolutely fascinating to wind yarn. (He has even filmed it for class. Ha!) So I’m going to call that a win in a couple different columns.

  • Swift and hand crank winder. Then I put the cakes in “yarn bras” so they don’t unwind from the outside as I pull from the inside to knit.

  • I started by hand-winding around a short length of PVC pipe with the skein around my knees, but it only took one project using 1200 yards of fingering weight to realize I’d be happier with a swift and a winder! They happened to go on sale at KitPicks exactly when I needed them, and I’ve been happily swifting since. The shoulder-breaking work then lasts mere minutes rather than the hours it takes to hand-wind!

  • I don’t wind my yarn, my husband does. And he tucks in the tag in the middle so I know which one it is when I start knitting it too. Which is funny because he bought me the swift one Christmas years ago, but I rarely use it. Once I get some yarn that needs winding, it magically winds itself. (Yarn Hop in two weeks ya’ll. It’s gonna wind up neatly!)

  • I use a swift and ball winder. Whenever I try to hand-wind (out of laziness – not wanting to get out and set up the equipment) I seem to end up with a yarn barf. I do knit a lot of fingering-weight, which tends to be tanglier for me, so I’ll hand-wind more often and with more success when I use bigger yarns.

  • I use a yarn winder and swift to wind my yarn

  • I have a home made yarn skeiner for winding (and measuring) off a cone, and a yarn ball winder. A recent project had me winding balls by hand, using a skein with a knot in the center (weighed on a scale) for diagonal washcloths.

  • I wind my yarn by hand, usually at work(in between patients-I’m an X-ray tech) because I can loop it around a cart that has handles. That way my cat at home can’t get into trouble with me!

  • About 15 years ago, I bought an umbrella swift at our local thrift store for $.25, yep, just a quarter! I got a crank ball winder on our local free cycle group for free. After a couple of years one of the arms broke on the swift. My hubby fixed it with a popsicle stick. No other issues since then, both have served me well, saving me time and making perfect cakes.

  • I use a wooden swift and ball winder.

  • I use a yarn swift and ball winder whenever possible because I’m usually itching to get started on my project.

  • I consider winding the yarn to be the first step in any new project and enjoy it. I drape a skein over two chair backs and go slowly, watching for knots. This way, I won’t find knots in the middle of a row. If my arms get tired, I leave it for a while. This is easier now that there are no children in the house! I used to use a ball winder that attached to a table but it always came loose and was more trouble than pleasure, so it is gone. Happy winding!

  • I use an umbrella swift and a ball winder for my yarn…I’ve had several orthopedic surgeries on my hands and arms and I want to save all the action for knitting, not winding 😉

  • Antique clock winder and counting revolutions since the wooden counter is missing a cog- or the blue/white ball winder- or the niddynoddy- or the chair back- or the hubby or daughter w their hands extended…. or even the end if the kitchen island if all else fails!!

  • I place the skein over the back of my late grandmother’s rocking chair. I like thinking of her and find the practice quite meditative.

  • Queen of the umbrella swift here.

  • I use an Amish-style maple swift and my Starwood winder. The winder lives on my desk so is always in view even when I’m doing my work-from-home work. Sometimes I hand-wind but I like the speed of using the swift.

  • I use a swift now but some lovely memories with my mother are holding a skein of yarn with wide arms and doing the dipping and bending yarn- winding dance while she wound it in a ball. I’m the third of seven so time alone with her was precious

  • Both! I have a heavy duty Stanwood winder a friend gave me, and a swift with a broken leg jerry-rigged with duct tape. If I have multiple balls to wind, I’ll use it. But it always needs a hand guiding the yarn, and it can be exhausting. Preferred method? either the back of a chair or my own feet. There’s something very satisfying about getting to know every inch of a skein before you knit it!

  • I usually wind with a swift and ball winder, but have wound many balls by hand also. I’m careful to get “squishy” cakes, so that the yarn isn’t stretched. My feline assistant is eager to help, regardless of which method I choose!

  • I hand wind my yarn. Contraptions need are too much of a temptation for my kiddo to use to build contraptions of his own.

  • I like to wind by hand!

  • I wind mine either on my thumb following Andrea Mowry’s method (what?!) for smaller skeins or I use my Nostepinne for bigger skeins.

  • Always wind by hand. It is a time to slow down and think or listen.

  • I always wind my own yarn on my own swift. I like to feel and get to know the yarn before starting a project. I began spinning several years ago, and have never looked at yarn the same way since!!! A VERY good thing.

  • I hand-wind my yarn. I have a swift and a ball winder however I don’t want to clamp them to my beautiful ebony espresso dining table. And there’s no one around in town that winds anymore 🙁

  • I use a swift and ball winder. My 2 yr old grand daughter has helped and with lots of supervision and going very slowly, she did a good job.

  • Sometimes I take it to work and hang it over the door lever and wind it- keeps it away from the cats.

  • Mostly by hand. My husband graciously volunteers to hold the skein. Been known to wind yarn on an airplane and on often on car road trips with the skein across my knees.

  • I have a fabulous locally made amish swift and enjoy the process

  • If I’m winding a sweater quantity, then I fight with my swift and winder. For smaller quantities I wind by hand over whatever surface that’s most convenient (dining room chairs, pillows, knees.)

  • When I was a kid, my grandmother had me wind skeins with her. When I asked why we had to do this, she said that it avoids problems later. I have found this advice to be true throughout life. Always do your best to avoid problems, if you can!

  • I wind by hand, using my knees to hold the skein. It’s not the fastest technique, especially when dealing with lace weight, but it’s meditative. And it works anywhere for those times when I’ve found a yarn store and CANNOT WAIT to get my hands on the luscious yarn I’ve just bought. (Though skeins are much easier to cram into the nooks and crannies of a suitcase!)

  • Lucky me. I have a yarn room with a permanent set up of swift and ball winder. I totally agree that winding your yarn yourself is the best way of starting to become well acquainted with it. The first step in the journey just watching blocking and making a beautiful piece of knitting.

  • I prefer to use my swift but I will wind by hand if necessary.

  • I use a ball winder and beautiful maple swift, but I don’t go the speed of mind-numbingly fast for just those reasons. Yes you find knots (Noro is notorius for knots) but they delay the whole process when you are going super-fast, it pops out of your hand and yarn goes a’flying.

  • I wind yarn over my knees or the back of a chair with a beautiful walnut nostepinne. I love to feel the yarn through my fingers and can sort out knots and/or weak spots.

  • I pay a grandchild to stand and hold the skein. Win-win in my book!

  • I wind my yarn by hand placing it on the back of a kitchen chair. I do it slowly and enjoy it because it means I’m about to cast on a new project!

  • By hand with yarn around my knees. I have a wooden umbrella swift and a winder, but actually enjoy hand winding. As you said, getting to know the yarn. Would love that skein of Gleem! A Hap for Harriet has been on my list for some time.

    annie (whose first name is Harriet)

  • I like both methods…a wooden tabketop swift and a plastic cake winder when I have a lot to wind, or the back of a chair to make one or two center pull balls by hand. My “yarn amoebas” (love that description!) tend to be the tangled messes I have to straighten out with some hand winding.

  • I prefer to wind my own yarn for the reasons stated – I learn a lot about the yarn that way. I have a Japanese plastic and metal umbrella swift (which the company calls a winder) and a 13-14 year old inexpensive winder that still works great as long as I’m careful to orient the tension arm just so. Biggest problem – finding a place to clamp them down where I can watch TV as I wind.

  • I love my swift and ball winder. They are permanently set up on a $25 IKEA saw horse. Starting on the swift give me such a sense of hope…my yarn is about to be transformed

  • By hand. I’m too cheap to spend the money on a swift and I really like to wrap it gently and loosely. And feel all the squishy goodness as I go!

  • I use a swifter and ball winder. My husband has repaired my swifter many times. I sometimes use my knees and wind while sitting on the couch! Balls are easier to use then the cakes anyway!

  • I have a swift and ball-winder, and they’re loads of fun – but I really do prefer hand-winding. I sit on the couch in front of some televised entertainment, open up the skein and hang it around my knees, and wind away. It gives me some quality time with my yarn even before I start knitting with it, and I like that.

  • Wooden swift and plastic ball winder. When they’re around, I’ll pay a kid or grandkid to do the winding. Helps them, helps me. I don’t mind giving my LYS the chance to do the winding as well, just for a few more minutes to chat.

  • Swift and winder, loosely, all the way!

  • By hand and also with a swift! Usually end up doing both since I usually spin to fast and through the cake off before it’s complete!

  • I either use the weasel I have which is finicky. Or wind it by hand depending on size of the skein.

  • It all depends on where I am. If I’m home and working in the kitchen, I set up my swift and ball winder and wind many many skeins at once. That way I’m set for a while. Otherwise, if I’m outside or camping, I open the skein and drape it on my feet or on whatever I have available and hand wind it. I agree it is a great way to build a relationship with your yarn. In any case I always put the wound skeins in zip lock bags with the ball bands for identification. I like the ease of the swift and ball winder, but my skeins always seem very tight when I use that method. As if the yarns are being stretched. Any advice for being able to wind from a swift and have them not be stretched so tight?

  • thank you! now i have “the long and winding road” playing in my head. i have a nice swift and a hand-cranked winder thing, but unless i’m in a big hurry i always wind my yarn by hand. i sit on the couch, hold the skein with my knees, and wind away. it’s meditative, and i get to enjoy the subtle color variations that probably caused me to bring the yarn home with me in the first place.

  • I use a ball winder and a table top swift that makes it easy to control the speed. Used to have an umbrella swift but it had a mind of it’s own and caused me one too many disasters with tangled yarn!

  • I load the yarn onto my umbrella swift on the dining room table, roll my butcher block cart as close as I can get, attach ball winder to the cart, and sort of throw my body across table/cart to keep the yarn flowing freely. It could be an Olympic Event!

  • I wind my yarn in cakes with the plastic winder I bought years ago for $1 in a thrift store. It was missing its spool so I taped on an empty toilet paper roll. It’s wonky like me so it suits fine

  • After years of hand-winding — and I’ve been knitting and crocheting since I was 6 — I finally invested in a swift and winder about 10 years ago. I’ve never been happier. Saved my elbows, at least, if not my shoulders as well.

  • My husband made a Niddi-noddi for me which is a short tapered smooth wood rod with a handle and a little notch at the top to put the start of the yarn and then you start winding.

  • I’m a swift and ball-winder person, although I do appreciate the reasons for hand winding. Mostly I’m just anxious to get knitting. But maybe I’ll try it for my next project.

  • I have a swift and a winder, but chose to throw the skeins around my knees, sitting on a chair or on the bed, or yes I have done this on the commuter train on my way into NY.

  • I live in a 27 ft motorhome, with 2 small furbabies. I get the little table from under the couch, clear the area in the front room and set the table up. I then go outside to get the swift from the basement of the coach and set it up. I put my 2 furbabies outside, put the the yarn on the swift, turn the handle and sit back to enjoy a very pleasant time seeing the yarn magically get ready to knit in beautifully shaped cones.

  • Are you kidding me?! Of course I use a swift and winder. And grateful I do not have nor will ever have a cat!

  • Hand winding for sure! I love the sensation of the yarn shifting shapes and get more excited about the finished project1

  • When I wind, I have an Amish swift and I wind onto either a toilet paper roll or paper towel roll.

  • I use an umbrella swift and a ball winder, tensioning gently with my hand between them.

  • Sometimes the swift way and sometimes by hand. Depends on where I am and how I feel. Hauling out the swift and calming the cranky winder is often beyond my patience.

  • I ask my lys to do it lol

  • I wind by hand. Skien around the knees and wind into a traditional ball. However, sometimes I like to hand wind a cake too! To do that I wrap the yarn in a lovely diagonal around a 6mm straight needle. Spinning the needles as well as I go! I’d like a swift to replace my knees/lap, but I don’t think I’ll ever go to a ball winder!

  • Wooden swift and Boye electric winder. It suctions down to the coffee table, has variable speed, and leaves a center core where the yarn label can be put. It’s almost hypnotic to watch it winding, and reminds me of ironing–another task that takes the chaotic or messy and makes it smooth and useful–kind of therapy for these days.

  • Depends. If the hank of yarn is nice and untangled, I use an Amish swift. If it is something I hand-dyed and has some tangles or is slightly felted, I wind into a ball by hand. Unknotting yarn can be addicting though. Can’t put it down until finished.

  • I have spent way too many hours untangling a mess I created from hand winding to ever do it again. I have a swift and a ball winder and I know how to use them.

  • For years I used a pill bottle as a makeshift nostepinne and draped the skein over a chair. Looking back, what was I thinking? I knit WAY too much for this method. For real.

    I bought a swift awhile ago and a friend gave me a Lacis ballwinder. I haven’t looked back…we’ll, until now. HA!

  • I use a swift and hand crank ball winder which has always worked just fine for me.

  • I love using my ball winder and wooden swift. Whatever makes you happy is the way to go.

  • Wind on my winder at the kitchen table!

  • Typically with my cheap metal swift and my trusty Royal ball winder. I’ve owned 2 beautiful wooden swifts, only to have them fail, so on recommendation of a LYS owner, I purchased the most rickety looking metal swift which has yet to disappoint me. I’ve also been known to occasionally hand wind a ball, holding the yarn with my feet (it’s just me and the cat at home and she’s not inclined to assist).

  • Husband holds the skein, I wind 🙂

  • I wind the ball with the yarn around my knees, a chair back, or a handy relative.
    Always fun to read DG, and have another chance at a giveaway!

  • When my boys were young and were fussing with each other, I would make one hold the skein and the other wind the ball. They had to sit close and not fight. If they made a mess, they were in big trouble.

  • I wind yarn by draping it over my knees or the back of a chair. It’s cathartic and I do get to see the yarn…nut I’m not opposed to have a skein wound professionally once in a while.

  • I wind my yarn using a ball winder and swift I got years ago. If my kids are bored, they liked to do the winding while I watch for knots and make sure the yarn doesn’t get hung up in the swift.

  • I use an umbrella swift and a ball winder, when I have to (when the nice people at my LYS are too busy to do any for me, and I don’t expect them to do a whole sweater’s worth, eeh gads!), but the winder was labeled “commercial,” which means one must duct tape part of it to the table and shout cuss words at it to get it to wind properly.

  • I use a ball winder and a wooden swift. I love the process and do it slowly enough that I do see any knots or irregularities that need fixed. To each whatever makes them joyful.

  • It depends on my mood, it seems. Sometimes I hand-wind, sometimes I go for the swift and ball-winder. The latter has often turned into a deeply frustrating experience, though!

  • It depends on the size of the skein and how tangled it all is…

  • My DH bought me a swift and ball winder for Christmas because my beloved LYS (Wasatch and Wool Yarns) closed her doors last winter. I only wind the yarn just in time to use it. Prior to having my own swift, my LYS wound the yarn for me or I would hand-wind at home over a chair.

  • Well I USED to use a winder and swift… until we had to move out of our house that is being remodeled. I KNOW I used it the week before we moved into the house we are renting… BUT my husband and I can’t find it anywhere! Seriously how can you loose something that big?? So now I’m forced to find things like chairs or stools to hold my yarn while I hand wind, Yuck! Yes i do know the skein more intimately but I just want to start of my project faster. And it still bugs me where they could have disappeared to…

  • I always wind my wind my own. Once over the steering wheel of my car on a long wait for one of the kids. It got hopelessly tangled inside the column and I couldn’t get it out and had to go to the dealer for help. A few odd looks were seen! Now I always stick to my knees.

  • I hang the skein over a door for a bit to relax the givers and then I use a ball winder and swift

  • Sometimes by hand, sometimes with a swift and winder. With hand-winding, my husband likes to hold the yarn but if he is busy and I’m in a hurry, I lay the skein out on the couch and wind from there, it works better for me than the knee method!

  • Sadly, for the last 3 years, yarn-winding has been a solo sport for me…I throw it on the swift and get it over with as fast as possible, trying hard to not get teary.
    Sounds dramatic, I know, but for the prior 17 years, my son was my winding partner. Once, in middle school, he noticed I’d wound some skeins by myself (I assumed he had outgrown the team sport aspect), and he was genuinely upset.
    So, until he left for college, if I had yarn to wind, I’d put it on the coffee table and when he saw it, he’d matter-of-factly let me know when he’d be “available” to help wind it.
    Did I seek out yarn that only came in skeins? Maybe. Am I planning to buy an insane amount of yarn that needs to be wound right before his Winter break? You bet!

  • After 391 comments, do I have anything worthwhile to add? Sometime in the early issues of Vogue Knitting,, the restart in the 80’s, I learned that you could handball your own yarn with a center pull. About the same time I discovered better yarn in skeins. No hubby and dining chairs never worked very well. Discovered Swift and plastic ball winder, and finally purchased. But never completely happy, discussed my issues with my yarn group, never mind the problem, see 391 comments. I’ve just found something I’m happy with: put it on the plastic swift, using piece of corrugated cardboard that I can roll to the size of center pull I want for the type of yarn, and wind around the bottom of tube, I do like a flat bottom, I don’t want the tension pulled out of the yarn as I ball it. Imagine my surprise when I discovered my home-made method is called nostapinne, check spelling. I will investigate expensive wooden sticks when my piece of corrugated cardboard wears out. Phyllis

  • I wind my yarn using my swift, although sometimes I also do it by hand (especially if the cake gets too loose for some reason)

  • I use the umbrella swift and my ball winder that I purchased over fifty years ago. Still working great. Other times, I will wind my hand spun by hand.

  • Hand wind, off an Amish swift while watching tv.