Balling

I think I’ve reached the point in my life where I need to invest in at least a swift. Maybe a ball winder, too.
I used to love to wind my balls by hand. It was extra contact time with my yarn. I got a good feel for what properties the yarn had and an understanding of how it would behave. I used to be a pretty slow knitter and the extra time it took to wind a ball of yarn didn’t matter much to me. I wouldn’t have to wind a ball very often so it was a nice occasional change of pace.

Day 07

Balling yarn has recently become really obnoxious. I knit fairly quickly now and having to stop to wind a new ball of yarn is generally annoying. I have to strategically plan my winding. I stretch the skein across my knees so I have to be sure that I’ll have enough uninterrupted time to wind the whole thing before I start. I also have to plan ahead if I know I’m going to need to ball yarn when around other people. I have to remember to wear jeans!

Do you ball your yarn by hand? Is it fun for you? Are there any secret tips or tricks that I’m unaware of or is it really time to get a swift?

42 Responses to “Balling”

  1. Paula says:

    I think that buying a ball winder was one of my best decisions! It’s so fun to watch how fast you can make a very comfortable to use yarn-cake. I have a swift from my grandmother and it’s quite old. I rarely ball little skein by hand. Don’t hesitate!

  2. Amber says:

    A ball winder then a swift were something I got as soon as I knew I was serious about knitting! The time it took, not to mention the tangles, in winding a ball didn’t really appeal to my ‘want to knit it now’! (I think also, that I always tended to wind balls too tightly and then read somewhere that this can cause the wool to loose it’s elasticity, so that was anohter good reason for me.)

    Just do it, you’ll never look back!

  3. Shadow Byrd says:

    It really depends for me. Normally I love hand winding it and would like to get a Nostepinne to help out. But when I started doing commissions and had 3 shawls each needing 6 skeins of lace, 440 yards each I decided to splurge. I love my ball winder but I’m only going to use it for things that I’m somewhat on a time limit on. I really love doing my balls by hand and that time with the yarn.

  4. rilana says:

    I used to love to wind my yarn by hand. I now have a ball winder thingy. I love the flat cakes that it makes of the yarn…more stack-able. I don’t have a swift, though. It is most annoying. I do have a Husband that is my stand in swift. He stands there with the yarn around his arms, for me. I figured that eventually he will get tired of doing this and buy me a swift. We will see…He he he.

  5. Anushka says:

    It can be relaxing, in front of a movie for instance. But yes, mostly it is time consuming, and my skeins always end up getting horribly, terribly tangled up! Best idea for me was to get someone else to do it….!

  6. Iz says:

    I hate winding by hand but I’m too cheap to purchase a swift and ballwinder. I also don’t have room for it. I have a nostepinne which helps and what I work with is usually already in a center pull or in a small enough skein where it takes me half an hour. When it gets to sock yarn though I usually want to die. One skein of berroco ultra alpaca fine takes me about two hours?

  7. Iz says:

    And I sit cross-legged and wrap it around my knees too so my legs are pretty tired from holding up the yarn.

  8. Audry says:

    When I bought my ball winder and swift, I didn’t know why it took me so long to do so. Balling yarn by hand really took too long as compared to the amount of knitting I was (and am) doing. You won’t regret the purchase.

  9. Lisa S. says:

    Invest in a good, wooden swift. The cheap metal ones are just that–cheap. Until then, I recommend turning a dining room-type chair upside down and using the legs.

    Next thing you know, you’ll want a spinning wheel so you can make your own yarn. That comes with a long list of potential toys.

    Lisa S. in Seattle

  10. Jesse says:

    Yep, I’m a hand-winder too. I am still a slow knitter, and I still enjoy feeling the yarn. That being said, I hate winding sock yarn! And my legs get cramped. And if I’m really honest with myself, I think I mainly won’t buy a winder because I think they’re ugly and I have nowhere to put it where I don’t have to see it when I’m not using it. I suffer for my shallow-ness.

    • Andi says:

      I probably have room to store one where I’m currently living, but I know myself too well. It would totally get left out all the time and I kind of think they’re ugly, too.

  11. Sam says:

    I used to do it the same way but asked for a swift and ball winder from knit picks for my birthday in february and i love them. Sure, it’s nice to get the yarn contact, i agree. “it’s still playing with yarn” i would think, but really, winding it is super fun too! And way faster. Much less of a hassle, FOR SURE, and less oppourtunity to tangle.

  12. Psycheknits says:

    Where do you purchase your yarn? Whenever I buy new yarn, it’s usually at my LYS (not recently because I haven’t purchased yarn in a long time), but they always allow me to use their ball winder. Or you could borrow one from a friend? I plan out my ball winding needs to coincide with visits to locations that have one… hate winding by hand!

  13. Cecilia says:

    I love my swift. I love the ballwinder, too, but if you were only going to get one I’d say get the swift. It’s useful for more than just holding the skein while you wind it: you can also knit straight from it, or use it to re-skein frogged yarn, or use it to measure yardage.
    But if you’re going to be winding a ball in public, you probably aren’t going to have your swift with you anyways. When I find myself caught without a swift, I either throw the skein over my feet or knees and unwind from there or I throw it over my shoulder and knit straight from the hank. It works!

    • Andi says:

      When I said I’m balling yarn around other people I meant in my own living room! I live with two other people and there tend to be friends around all the time so, while it’s not in public, it’s not very private either. =)

  14. Misiula says:

    I don’t have a swift yet and have no idea when I’ll be getting one. I need it but dread adding to the things I will have to move with me when I relocate next… I do have a ball winder – from KnitPicks – and really love it. The center-pull balls are very neat to work with.

  15. Hannah says:

    I usually unwind my yarn into a box, and then wind it back up after that. (Not recommended for mohair.. ask me how I know) So long as you keep track of your end, you will wind it out of the box in the same order it went in so it’ll be free of tangles! Then you can also walk away from said box for awhile before winding so it’s not a totally arduous process.

  16. Ellen says:

    I didn’t realise so many people used their knees to wind? My method is to plonk the skein over my clotheshorse (one where all the racks are angled), pull up a chair to sit on and wind the yarn onto an old toilet roll held at 45°. If you tuck the yarn into the middle of the roll before you start winding you get a perfect ready-to-go centre pull cake. I find winding DK weight a snap but I tried winding lace yarn once and it SUCKED. I have never heard anything bad about ball winders though. I kinda want one of these: http://unionbridge.org/design/yarn-monster

  17. I absolutely adore my ball winder and wouldn’t be without it. If you are patient and have the time/inclination to check every day or two, it might be worth stalking eBay. I bought my Jumbo Ball Winder (for winding Jumbo Balls) from eBay where it was listed as a Wool Winder, practically new for under £10 postage included.

    I’d rather have a ball winder than a swift if I had to choose between the two. I’ve had the ball winder for a while now but only had the swift a short amount of time. When using the ball wonder alone I’d put the skein over the back of a chair and free up five or eight loops and wind them on. Now I have a willing second set of second hands if I ever found myself without the vintage swift Steph sent me, so if you have a helpful pair of hands you can easily ball a skein of yarn in 2 minutes, plus having centre-pull skeins does help with some projects (knitting from both ends of a Zauberball, for example.

  18. Jules says:

    I got a ball winder fairly early in my knitting but only got the swift 2 Christmases ago. I too wound skeins from my knees or the back of my dining room chair and after many years and tears of winding knotty tangled sock yarn I cried uncle and got myself the swift. It has a permanent home on my breakfast bar, that’s how much I love my swift.

    I vaguely remember a YH blog post where she wrote about a fellow knitter who knit from unwound skeins. That technique blew my mind although if I tried it the hank would become a knotty mess.

  19. Kelly says:

    uggggg I hate winding with a swift and ball winder never mind by hand. I’d definitely invest!

  20. KnittingPony says:

    Three things convinced me to get a lovely wooden swift and ball winder, and I’ve never regretted spending the money on them:
    1. A knotty mess of a skein that I had to resort to breaking down into 4 small balls. Never again!
    2. My tendency to buy skeins of yarn from independent yarn shops rather than balls of yarn from department stores
    3. The need to cast on NOW!

  21. Brianna says:

    I guess I always wondered why shops never balled their yarn to begin with!

    • Andi says:

      Winding balls and letting them sit around for ages can cause your yarn to stretch which will mess with your gauge. If you wind your ball perfectly it’s not a problem, but that doesn’t always happen when you’re winding a big pile of yarn.

  22. Nicole says:

    I got a ball winder and a swift for Christmas and it was one of the best gifts ever. I definitely definitely definitely recommend getting one.

  23. Nisse says:

    I think investing in a yarn swift might be worth it. I don’t have one, but a friend of one has.

    I always wind my yarn the old-fashioned way: two chairs and lots of dancing around them.

  24. Halfpint says:

    The swift is totally worth it. Ball winders are nice and can be fun, but I often just wind mine by hand anyway using the swift so I don’t have to sit with the skein around my knees.

  25. June L says:

    I have both a Swift and a winder but still opt to wind a lot of my yarn by hand – Why?……I have no idea other than i enjoy it and it reminds me of my Mother who always enjoyed winding ‘wool’ and left a hole in the middle where her thumb had been…….

  26. Katya says:

    I bought a swift and ball winder years ago, best investment ever. Before that I did use an old lace spool to make center-pull hand wound balls which made things a little more painless. I will say that my ball winder/swift tend to wind things rather tight and I’ve heard that the tension isn’t so good for more fragile fibers, so I’ll re-wind them again from the new ball and it’s a little looser.

  27. Hi Andy, I’m a hand winder too, Hello!
    I was using my knees to hold the skeins too, until I found my orange retro chairs that you can see in my picture of day 2 of a month of craft photos. I would definitely buy a swift and ball winder if I had enough money to spend. But right now I really prefer spend my little money on yarn!
    Did you ever think about using your tripod to hold your yarn when you wind it? I never tried but I’m going try next time I have a ball to wind.

  28. Just realised I misspelled your name, sorry Andi!

  29. I’m thinking of buying a winder and a swift, too. I wanted to wait and see how serious I was about knitting and crochet first. I think it’s safe to say I’m hooked.

  30. Noreen says:

    With the voracity of your knitting appetite, yes…time for a swift and ball winder. I didn’t read all the comments, but you might try this as a swift. It actually works fairly well. Do you have a lap with a shade that is angled outward at the bottom? (If not, they are very cheap and you could buy one.) Take the finial off the top of a lamp. Put the angled shade on it. Drape your yarn over the shade. (This doesn’t work well –obviously–for larger skeins.) Then just start winding. The shade will twirl and you’ll have a home made swift.

    That being said, I was gifted a good wooden swift about 30 years and it’s still going strong. So’s my original Royal ball winder (but I recently bought a Strauch–that’s another story, though.)

  31. Jacey says:

    I have had a swift and ball-winder for several years now. I do appreciate the ease it gives me with winding. I know you knit a great deal more than me, so I would probably vote for purchasing one of each. I agree with others that if you get one or the other, a ball-winder would probably be my choice.

    And seriously, that picture of the Quince is lush!

  32. robbie. says:

    i’m using a ball winder now, but still do the knee-swift-thing. ugh! it’s time for both of us to get a swift, i think!

  33. Eva says:

    I don’t actually wrap the yarn around my knees just sort of lay it out across my lap.
    One thing I’ve noticed is that I’m much slower when I try to make a center pull ball when winding directly from the skein, plus it can get messy and instead of a yarn cake I end up with a yarn pyramid.
    So I stick with making a simple/regular ball. The only problem there can be that the ball gets a bit big by the end so I have to pay more attention to avoid stretching it when winding.
    But in all seriousness I’d probably buy both a swift and a winder if I could get it at the LYS and my budget allowed it. As it stands I’m sticking to my wind by hand method for the time being.

  34. Meghan says:

    I was given a ball winder last summer by a widow who’s wife was a crocheter and once I got it I couldn’t believe I hadn’t gotten one sooner! I use it ALL the time. I’d love to get a swift too.

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