When it comes to knitting, one of the most time-consuming parts of preparation for a project is the process of winding skeins of yarn into compact, easy-to-knit balls. While you can knit from a skein, the yarn strand does not come from a single point in the skein, causing the fibers to tangle and fray from the constant friction. If you wind yarn into a ball before you knit from it, then you will find that you can easily pull yarn from a single, static point every time that you knit. There are no worries associated with leaving a ball unattended in your stash and coming back to find it tangled and knotted. Additionally, the yarn itself stays in better condition, meaning that your finished product will reflect the quality of the yarn when you bought it.

Why You Should Knit from Balls, Not Skeins

Although the benefits associated with using a yarn ball are significant, the process of winding a ball can be difficult without the proper tools. You can wind yarn balls by hand using the figure-eight method, which requires that you wind the yarn between two hands, holding it in place by your thumbs. Once you have a thick figure eight of yarn, you fold the structure in half and begin winding in a single direction until the material forms a ball. The entire time, you need to hold the beginning strand of yarn in place with another finger to ensure that it does not slip. This beginning strand will end up reaching from the center to the outside of the ball, where it will cleanly unravel the yarn without any potential of tangling. Luckily, there is another way to achieve this long, tedious process without the by-hand process.  

What to Look for in a Yarn Ball Winder

Every yarn ball winder works by a singular mechanism, in the form of a handle-operated claw that seamlessly winds the yarn into a functional, center-pull ball. Some winders have uniquely designed claws for smoother operation and a better-looking ball, while still others are automated instead of hand-operated. These work the best when integrated with a secondary device such as an Amish yarn swift, although you don’t need a swift to make balls with a winder. Either way, you should ensure that your yarn ball winder is solidly constructed and has a warranty to back up its performance. Another key component is the clamp on the base, which holds the winder in place while you work at your desk or table.

The device might be tabletop-sized or it may be even more compact, and the size of the winder will determine the size of the skein that is appropriate. If you regularly work with very long skeins, you will want to use a device that can handle heavier, bulkier yarn. Also, consider the material of both the winder and the swift, if applicable. Metal is strong and long lasting, but wood is just flexible enough to provide more grip and easier application.