Introduction: DIY Yarn Winder | Cardboard Knitting Gadget!

About: Multi-crafter, jewellery maker, card designer and frequent procrastinator.

I've seen a few different yarn winders available to buy - some purely mechanical and some battery-powered - ranging from about £10 to £100 or more.

I liked the idea of being able to turn my yarn into centre-pull balls of yarn that wouldn't roll all over the table whilst I'm knitting, so I decided to try and make one from cardboard. This way, it only cost me pennies!

Although the result is perhaps a little more labour intensive to use than the store-bought ones, it does the job :)

I hope you enjoy this Instructable!

Step 1: What You Will Need

- 2 Toilet rolls or (preferably) a clingfilm/foil tube that has thick sides and is therefore stronger. I didn't have a thick-sided tube so I used toilet rolls and strengthened them instead.

- Cardboard: I used 2 different types of card...thin card from a cereal box, and corrugated card from packaging.

- Large utility knife & cutting mat

- Glue: You'll need a superglue and a PVA glue. I used UHU all-purpose adhesive, and Aleene's Tacky Glue.

- Sellotape/narrow duct tape

- Scissors

- Metal ruler

- Pencil

- Wire cutters

- An awl: or other tool to add a hole to cardboard

- Wire - about 30 cm: I used aluminium modelling wire because it's easy to shape, but something stiffer may be better.

- Jewellery pliers or a pen (or similar) to shape the wire into a coil.

- Yarn to wind. You may also find a yarn bowl handy if you have one.

- A heavy book and/or a small clamp.

- Items to finish/decorate your finished yarn winder (optional): I used book pages, PVA glue, a brush and black duct tape. You could use paint or anything else you wish.

- Yarn bowl (optional)

Step 2: Cutting & Reinforcing the Cardboard Tubes

You first need to take 1 toilet roll and cut it diagonally at a 45 degree angle (whilst the roll is pressed flat).

You then need to reinforce both toilet rolls to add strength.

(NOTE: If you are using a strong tube - for instance from a roll of kitchen foil - then you don't have to reinforce it. Instead, cut it into 2 lengths, approx. 4"/10.5 cm long, and then cut a 45 degree angle off one of these lengths.)

Write out the measurements of the tubes i.e. the lengths and the diameter. The diameter of mine was 3.8 cm so I cut a couple of strips of card (from a cereal box) that were this width.

Cut these strips into 4 lengths (2 per tube) so that they will fit into the tubes. Each pair of card pieces must have slots cut into them, as shown in the photos, so that they slot together at 90 degrees to each other.

These slotted-together pieces are then inserted into the tubes to add strength and stop them from collapsing in on themselves.

Tape the card pieces in place to stop them moving.

Step 3: Cut Out the Base

Cut 3 shapes out of corrugated cardboard; 1 being the main rectangle shape, and the other 2 being the same sized rectangle shape but with an extra section on one of the long sides (see photo).

In my case, my main rectangle shape was approx. 22 cm (8.5") x 12.5 cm (5"). This is the smallest I would recommend making the base. The extra section in the centre of one side of my base measured 6 cm (2.25") wide and 5 cm (2") long.

Glue these 3 layers together so that the piece without the extra section on the side is at the bottom of the stack. This is the correct orientation of the cardboard, with the rectangle piece being the bottom of the base.

Leave to dry.

Place the cardboard shape right-side-up on a cutting mat, and use a utility/craft knife cut a circle in one side*. This circle needs to be just big enough for the card tube to be able to rotate freely inside it.

The hole I made was 2.5 cm (1") from the edge, and you don't want it closer to the edge than that.

I taped around the hole so the rough card wouldn't catch on theh tube.

* It doesn't matter particularly which side, unless you want to feed the yarn from a particular side. In my case, I wanted to feed the yarn with my right hand so I created the hole 'south-west' of the extra section of card when the extra section is positioned on the right.

Step 4: Assembling the Yarn Holder

Next, add tops and bases to each card tube, as shown. I just cut these circles out of cereal box card so that they were very slightly larger than the tube diameters, then superglued them in place. Leave to dry.

Slice through the top of the straight tube, preferably (unlike me) cutting through the centre of the card top. The slit should be about 1 cm deep all across the top of the tube.

Cut out a circle of corrugated card, which will hold up the ball of yarn. I made mine about 9 cm (3.75") in diameter.

Glue this circle onto the top of the diagonally-cut tube, and leave to dry.

On the other side of this cardboard circle, you then need to glue the other tube to the centre. Again, leave to dry.

Cut out a square of corrugated cardboard, about the same width as the circle you previously cut out. Use your knife to cut an asterisk-type pattern into the cardboard, just wide enough for the diagonally-cut tube to fit inside.

Make sure the triangles point upwards along the tube, as shown, and then glue the triangles to the tube. Leave to dry.

Step 5: Add the Wire Guide

Measure the distance between the square of corrugated cardboard you just glued onto your card tube, and halfway up the 'yarn holder' tube. This is how high above the cardboard base you want the coil of wire to sit. In my case this was 9 cm (3.5").

Use pliers or other tool to spiral one end of some aluminium wire.

Add a hole to the sticking-out section of the base, roughly in the centre, making sure it's at least 7.5 cm (3") away from the larger hole you have cut out. I used an awl to do this.

Push the wire up through this hole, and superglue in place. Then cut out a rectangle of cardboard that is the same size as the sticking-out section, and glue this on top of the spiral. Leave to dry.

Then you need to add the coil into the wire, making sure it is plenty big enough for yarn to go through. Make 2 rotations with the wire and cut off the excess. This guide should face towards the hole in the base.

Step 6: Final Assembly

(Note that I wrapped duct tape around where I glued the square of card onto the tube, to hide that messy join ;))

Push the yarn-holder-tube-contraption down through the hole in the base.

Then make a disc of cardboard using the same asterisk-pattern cuts, again to fit over the diagonally-cut tube. Push this disc onto the tube, making sure the triangles are pointing downwards. Then glue the triangles in place. Again, leave to dry ...and then hide the join with duct tape!

I also added another square of cardboard, and a glued-together stack of small squares of cardboard, onto the bottom of the tube to form a handle/turning mechanism. This handle could definitely be improved upon, in hindsight.

I wrapped the little handle in duct tape to cover the rough edges and left it to dry.

Step 7: Test Run

Before doing any decorating (if you want to), it's time to give it a test run!

I weighted one side of the base to the table with a heavy book, and fed the end of a ball of yarn into the guide, and down through the slot in the top of the 'yarn holder' tube.

Then I turned the base of the diagonally-cut tube section clockwise to wind the yarn, whilst keeping some tension in the yarn by passing it through my right hand before it reaches the guide

NOTE: Every 25 turns or so, I rotated the growing ball of yarn a fraction clockwise on the 'yarn holder' tube so that the yarn didn't keep adding to the same area of the tube. This is important to get a more even ball of yarn at the end.

Step 8: Decorating

I wanted to hide some of the cardboard to make it prettier, so I used PVA glue and the decoupage technique to add pieces of book page to the yarn winder.

Just be careful that you don't put anything in the way of moving parts, or stick moving parts together!

I also added more duct tape to cover up unsightly joins and to add a border.

Leave to dry.

Step 9: Final Test

Once it's all completed, it's time to take it for a proper test run, and as you can see I ended up with a centre-pull ball of yarn.

If you have a yarn bowl, by the way, that can help to keep tension in the yarn - instead of running it through your hands. Just keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn't go slack, and that tension is evenly maintained.

Step 10: The Finished Product

Congrats, you've finished!

I was actually surprised it worked since this was my first prototype of it :O I'm sure there are things that could be improved - such as adding a crank handle - but it does what I need it to do, even if the final ball of yarn isn't as neatly and tightly wound as shop-bought ones.

I really hope it inspires you to make your own version, and thanks for reading :)

Step 11: And a Video!

Cardboard Challenge

Participated in the
Cardboard Challenge