SewUseful: Portable Tabletop Yarn Swift (for Winding Yarn)

Introduction: SewUseful: Portable Tabletop Yarn Swift (for Winding Yarn)

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Make this using everyday garage tools -- no fancy skills or tools needed!

I quickly grew tired of winding skeins of yarn on the backs of chairs and over my knees. I considered getting a yarn swift, but I balked at the price tag ($65 and up). Determined to utilize my crafty hands, I embarked on making my own yarn swift out of stuff from my garage.

My first yarn swift cost me $7 to make, and because I dye yarn, I soon found the need for a second swift, which cost me $17 because I had used up extra wood in my garage for my first swift. Depending on how much material you have in your garage, this project will probably cost anywhere from $0 to $20 USD, plus a little elbow grease.

This is a tabletop swift that is easy to make, using basic garage tools. No fancy power tools! It is also easy to assemble for quick storage and portability.

This is a Sew Useful contest entry, so if you want one or don't think you can make one, I have one for sale on Etsy:

Step 1: Materials and Tools

Time: approx. 2-3 Hours (or less for the more handy)


  • hammer
  • chisel
  • rasp (optional)
  • handsaw
  • cordless drill
  • drill bits
  • nail set
  • sandpaper to smooth out rough edges (I used 80, 100 and 220 grit)
  • several 1-1/2 inch nails
  • wood glue (regular craft glue will also work)
  • tape measure
  • 1/2" spade bit
  • miter box (optional; it helps you saw straight)


  • One 6' long 1x1poplar ("A")
  • One 6' long 2x1poplar ("B") (you could get smaller pre-cut pieces too, as shown in photo)
  • One 4-5" long 3/8" hex bolt.
  • One to Two 3/8" diameter dowel rod(s)
  • One 3/8" washer
  • One bad CD (like the free promos you get in the mail) or a small scrap piece of wood
  • One 3/8" wing nut (a regular 3/8" nut will do as well)

Step 2: Cutting the Arms and Base to Size

Using the hand saw, cut the following from the various pieces of wood:

- Two 30" long pieces from the "A" These 2 pieces will become the arms, "A1" and "A2"
- Two 16" long pieces from "B" These 2 pieces will make up the base, "B1" and "B2"

Feet Variation/Option:

Option 1: With Feet
If you do not look forward to cutting notches for the base (as described in Step 5), and want to make your life a little easier, cut the following feet for the base:
- Two 3" long blocks from "B". These 2 pieces will be the feet, so that you save yourself a lot of sweat later, "C1" and "C2"

Option 2: No Feet
You do not need to cut any additional pieces for the base.

Step 3: Marking Notches and Drill Points for the Arms

A1 and A2 will make up the arms of the swift.

Find the centers of A1 and A2 lengthwise. Measure 0.5" to each side of the center line for both pieces. You have now just marked out the center 1" to be chiseled out. Then mark 0.5" deep of the 1" center -- this is the depth at which you will create the notch. Use the handsaw and saw out slivers within the 1" marks for both pieces.

Step 4: Chiseling the Notch

Now that you have made the slivers, notch and cut away the slivers using a chisel and hammer. You will be chiseling out the 1" center to 0.5" deep on both arms.

Put A1 and A2 with the notch sections facing each other and check for fit. You will probably need to adjust and fine-tune the notches a few times by chiseling and sanding. Continue the fine-tuning process until the intersected section of A1 and A2 are fitted and flush. I will now refer the assembled A1 and A2 pieces collectively as "X."

Step 5: Base

Option 1: With feet (less elbow grease):
Nail C1 and C2 to the bottom of B1 at each end, using a nail set to sink the nail head below the surface of the wood. See photos in Step 6 of how C1 and C2 are attached.

Option 2:' No feet
Mark and notch out B1 and B2 as you did for the arms in steps 3 and 4.

Step 6: Dilling the Center Holes

Find the center of the X created by A1 and A2 and drill through using the a 3/8" drill bit. Take your time when you drill. I find when making such a big hole, it's easier to drill with a smaller bit first. This also prevents your rather narrow wood piece from splitting. Make sure you are drilling straight, with the drill bit perpendicular to the wood, especially when doing the center holes.

Mark the center of the bottom of B2. Using a 1/2" spade bit and go through deep enough so that the head of the bolt will fit inside without and protrusion. Then, making sure your drill bit is centered, drill a 3/8" hole all the way through the center of both B1 and B2.

Note for Option 2: If you chose to notch the centers of B1 and B2, put them together in an X like the arms before you drill through the 3/8" holes.

Step 7: Marking and Drilling Peg Holes

You're almost done now!

The Holes:
Mark where you want the dowel pegs to go on the tops of each arm of the X. Keeping your drill perpendicular and using your 3/8" drill bit, drill the peg holes. Do NOT drill all the way through. You want to go as far as you can without going all the way through. It helps to mark how deep you want the drill bit to go with masking tape. This way, you'll know when to stop and won't accidentally go all the way through. I suggest about 4-6 holes on each arm spaced about 1-1/2" or 2" apart.

The Pegs:
Cut your dowel rods to length. You'll need 4 pieces of the dowel rod for the pegs. I suggest cutting them at least 6-8" long. Longer pegs will hold a large skein of yarn better.

Step 8: Optional Stuff

Small Block vs. CD

CD: If you have chosen to use an old CD, then I would use it with a wing nut. The wing nut will act as a spacer while the CD just helps balance the swift. '

'Block: If you have chosen not to us an old CD or DVD, then take a scrap wood block (size doesn't really matter that much) and drill an 3/8" hole all the way though. BE CAREFUL and use a vice if your block is small. If you have a larger piece of wood, I'd drill the hole first and then cut the block to size. The block will serve as a spacer.

Making it Pretty
I got lazy and did not stain or varnish the ones I use at home. I chose function over form. However, you can finish your swift using a stain, varnish or oil. A gel stain is really easy to use and dries pretty fast. Whatever you decide to do, just follow the manufacturer's directions.

In the photo shown, the pieces show a base that was notched like the arms ("Option 2, no feet" in Step 5). The wood is stained with a Rosewood gel stain.

Step 9: Assembly

Assemble as shown in the photo.

If you chose to use a block instead of a CD, simply put the block on after the nut and then put the arms on top of that.

Your DONE!

To prevent your swift from slipping and moving around on your table, cut a piece of anti-slip rubber liner and place under the swift. You can find the rubber liners in the shelf liner and/or the rug section of your local grocery, drug or hardware store.

Happy yarn-winding! :)

2 People Made This Project!


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8 years ago on Step 3

when you said a 1"x1" did you mean the wood style of inches (3/4"x3/4") or literally 1"x1"? also where did you get you wood, what hardware store?


11 years ago on Introduction

Making this made my day - and many more to come (every time I look at it)! Thank you so much for sharing this!! I have wanted one of these for years and I made this one in not much more than an hour, with materials I had lying around. ($0) I have mine mounted high up flat against the wall in my craft room with a little shelf sticking out of the wall a couple of feet away, with the ball winder thing on it. So not only is it completely functional but it's great to look at (and fun for kids). It's also inspired many ideas for future wood crafted toys that I look forward to making. I will see my swift every day for years and years to come and it will make me happy each and every time. I'm so glad I discovered this before I'd gone ahead and bought one. Thanks again!


12 years ago on Introduction

This project is so easy to make and easy to use. It also seems to be more sturdy than the expensive swifts look.

Crafty Diversions
Crafty Diversions

Reply 13 years ago on Introduction

LOL. I own the copyright to this pattern and instructions, and the site you reference. The instructions originally were just on my site, then I decided to post here as well. Thanks for keeping an eye out for me though!! :)


14 years ago on Introduction

My wife just bought a zillion skeins of yarn and I was facing the daunting task of having to hold each one as she wound them into balls. With this instructable, a few hours of my time means I won't have to! Yay! I followed the instructions nearly exactly, only I set in some ball bearings I pulled from some old rollerblades instead of using the bolt. Smooth as silk! Cutting the notch is also much easier and faster with a scroll saw. Thanks!


14 years ago on Introduction

I just made this last night using wood left over from our last renovation - it works brilliantly! I am thrilled that not only were the instructions and pictures super easy to follow but I was able to make one completely for FREE. I have been wanting and needing one and have always been put off by the prices. THANK YOU!


15 years ago on Introduction

I've used this swift and I can recommend it highly. I have a standard swift, and it couldn't handle a large hank of yarn I had, so I used this. It can handle all different sizes and weights of yarn. Well worth the time (or money if you buy the one on Etsy).


15 years ago on Introduction

Your Etsy link doesn't seem to be working--could you please update it? Thanks!