Introduction: The Unspin-Inator

The name for this creation came after a weekend marathon of Phineas and Ferb episodes, but the idea for it's creation came after the first day of a weaving project in my MakerEd class. Each grade 1 student needed pieces of yarn for their creation, but had to wait patiently while I cut a piece of yarn off each roll. If it wasn't done carefully, the roll would become tangled and knotted upon itself. Then the entire class of students would have to wait while I fixed it, and that cost valuable class time and work momentum.

There had to be a way that students themselves could get their own yarn, rather than wait for me to get it for them. And that way also needed to ensure that the yarn wouldn't uncoil in such a way that it became a twisted bird's nest after a few students cut sections from it. Hence, The Unspin-Inator was created!

The device simply holds each roll of yarn on a vertical dowel, with the yarn threaded through the center of a wooden spool that's glued onto another board. You pull on the yarn, and the entire roll neatly unspins until you stop pulling. The rolls rest atop a CD, which provides a much smoother surface for the yarn to turn on. If you've pulled off more yarn than you need, a few twists of the roll itself in the opposite direction should put the yarn back in place.

The build itself is extremely quick. Depending on how much student involvement you want to have in its construction, it should take no more than 30 minutes. Plus the design itself can be altered to allow you to have even more, or even fewer, yarn rolls installed. And while there is no guarantee that this Inator will help you take over the Tri-State Area, you should at least be able to re-claim the knitting section of your makerspace! :-)

Step 1: The Unspin-Inator Premise

Here are the sketchnotes I drew to explain how the Unspin-Inator is built, and how I intended for it to be operated.

Feel free to use these plans as a model for creating your own version of this device, made of whatever materials and/or quantities you happen to have available.

NOTE: If you look closely, you should see that I drew two options for placement of the 2x4. One option was to have it be attached on top of the pine board, while the second option was attach it to the front of the board. I wanted as small a footprint as I could get, but I wasn't sure how well the yarn would unspin from the rolls at the angles produced by the placement of the 2x4. After a short experiment, I found that Option #2, in front of the board, worked the best.

Step 2: Materials and Tools

On this page I've listed the tools I used to make the Unspin-Inator, and the materials that I used. You can certainly use whatever tools you have already in order to "git 'er done!" :-)


  • Miter saw
  • Cordless drill
  • 5/16" drill bit
  • Glue gun
  • Sandpaper
  • Landscaping shears
  • Compass


  • 1 - 11 1/4" x 32 1/2" x 3/4" pine board
  • 1 - 32 1/2" piece of 2x4
  • 11 - CDs
  • 11 - 12" x 5/16" wooden dowels
  • 11 - wooden spools
  • Sheetrock screws
  • Wood glue
  • Glue sticks for glue gun

Step 3: Marking and Drilling the Dowel Holes

Finding the starting hole is key, since all of the other holes will be based off of this one. First, run a line the length of the board, 2 1/2" up from the base of it. One row of holes gets drilled along this line. Second, measure 2 1/2" in on that line from one end, and make a mark. This is where the first hole will go, but don't drill it out yet.

Since we'll be using circular CDs as part of this contraption, we are going to mark out where the centers of them will be placed. The centers will be located at the vertices of a bunch of equilateral triangles. The sides of those triangles will be 5 1/2" long. Thanks to a really smart guy named Euclid who wrote a bunch of books about this "elemental" kind of stuff, constructing an equilateral triangle can be done with just a straight-edge and compass! #yeahmath! And since we already drew that line the length of the board, now we only need a compass...

...I didn't have a compass. So I made one! Using a piece of cardboard with two holes in it 5 1/2" apart worked just fine.

Keep in mind that all you need are the vertices of the triangles, not the sides of them.

  1. Put one end of your compass on the starting mark you made.
  2. Use the pencil end of the compass to make a mark on the line you drew that is 5 1/2" away. This intersection is the second vertex of the triangle.
  3. The third vertex will be located above the two marks that you made, and exactly halfway between them. With the compass still in the starting mark, draw a small arc where you believe the third vertex will be. Don't worry about being exact - make the arc about 1 to 2 inches long.
  4. Remove the compass from the starting mark and place it in the second vertex from Step 2 above.
  5. Draw another small arc where that elusive third vertex is supposed to be.
  6. Where the second arc intersects the first arc is the location of the third vertex!

(If those directions don't make sense, the third link above, or this one right here, brings you to an animated demo that shows the process.)

Now repeat this process to find the vertices of the other triangles.

Once they are all found, bust out your drill and 5/16" bit and make some holes!

Step 4: Attach the Spool Rail

Using the sheetrock screws, attach the 2x4 to the front of the pine board. I made pilot holes to help prevent the boards from splitting. 5 screws spaced evenly did the trick just right!

Step 5: Glue on the CDs

Using the hot glue gun, lay down a circular bead of glue about 1" away from the center of one of the holes you drilled. Press the CD into the glue, centering the hole in the CD above the hole in the board.

It's best to glue the CDs down one at a time.

Repeat until all of the CDs are attached.

Step 6: Glue on the Wooden Spools

With the glue gun still hot, attach the wooden spools onto the spool bar.

Line the spools up with dowel holes you drilled.

Step 7: Install the Wooden Dowels

Sand the ends of the dowels so they are rounded off. This allows the yarn rolls to slide onto the dowels more easily.

Put some wood glue on the insides of the holes so that the dowels stay attached. Be careful not to get any glue onto the CD or the dowel, otherwise you'll have to wait for it to dry before adding the yarn rolls in the next step.

Step 8: Add the Yarn Rolls and Thread the Yarn Through the Spools

Slide the center of the yarn roll onto the dowel. It might take a couple of tries, but try to get it the dowel through the center. It will make the unspinning that much more effective, especially as the yarn roll gets smaller.

Thread the yarn through the center of the spool. A small bent paper clip worked really well for this job... my son gave me this idea after we used it a few times! #lovelearningfrommykids!

Add rolls to the remaining dowels, and thread them as well.

Step 9: Use It!

Since I made this Unspin-Inator for use with students in my MakerEd classes, I let them try it out. Some learned the hard way that you can't cut the yarn too close to the spools, but mistakes are how you learn! If you do, the yarn tends to "snap" back through the spool, and you need to re-thread it.

My only warning should you decide to have one of these for your students: HAVE LOTS OF RAINBOW YARN. It's by far the most popular kind! :-)

Hope this tool proves helpful to you!

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