Hand Wind a Ball of Yarn




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This simple tutorial will show you how to wind a center-pull ball of yarn without any special equipment. 

I have several hanks of really beautiful yarn in my stash that I don't even think about using because I imagine having to take them to a yarn shop so they can be wound into balls on their nifty little swifts and winders.  And really, when am I going to do that?

So one day when I was home sick, I decided to crack out a few hanks I'd just purchased for a summer project (missed the boat on that one. . . ) and wind them up by hand. 

It's easy! And it's a nice project to do while you're home doing not much else and watching silly television online. 

The advantage of wrapping a center-pull yarn ball is that the yarn stays neat and won't get tangled.  Also, if you pull the working yarn from the center instead of the outside, the ball will stay put and not roll around as you unwind it!

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Step 1: Prep Your Yarn

Some yarn comes already wound into center-pull balls.  Some comes twisted in hanks, like in the picture here. 

If you purchase this kind, take the paper off and open the yarn up into a big loop. (See picture 2).

Drape the loop of yarn over two chairs or the edge of a desk, or between the hands of a helpful friend.  This keeps the yarn from getting all tangled up while you're winding it. 

Step 2: Begin the Ball

You start winding from the center of the ball (obviously). 

Hold one free end in your hand and drape the long end around your thumb as shown in picture 1.

Make your hand into a gun, and wrap the yarn in a figure 8 around thumb and finger.

Continue in this method until you run out of room on your fingers!

Step 3: Wrap

Slide the stack of figure 8s off your finger and thumb and pinch together in the middle. 

Pinch the yarn stack between finger and thumb, keeping the starting end draped over your thumb.  You want to make sure as you wind the ball that this end remains free and accessible!

Start to wrap the yarn around this bunch in a circular motion to form a ball.  Keep your thumb pinched into the middle as you wrap.

Step 4: Keep Wrapping!

Continue wrapping the ball of yarn.  You will quickly see it begin to resemble a proper ball and it will be easier to understand what you're doing.

I like to keep my thumb stuck into the center of the yarn where I started wrapping so I don't lose the free end. 

Then I just wrap and turn, wrap and turn all around the ball until I'm out of yarn.

Finally, tuck in the end of the yarn you've been wrapping so it doesn't unravel.

Now you have a center-pull yarn ball.  Take the center end that you kept free, and start your knitting from there! 



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    23 Discussions


    1 year ago

    Sorry, that tip should have attached to the end, not the introduction, but I can't fix it myself. Also, I forgot to add the paper-towel trick: wrap the tricky, slippery yarn around an empty paper-towel core. You can then knit from a stand-alone paper-towel holder.


    Tip 1 year ago on Introduction

    I've used this method dozens of times & it all works perfectly (even if you do the initial figure eight the opposite way or too little—I'm switching to this way now!) A couple of points to emphasize:

    - Start with the big loop of yarn placed around something it can't too easily slip off of, as it will get tangled up in the centre as the process goes on. I use my knees if I'm sitting legs up, or more recently, a lap desk (half up on one side, the other under below), but I think there might be an instructable for a Tinkertoy/K'nnex yarn swift here somewhere.

    - You might have trouble starting the wind but just shake the yarn lightly & it should come loose from its neighbouring strands. I admit I've sometimes given up & switched to the other end.

    - Stay loose. You don't want to pull too hard & stretch the yarn. This is especially important if you're not going to use the yarn immediately.

    - Some yarns are just too slippery. I've had fussy, slick, or glitzy yarn, usually ribbons, that just won't stay in a ball. Immediately after winding, I keep it in a separate baggie (I use larger baggies for projects) so it can be contained with just the one working strand allowed out through a hole.


    How cool, I've seen and used the figure 8 with a little wrap to keep it together; and the second part on its own, which is time consuming in the beginning. These 2 combined is just genius !!! :-)


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Boy, I wish I had read your instructions yesterday! Had I done so, I would not have the mess I have to untangle now. But I paid $25 for my first hank of beautiful hand dyed wool, so now I will invest ANOTHER two hours trying to untangle it. Thanks so much for taking the time to post your How-To!


    4 years ago

    Definitely working great! I tried knitting once before but gqvw up because of knotting. I didnt know to wind yarn. My thumb was a little sore, so ill go looser next time. A great start to my efforts to make a scarf! Thanks so much :)


    6 years ago on Step 4

    Oooh, wonderful!! I love Instructables! Thank you SO much for posting this here! Hopefully I'll be able to do it well. Just bought my 2nd hanks of, as another here, "expensive yarn," so I want to make sure it works okay. Thank you again, wonderful photos and text to explain it. :)

    I always have the roughest time making these, and now I know why--I was doing it wrong! Thanks for your great instructable!


    7 years ago on Step 2

    Thanks!!! I appreciate anything yarn rrelated and hadn't thought of this on my own! I must admit to a duh moment!


    8 years ago on Step 4

    You made it seem way too easy.. I bet I will have to try a couple times. Great instruction.

    I have always wanted to be able to do this. Me, thinking it has to be done by a machine. Thanks for sharing this great tip. When you have to carry yarn in a bag for travel knitting, this is the only way to go.


    8 years ago on Step 4

    I can't wait to wind up my "so expensive I'm afraid to use it" yarn. :)

    Yeah! You're pulling it too tight! :D

    Member agthomas reminded me that I should include the warning not to stretch the yarn in the process.

    So sit back, relax, and let the your hands guide the yarn to drape itself gently into a perfect ball for you.

    Good luck!


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    ::nods:: remembering to keep things loose in the beginning also helps ensure that the center where your pull-yarn comes from gives you a nice easy pull.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    This is wonderful! Ever time I've wound yarn balls, they're not center-pull. I have a ball winder, but it's buried under stuff in my basement.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    I work as a medic working 12 hour night shift we were stationed out of what used to be a physical therepy large excersise empty room that was owned by our hospital. I had some knotted up yarn and had to double it up for a project, and didn't want to do it as I went along. SOOO needless to say I had yarn strung out across the entire 300 square foot "room" my partner was secluded to a small 5x5 area now I'll never have to do this again.!


    8 years ago on Introduction

    This is terrific! Thanks -- I've never created a center-pull ball, but I'll remember this next time I'm winding.

    Note: Step one, in which you discuss looping the yarn around chairs/friends/whatever is VITAL -- If you just lay the yarn on the floor or couch, you're gonna get hosed by tangling halfway through (or sooner), turning a 20 minute project into a 3 hour ordeal. (I have direct personal experience with this.) One way I like to do it is to wrap it around my knees, which works pretty well (as long as you don't have to get up halfway through.)


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Very nicely done! Thanks. One reminder: don't stretch the yarn in the process. :-)