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How to wind a hank of yarn without a swift?

I recently acquired several hanks of yarn. They’re very pretty and I can’t wait to knit them up! Unfortunately I do not own a swift or a ball winder. I’ve only done this once before and it was a painful process – it took hours and tangled up several times.

What I tried was basically just arrange the loop on a flat surface and keep going around, but the hank kept twisting and strands would get tangled. I also tried using my feet to hold the hank, but that was really awkward and still slow.

How can I (quickly) wind a ball or skein from a hank, without special equipment?

Arts & Crafts Asked by user812786 on January 2, 2021

4 Answers

4 Answers

The method I have used all my life involves two people.
One holds the yarn on the wrists, moving the hands such that they assist in unwinding and keep the yarn organized, the other does the winding of the ball and pulls the yarn from the partners hands, gently as not to disturb the lot.

I have used a one person version of this myself, it takes some practice and I think it requires the training of having been person one as well as the other in the two people method.

Hold the yarn on your arms about elbow level, making sure that the winding off side is on the outside and the top, bring your hands together while keeping enough tension on the yarn to keep it in place.
Now start winding, undoing one loop of the yarn at the time at most, to avoid tangles.

The method my grandmother would use: two chairbacks.
Put the yarn around two chair backs where the chairs are back to back, move the chairs away from each other till there is just enough tension to keep the yarn in place. If the chairs glide easily over the floor you may need to put something between them on floor level and if they tip backwards put something heavy on the seats.
Or if your chairs and skein sizes allow, turn one or both chairs so the seats face each other.
It will work easiest if you have an eye above the chairs to pull the yarn up from the chairs, but if needed you can work your winding above the backs.

Some extra twisting or a little untwisting of the yarn is to be expected, (which depends on the lay of the twist in the yarn and the way you unwind) but in twisted yarn it will not be much and might be taken up by how you wind your ball.

In the comments @Not The Face mentioned a niddy noddy. I have never owned or even used one, so I am not sure how easy it is to get a skein onto one, specially if the skein has not been made on it. But I see that there are niddy noddies which can be adjusted in size and those might be useful for bought skeins.
And I am also not sure how easy it is to use one to unwind when alone. But it would keep the skein in place when you unwind.

Checking out videos about making your own niddy noddy, I also found videos about making or using your own skein winder and swift. I have not tried any of them, I mostly included them as proof that the information is there on internet.

Correct answer by Willeke on January 2, 2021

You can also use your feet instead of the two-chairs solution (my chair backs have an unsuitable shape, the unfolded hank tends to slip).

Just sit on the couch, with your feet up (no shoes, obviously, and naked feet work best in my opinion), and put the unwrapped hank around both feet. Lean feet apart to tension slightly (prevent tangling); lean body forward and extend the yarn-guiding arm forward to unwrap the yarn.

Here's a visualization:

Using the feet as a yarn swift

As for the winding of the ball, either use your thumb as a base or, more comfortably, any kitchen implement with a round handle.

Answered by Jule on January 2, 2021

Another option, depending on if you buy your yarn locally, or order online, is having them wind it beforehand. We have a swift and winder and mostly wind our own, but occasionally when order from sites like Miss Babs, will have them wind it before shipping. They usually charge around $5 skein to wind it for you.

Answered by RockRat on January 2, 2021

You can visit your local yarn shop and use their swift and ball winder. It's likely to cost a little bit, but there are people who will gladly pay for the comfort of not having to do this on their own!

Answered by jkadlubowska on January 2, 2021

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