Friday, April 1, 2016

How to Wind a Ball of Wool

Okay, I admit some of you may already know just how to wind a ball of yarn. But, surprisingly, not everyone does. I've had a lot of down time this week as I've been waiting in the car for Miss Abigail. Winding wool is not something I usually get around to until it is necessary and then it seems like such an interruption of my work. Because I have several wool projects coming up, I've taken the opportunity this week to wind many of my purchased hanks and skeins into balls. I thought I would take pictures of the process and share my tips.

First an answer to the question "Why wind a ball?" Why would one not just pull it from the middle of the skein and not worry about this extra step. The following is a two part answer.

Actually, you may not want to wind the wool into a ball until you are reasonably ready to use it because winding the yarn might affect its elasticity, drape and gauge. If you buy a skein or hank of yarn and plan on storing it for a long period of time, just store it "as is" and wind when you are closer to the time to use it. However, there is a way to make a loose ball that keeps the yarn soft and not stretched. This is the method to use to wind a ball of wool and I'm going to show you how.

Some might not want to wind at all. That's okay, unless you buy the wool in a hank. If it is in a twisted hank, you'll have to wind it into a ball before you can work with it. Otherwise, it ends up being a tangled mess! If you buy yarn in a skein, you can pull it from the middle, BUT - the pulling of it often tangles as well, depending on the quality of the yarn and especially with pure wool yarn. I also find that, because I have to pull on the yarn to release it from the skein, it affects the tension of the yarn coming through my fingers. This is more of a problem at the beginning of a skein of yarn, when it is harder to pull. So the tension at the beginning of a project may be slightly different than further along when the yarn pulls easier. As you begin a new skein it changes again. I just wind all the yarn into balls at the beginning of the project and then don't have to worry about it.

If you regularly use acrylic or cotton yarn stretching isn't as much of an issue. But if there are tangles in the skein, I would rather deal with them at once rather than when I am in the middle of a project. And I like how the yarn just rolls so much more easily off the ball. It saves a bit of time as well, not having to stop and tug and pull (and possibly untangle) every few seconds. And, I often take projects with me in the car or to a meeting and balls are much easier to manage in a small project bag.

Anyway, here is the method to make a beautiful, loose ball. Begin by loosely wrapping the wool yarn several times around three fingers.

Slip the yarn off and gently twist it into a figure eight. Fold the yarn back on itself and gently hold it between your thumb and index finger.

Loosely wrap the yarn several times around your thumb and finger. The initial yarn is in between and the wrap will be around the middle of the pinch.

Slip your fingers out of the wrapped yarn and you can see the beginning of your ball. It should be very loose and feel a little spongy. Turn the ball and gently hold it again between your thumb and index finger so that you wrap the yarn in a different direction this time. Loosely wrap the yarn around your fingers.

The wraps of yarn form an X as you turn the ball each time. If you wrap around your thumb and finger each time, the yarn should stay loose and the ball continues to feel spongy. This means that you aren't stretching the yarn. If your strands are tight and the ball feels firm or even tight, you need to relax your winding and make it more loose.

You can see in this picture that the yarn continues to be loosely wound.

Turn the ball and wrap the yarn again. How much to wrap on each turn is up to you. I like to put a good amount on and then stop and turn. I like how the yarn looks on a ball like this. Other people like it more smooth, but that means you are turning and readjusting your fingers more often. You can see the X in the following picture.

As the ball gets bigger, it will become more awkward to hold. You need to be particularly careful at this point NOT to squeeze or pinch the ball. Hold it loosely and always wrap around at least two fingers so that any stretch that may happen in the winding will relax as you remove your fingers. This keeps the ball spongy and not firm.

Finally, the ball becomes too big to hold loosely. Now I just wrap around a couple of fingers on top and the ball "hangs" from them as I wrap.

The ball is finished. Isn't it pretty! I love the way it looks.

To finish it off, I tuck a loop under the final round of winding and slip the end of the yarn through the loop. This just holds the end and keeps the ball from unraveling until I'm ready to use it.

Do any of you have an opinion about winding versus not winding? Any tips from the experts out there?

And don't miss the recent post on yarn addiction at Taffeta Dreams. I loved it.


  1. I have memories of holding the hank of wool between my hands for my mom who wound the ball of yarn. I've never bought wool for myself as I've always been too poor to afford it, and too slow a knitter to make a sweater. I knit only things that can be finished quickly. However! I hope to knit myself a sweater after all the children are gone from home and I can sit in peace without interruptions.

    1. I hear you on the cost of wool yarn! That is the main reason why I learned to spin - so that I could make my own yarn. Of course, keeping sheep isn't inexpensive either! I usually just buy wool a little at a time for small projects and use half-price coupons. I just took a pretty white fleece to be processed at the wool mill, which I will then spin into yarn to make a sweater. I can't wait to get it back and start spinning. Talk about a long project...

  2. Oh! I too came to say you have stirred memories of holding a hank of yarn while my mother wound it into balls. I felt very grown up helping...and then I was older and wasn't quite so eager. My mother loved to quote her grandmother who said, 'Children are more help at six than sixteen.' :) Happy memories all. So glad I dropped by today.

    1. Oops, forgot to say that this was a great tutorial. Just how Mom did it. :)

    2. Hahah! So true about children helping. My mom didn't knit or crochet so I didn't ever hold a hank, but my husband did that for his mother also. We do it for each other now, with the yarn that we spin. I really love looking at a hank of homespun yarn. It is even prettier than a ball, I think. Actually, I just love yarn of all kinds.


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