Ball Winder Instructions

Written by jessica cook
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Ball Winder Instructions
When you use a ball winder, you wind your yarn into flat, cylindrical cakes instead of traditional spherical balls. (YARN BALLS image by brelsbil from

When you purchase yarn in a store or from an online retailer, it comes packaged in a skein, which is a long loop of yarn twisted together. Some commercial yarn brands come in skeins that you can knit with directly, while other brands require you to wind the yarn into a ball in order to avoid tangling. To make this process simpler, use a yarn ball winder to make your yarn into a convenient, portable centre-pull ball. Follow these ball winder instructions to find out how to use one of these handy tools.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Skein of yarn
  • Two straight-backed chairs
  • Yarn ball winder

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  1. 1

    Position your skein of yarn around the tall backs of two straight-backed chairs, such as dining room chairs. Put the backs of the chairs together for a smaller skein, or face the seats of the chairs toward each other for a larger skein. Try to position the chairs so that they stretch out the yarn skein slightly to its full size without pulling on the yarn or allowing it to have too much slack. This arrangement will hold your skein in place while you wind the yarn and will keep it from getting tangled.

  2. 2

    Untie the two ends of the yarn. They will be wrapped around the skein to hold it securely, and there may be additional scrap yarn used to tie the skein together as well. Remove the scrap yarn and loosen the two ends of the yarn so that there are no ties securing the strands of the skein together.

  3. 3

    Pick up the yarn end that is closest to the top or outside of the skein as you have it arranged on the chairs. Thread this through the metal loop on the yarn ball winder. Pull the yarn through this loop and press it into the grooves on the cylinder in the centre of the ball winder to hold it securely. This will be the centre of your wound yarn, and when you knit with the yarn you will pull from this end of the yarn as you work.

  4. 4

    Turn the handle of the ball winder clockwise to wind the yarn from the skein onto the ball winder. Walk around the chair arrangement as you go so that you pull the yarn gently from the skein and onto the ball winder. Use even winding movements so the yarn will maintain a steady tension as it winds onto the ball winder. Continue to wind and walk until you have removed all the yarn from the chair arrangement and wound it into a cake.

  5. 5

    Gently pull out the original yarn strand from the centre of the yarn cake and lay it on the top of the yarn cake so you can find it easily when it is time to knit. Carefully pull the whole cake off of the yarn ball winder by sliding your fingers under the base of the yarn cake and sliding it up off the centre core of the ball winder. Now your centre-pull yarn ball will rest on a tabletop or inside your knitting bag as you work with the yarn.

Tips and warnings

  • You can purchase a yarn swift to hold the yarn for you and rotate as you wind the yarn into a ball. This is a much more efficient arrangement than the dining room chair set-up.

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