Help with Yarn Winder

I use a swift and yarn winder (hats off to those who can do it by hand!) and I can usually manage with even 800 m lace skeins. However, I’m really struggling with a smooth 50% silk and merino. It keeps slipping off the ball and pooling at the edges of the spindle. I’ve done one skein 3 times and fear I’ve wrecked it by pulling it to too tight a tension! Any advice gratefully received!

With some yarns I find I have to slow it way down.

I agree with Lynninva, slow down and watch how it is winding on. I have had pooling on silk and other slippery yarns but leave it as it is and as soon as I take it off the spool, I put it into a ziplock bag. Then close the top until you have a good sized area the yarn can freely go through and you should be ok.

For the skein you fear you may have pulled too tightly, redo it loosely and let it rest. The yarn in the picture looks as if you won’t have a problem knitting with it as it is, especially if you put it in a ziplock bag. Hope this helps!

Thank you! I didn’t know if I should be investing in a superior winder or resorting to hand winding!

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A lovely woman I met at a LYS in Baltimore told me that some yarns really need to be in a regular ball. Sometimes it’s best to skip the ball winder and just use the swift to wind a round ball of yarn like the old-timers did. Not always, just sometimes - and slick laceweight is one type that cries out for this, IMHO.


I agree. I have a ball winder, and it’s hard to get it to make a nice neat cake of yarn. It’s a 2 man job sometimes, one to guide the yarn, and the other to turn the crank, and keep the yarn on track. I wind almost all my yarn by hand these days. It’s just a lot simpler, and I have better control of the yarn tension. It may take longer, but it’s a lot easier on the yarn. I can catch places in the skein of yarn where the yarn might be irregular, or there is a knot, when I hand wind the yarn. Hope this helps.

Thanks for the suggestions! I’m never quite sure how to start with hand winding. Do you just wind it around your fingers until you have a bit of a blob to hold? The yarn winder seems to take long enough so it’ll be a lesson in timings!

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I loosely wind around all 4 fingers then twist that into a figure 8 and fold in half. It seems so much easier than starting a wee ball.


Hi, a family friend showed me how to do it. What I do is just start winding the yarn around 3 fingers to keep it loose so it’s easier to deal with if I want to make a center pull ball. The problem with center pull is that sometimes the yarn gets tangled where I change direction, and then I have to dig into the ball of yarn to pull the problem area out. So I usually just wind away, always winding over my fingers holding the yarn ball so the yarn doesn’t get stretched out. I change direction every 10 or 20 winds in one direction, depending on if I am working with fingering or worsted weight. Then I end up with a nice ball of yarn, and I keep it in a plastic zip bag with the end open so I can pull the yarn from the outer layers as I work. It sometimes takes a lot longer to do it by hand, and I don’t have a yarn swift. I put the yarn either around my neck or on a chair back, to keep it from tangling, and I pull a couple yards at a time off as I wind it. I can catch snarls, knots, and wonky spinning mistakes as I wind it up. I watch a good tv show when I need to wind a ball of yarn, so I don’t go bonkers from boredom. There are also some YouTube videos about knitting things if you put in what you want to see. I hope this helps. Good luck.


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See below. I agree with the other posters. I hand wind often, but I still use the swift. I have not been able to master getting looser cakes from the winder.

Since I no longer have my mother available to be the human swift (and my husband refuses–the nerve), I find that the swift is the more important half of the pair. I hate the tangling that happens when you try to wind yarn off the back of a chair. But I don’t mind winding.


I do a two fazed wind. I wind the first biscuit of yarn off the swift as tightly as I possibly can. Then I immediately rewind it from the center of the biscuit slowly so it relaxes and returns to it’s natural tension. Works for me every time. It the yarn is really fine, I may do a third wind just to be sure.

This could explain why I have one very strong bicep!


Interesting! Does pulling the yarn tightly stop it pooling off the edge of the ball? I have been experimenting with the soft shiney yarns and am now successful using a cardboard toilet roll tube over the spindle of the winder! I don’t know why that should be as the pooling seemed to come from yarn slipping off yarn rather than off the winder.

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I like to think that I’m showing it who is boss! It just seems that the faster wind keeps it in line. And I stare at it and stop and give it a nudge if it is getting wonky.

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I do both but prefer using a winder. I hand wind silk or silk mix but other than that, wind. I have both a regular and a jumbo and have used them almost weekly for many years. If I don’t like how a cake turns out I either redo it or hand wind. Sometimes if the yarn is slippery, you have issues winding it but I have found, in the long run, my yarns seem to get less banging around if I wind it into a cake. Be careful what type of skein winder you get too, invest in one with high ratings or ask your LYS what type they use. Some (I purchased a cheap jumbo winder) make such a tight skein I knew it was stretching out the yarn so stopped using it and invested in a better quality one. I am still working with that one to get a looser cake but it’s so much nicer and I never, ever wind anything until I am starting the project. Winding slowly, for me, helps in not only a looser cake but I keep a very light touch to the yarn so I can check for knots along the way. If I see the yarn is winding underneath, its easier to stop and put it back on track. Everyone will find their own way best for them. Just keep practicing. Even hand winding puts pressure on the yarn so I would think the most important thing is not winding your yarn until you start your project and then, whether you hand or machine wind, make sure the yarn isn’t stretched. When I hand wind, I have a few fingers between what I am winding and the ball already wound. I do that throughout the entire skein. Having said all that, I have wound cakes of Cascade Yarn Eco (450+ yards of bulky yarn) and my jumbo winder makes for a pretty tight cake. I use it right away though, from the inside loop, and the cake is very quickly nice and loose.

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Hi, all! I am in the market for a new swift. I mostly work with fingering, sport and DK yarns in a variety of natural fibers (most wool and wool blends though). Absent lace weight (which I wind by hand), the largest skeins I wind are around 500 yards of fingering weight.

I have the Strauch jumbo ball winder which I haven’t used before (it was on mega sale from a yarn shop that closed and stayed in the box) if that matters - if anyone has a particular pairing they like. My main concern is making sure that the yarn isn’t under too much tension, which the Strauch instructions say will create misshapen cakes.

Two options that jumped out at me right away are:

Stanhope Umbrella Swift (same style as my old swift - some other brand I don’t recall)

Table Top Swift (I have never used this style - any pros and cons that you know of)?

I love the look of the Amish swifts but I probably don’t have optimal room for use or storage.

Thanks in advance!

I have an amish swift - they dismantle easily and into very little space. They turn smoothly so help with tension issues. You just have to make sure that the arms are long enough to accommodate some skeins - I had to make extensions for mine!

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This is super helpful thank you!

I also have an amish swift. I like it better than an umbrella swift because I think that it is easier/faster to use - at least for me. My father in law made mine in one evening with scrap lumber. There are several “patterns” for making one yourself on the internet, if you are so inclined .

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