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Friday, February 24, 2017

What I Learned About Yarn Winders

I love my winders. If you have not purchased one yet, and you use a lot of yarn, I suggest you buy the largest winder your budget will afford. I now have 2 because when I bought the first one, which was the only one I could find at the time, I got one that will only wind 4 ounces. I soon realized I needed a larger one.  So, in this day and age of center pull yarn skeins, why do I wind my yarn ?  Simply ease of use and ease of storage. Also I like to check it, before I begin, to be sure there are no knots or caterpillars in it. What is a caterpillar ? That is what I call those fat snagged areas where the yarn has bunched up and they just look like a fat furry caterpillars to me. Cute but annoying.

Before winding I place the yarn in a clean container on the floor. If it is a center pull skein I place it standing up with the center end on top and pull from the center. If it is not center pull I alternate pulling a few yards of yarn from the skein, then wind and pull a little more. Always winding at a steady pace holding onto the yarn to control the tension.

Next, thread a yarn needle with the loose end and run it through the side and out the top of the “cake”, at an angle, creating a *"top edge tail" or yarn end, sticking out the top. Giving a slight tug, on that yarn tail, will tighten and accent the strand you must pull to draw it back out.
When your cake is ready to remove, loosely roll the label and hold it atop the spindle so as you lift the yarn from the spindle you are sliding the label inside the cake.  A quick squeeze of the cake and your yarn label will stay put.

Yarn winders do not readily accommodate very small amounts of yarn. You need a fair amount of yarn for the “cake” to be solid enough to hold its shape. To resolve this issue you will need two (2) empty toilet tissue rolls. I chose those because most of us have a steady supply of them.

Cut about a half inch slash on the edge of the first roll and place the loose end of the yarn to be wound into that slash, with the short end inside.  Add a single knot and it holds the yarn like the notch on the spindle.  Place the roll on the spindle, with the slash holding the yarn at the bottom.  You must do this first as you will not be able to do it when the roll is in place.     
The roll will probably be too big. Flatten the second roll then fold it in half lengthwise into quarters. Slide the flattened, quartered roll between the spindle and the roll. This makes a “shim” and tightens the first roll to keep it from sliding around.
CAUTION:  Please read.
When using a shim, please wind slower because winding rapidly actually creates centrifugal force. Centrifugal force will cause any shim to pull up and away from the center which can then become an airborne flying hazard.
In my haste to try my idea I jammed a crochet hook between the spindle and the roll and started winding furiously. Yep, the hook flew out the top, and shot across the room narrowing missing my TV.

Last thread the yarn strand through the yarn guides and slowly wind guiding the  yarn to control tension.  Then secure the end using a * "top edge tail", as noted above, and write the yarn "info" on the roll or roll up the label and insert it into the center of the roll or perhaps secure it with a bit of tape.

If the amount was small enough, and since the yarn winds at the bottom of the roll, you can turn the roll over and use the same method to wind another color on the other end.

I always work from the outside of my yarn cake. The reason for center pull skeins was for convenience over yarn "hanks" ending the need to wind or "ball" your yarn. The skeins do not roll around when working with them but the disadvantage to center pulls skeins is they collapse and tangle as you deplete the yarn.
You can see how the center hole widens and this one is on the verge of collapse.  I hate yarn barf. I do not mind untangling it, I do mind losing the time it takes to untangle it. Since the yarn winder creates “cakes” which will stand in one place and do not roll around, I pull from the outside of the cake. I never work from the center of the “cake” as that will cause it to collapse into itself the same as a center pull skein. Yes it is fun to rewind but constant rewinding, of collapsed yarn, will cause it to twist and curl and the more often you rewind the tighter the twist and the more it will curl when you try to use it.

Winding 7 oz. on a 4 oz. winder, of course you can.
This is a method for winding a 7 oz., “center pull” skein, on a 4 oz. winder, without cutting the yarn.  Wind from both ends toward the middle. Wind from the outside first, to prevent the center collapse, until half the yarn is wound or the winder is as full as possible. Winding the spindle as full as possible will result in one cake larger than the other. Slide your label inside, while lifting off the cake, without cutting the yarn, place it beside the winder. Start again but this time wind from the "center pull" strand to the middle. You finish with two cakes side by side, the outside strand is connected and running between the two cakes. Don’t cut it so there will be no knot.

Winding this way puts both ends of the yarn into the center of the resulting cakes. Therefore, when you start a project, the only option is to pull from the center of a cake.  I always start with the smallest cake since there is no worry about measuring as the whole skein is still intact.  When that cake is expended the yarn automatically pulls from the outside of the second cake. If your cakes are different in size, my suggestion would be to start your project by pulling from the center of the smallest cake first, leaving the larger cake, or the one with label intact as long as possible.

However if you are working duel projects, like socks or booties, from the same yarn, you can pull from the center of both cakes which will still leave the center uncut and you can still rewind the remainder to store. This method also works for winding those One Pounder or 14 oz. skeins on an 8 oz. winder.

Another reason for keeping the original skein uncut and intact is color.  I had multiple small balls of yarn in my stash, heaven only knows how old, and I have no idea what they are the remains of.  There are the result of my habit of abandoning balls of yarn that are about to run out rather than have a knot in the center of my row or round.  This results in many small and some not so small balls of orphan yarn.  I have a really good eye for color and sometimes I take the box outside and try to match the colors.  But not cutting large skeins into smaller ones all but eliminates the question.

To store conjoined cakes I slip them into quart or gallon size plastic bag.  If you have a dollar store such as "Dollar Tree" close by you can stock up on different sizes of plastic bags.  I tried other ways to store conjoined cakes but found the reusable plastic bags work best for me.

Thanks for visiting....Dorie

Related Post Link
The Best Way To Hand Wind A Ball Of Yarn


  1. Thanks for the tips. Pulling from the center of the cake and the "barf" is the reason I don't use my winder as much. Makes perfect sense to pull from the outside because that's how it works with a ball! Duh!

    1. Sometimes, the simple things are the hardest to see. I would be rich if I had a nickle for all of the times I really struggled through something only to find an easier way to do it, right after I finished.
      Thank you for taking the time to comment. Dorie

  2. Back in the 80s I was big into machine knitting and bought *4* yarn winders. Yes, FOUR of them! I have a huge winder that will easily wind a whole pound of worsted wt yarn, one that will twist together 2 strands of yarn, and 2 of the smaller ones that I use for winding 50gr sock yarns and leftovers of larger skeins. I was very fortunate to have bought these wonderful tools back when I was working and they were a lot less expensive than they are today. Ditto with my umbrella swifts.

    1. I was introduced to yarn winders within the last 10 years. I used to wind my yarn on those glass tall thin olive jars and kept my hooks inside. When I discovered yarn winders I retired my olive jar and organized my stash.
      Thank you for your comment. Dorie

  3. there are several utube vidios on yarn winders even using mens tools for winding that are quite quick.

    1. Thank you for sharing that information. YouTube is an amazing source for many types of information. I have watched many YouTube Video's and only wish I had something like that all those year ago when I was learning to crochet. YouTube is my GoTo for information. Dorie

  4. I love my winder. I found one for $14 and it was well worth it. I pull from the center of my cakes and have had no yarn barf. I put mine in a bowl and leave it till I'm finished. When I don't use the whole cake I put it back on the shelf or container, being gentle with it so I don't collapse it. I've pulled from the outside and that's when it tangles or rolls around. Just sayin'.

    1. Excellent, what works for you is the way you should do it. I have a ridiculous horde of yarn and never throw any away. Saving small amounts on cardboard rolls excludes pulling from the center on those. As for the rest, I like to make multi color projects and often use partial skeins, if hollow in the center, they get mashed by other bigger skeins when the remainder is stored in the tubs. Therefore I pull from the outside and the cake keeps getting smaller but does not hollow. I did mentioned winding twists yarn, but even the earliest craft of making yarn required spinning. So, by its very birth, isn’t yarn already twisted when you purchase it ? If we I wind it, we twist it again but if we pull from the outside of the cake, going back the way we came, wouldn’t that be untwisting it ? Thank you so much for your insight. It is always delightful to have another opinion. Dorie