Wednesday, September 25, 2019

3 Ways to Wind Yarn for Knitting & Crocheting

When you go yarn shopping, have you ever noticed that there are different shapes and sizes for the skeins of yarn on the shelf? Yarn for knitting or crocheting is most commonly sold in three different forms: balls, skeins, and hanks.
photo of a skein and a ball of yarn

As the name would imply, balls are a nice, round shape, and you can begin working with the yarn directly from them. Similarly, skeins also come ready to knit (or crochet); the yarn in a skein is more loosely wrapped than a ball, to create a more oblong shape.

Hanks of yarn are wound into a large circle and then twisted; these yarns need to be wound into a ball before use.
hanks of yarn for knitting or crochet
Left: mini skeins from October House Fiber Arts; Right: Katahdin from Miss Babs

There are three ways to wind hanks of yarn into cakes which can be used for knitting or crocheting, and I'll give you an overview of each one on today's post!

To get started, open the hank and remove any ties that might be securing the skein (these are often on hand-dyed yarns to prevent the skeins from becoming tangled messes during the dye process):

you will need to cut the ties off of hanked yarn

Winding Yarn by Hand

If you don’t have any equipment handy, don’t fear! You can use the back of a chair or have a friend hold the skein for you like so (I've even used my own two feet in a pinch!):

image of man holding a hank of yarn ready to be wound for knitting

I start by wrapping the yarn around my fingers:

yarn wrapped around fingers

Once I have a good base, I remove the yarn from my fingers and start wrapping the yarn around at different angles to create a round ball to work from. It ends up looking like this:

a ball of yarn wound by hand

Pros: Good way to get to know your yarn.
Cons: Takes a long time, can't make a center-pull ball (or at least, I haven't figured out how to!).

Winding Yarn with a Nostepinne

A Nostepinne is one of the original ways to wind a ball of yarn, and there are many interesting (not to mention affordable) nostepinnes you can buy - here, I'm using one from Knitter’s Pride. There's a little bit of learning curve with this tool, but it does produce a much nicer-looking yarn cake than winding yarn by hand. Plus, it's also portable - you can easily stash it in your knitting bag or suitcase so that you're ready for any yarn-winding emergency.

Again, you'll want to use a yarn swift or have a friend hold the skein while you wind the yarn. I like to keep things simple by holding one yarn end against the nostepinne, then wrapping the yarn around a few times to secure it like so:

winding yarn on a nostepinne

Then, I start winding the yarn from the bottom left corner to the top right corner (you can also do the reverse if it's easier for you) while slowly rotating the nostepinne AT THE SAME TIME. This allows the wraps of yarn to build up evenly to create that yarn cake shape we all know and love! I'm still getting the hang of it, but here's my finished cake:

ball of yarn on a nostepinne

Pros: Portable, good way to get to know your yarn, relatively inexpensive equipment investment, center-pull balls of yarn are possible.
Cons: Requires some practice, takes a long time.

Winding Yarn with a Swift & Ball Winder

My personal favorite way to wind yarn is using a swift and ball winder. While it does require a bit of an investment, the time you save is priceless in my opinion! Not only that, but you don't have to depend on the availability of a patient human to wind the yarn, plus you can also make picture-perfect cakes every time.

There are two keys to successful winding:
1. Making sure there's enough space between your swift at the ball winder.
2. Not winding too fast.

Here's a good video to walk you through the steps in greater detail:

A few years ago I upgraded from a plastic/metal yarn winder a swift (similar to what you see in the video above) to a swift and ball winder from Knitters' Pride. According to the website, the ball winder can hold up to 1 pound of yarn, which I admit - I was a bit skeptical about. But when I needed to wind the ginormous skein of Miss Babs Katahdin that I bought at Stitches midwest earlier this month, I decided to put it to the ultimate test.

yarn on a swift for winding

The skein isn't quite one pound (it's just over 14 oz.) - but it's a whopping 1402 yards of fingering weight yarn. That's no joke...I mean, check out this huge yarn cake:

cake of yarn on a ball winder

Pros: Fastest option, produces beautiful center-pull cakes, easy to learn.
Cons: Requires a sizable up-front investment in equipment, not as portable as other options.

Do you have a favorite way to wind your yarn hanks? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!

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3 Ways to Wind Yarn for Knitting & Crocheting

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

When You Just Need Simple Knits....

Sorry for the radio silence, I ended up taking an unexpected 11-day trip back to Kansas City earlier this month and I just didn't feel like blogging. So I didn't. And to be completely honest, as this dumpster fire of a year rolls on, I find myself less and less motivated to maintain my blog and social media presence (such as it is) in favor of spending more time doing things IRL. I'm hoping to find something of a balance this fall since I do still enjoy writing and sharing the crafty things I'm learning and doing here, and I assume that someone somewhere likes to read about it. At least I hope so!

With that in mind, I thought a good first step would be to get back to blogging every Wednesday(ish), starting with a recap of what I've been working on lately.

The key word is simple knits. To wit: I just finished a Boxy Worsted pullover in Malabrigo Twist - miles and miles of stockinette stitch on pitch black yarn. Impossible to photograph, but something I predict I'll wear a lot this fall and winter.
Right before my trip, I decided to start a baby sweater to match a pair of socks I'd knit for a client tutorial about a year ago - I'd even printed out the pattern and kept the socks and unused yarn together for the occasion. I finished it while I was in Kansas City, and promptly wove in the ends and blocked it once I got back to Chicago. The pattern is the free Flax pattern by Tin Can Knits, and I used 2 skeins of Hikoo Kenzie in Bayberry that I'd bought at Windy Knitty right before they closed.
Another project I started before my trip and finished before I got back was this super simple cowl using the Gradient Quartet I got from Zen Yarn Garden at Stitches Midwest. I made up the pattern and am thinking of releasing it as a free pattern if you sign up for my newsletter- any interest? Y/N?
My only other recent finish is actually a crochet project, I used the cone of Hoooked Zpagetti t-shirt yarn I got at Creativation 2 years ago do whip up a bath mat in single crochet. Originally I was going to weave it as part of my #2019MakeNine, but I've pretty much abandoned all of my ambitions for that for a variety of reasons (most notably, lack of motivation....yet another theme, I suppose).
Currently, I have a very simple shawl on the needles - I'm using the Purl Thief pattern and a cake of gradient yarn from Zen Yarn Garden (also obtained at Stitches Midwest back in August).
I had to put my Making Connections Wrap in hibernation for a bit because I ran out of yarn (oops), and the skein I ordered didn't arrive before I had to head out of town. Now that I'm back, I've been knitting like mad to finally finish this project, because I'm really excited to give this whole "styling loop" concept a try.
I also started another hat project using a skein of Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride Worsted in my stash, just because. The pattern is free from Kelbourne Woolens as part of their ongoing Year of Hats series (this is the July pattern).
Last but not least, I started a very-not-simple knit, which I hope I can finish in a reasonable amount of time because I want to live in this sweater once winter is here. The pattern is Sempervirens and I'm using the mondo skein of Miss Babs Katahdin (100% BFL wool in a fingering weight) that I got at Stitches. I'm not very far along - I've only knit the collar and then picked up to work the body and knit a few rows. Still trying to get the hang of the pattern in terms of which chart is worked between which markers, but I think that I'll (eventually) get in the rhythm of it and things will start moving along at a less glacial pace. At least, I hope so!
I don't know about you, but I'm really looking forward to this fall, and getting back into the swing of things in general. Don't forget, you can sign up to receive emails whenever I post a new blog entry - just  use the form on the top right sidebar!