Yarn Balls

Sort of sounds like a curse doesn’t it? “OH, Yarn balls!” Well, it can be if you don’t have a yarn winder of some sort. And I’ll be honest, there are a few that may make that REALLY a curse!

I happen to have a small yarn winder myself, but I have found that sometimes that just doesn’t cut it when it comes to cleaning up the mess that is my scrap yarn. And let’s be honest, in that mess of a craft closet I keep, sometimes I can’t find the blasted thing.

The good news is if you have a pair of fingers and a free hand, you can wind yarn with a pull from the middle WITHOUT a yarn winder.

Now, if you DO happen to have a yarn winder, I’m going to go through the instructions on how to use the thing. Yours should have come with some sort of instruction sheet and their really not THAT complicated, but when I got mine the instructions were in Japanese. Luckily my husband and I took Japanese as our junior college courses and were able to get through them, but it’s not exactly a common language here in the US.

Before you start, here’s an

OPTIONAL EXERCISE: Remember when I said acrylic is a form of plastic, just like the nails you get at the salon? Go grab a plastic grocery sack and cut the handles off. Flatten them out as nicely as  you can and then grab each end of the handle. Pull as far as you can without breaking it. It should get nice and thin (kind of looks like yarn now right?).

Ok, now put it back.

Yeah…that bit doesn’t go so well does it? Plastic likes to take new shapes, but doesn’t really like to go back the way it was. Your acrylic yarns will do the same thing if they are stored in a very tight ball. BE AWARE how tight you are winding your ball whichever method you use.

With a Yarn Winder

First thing you’ll want to do is make sure that your yarn is MOSTLY tangle free. Many times I’m rewinding a ball or turning a half used store bought skein into a ball so that’s done for me. However, for those of you who have just dyed yarn using the mess methods, you’ll want to at least give it a cursory untangling or be prepared to wind the ball twice.

Once you’re satisfied with the stat your yarn is in, make sure that your winder is set up in a good location. Mine has a small metal clamp on the bottom of it, so I have clamped it to my desk.

yarn-winder

Next you’ll lace the end of your yarn through the spring like part. Mine happens to be silver.

spring-piece

There were some seriously complicated instructions on how exactly to lace the yarn on my instruction sheet. Just put the yarn end through the hole. It’s a LOT easier.

Now that we have that bit done, find the v shaped slit in the top of the winder. There should be one on either side of the cylindrical part.

v-shaped-slit

Lay your yarn across the two slits and gently tug it into place so that it’s held by the slits.

yarn-across

Here’s the tricky part–and unfortunately the part that I can’t show you in pictures. You need to keep  a steady tension and pace as you start to wind your yarn.

Just like when you’re working, the tension is SUPER important here. I seriously CANNOT stress enough how important it is to have a medium tension. Too tight and the yarn could snap as you’re winding too loose and the ball won’t come together (and the yarn may wrap around the gears at the bottom–TOTAL NIGHTMARE). You have GOT to have a good tension on this. Your yarn should flow freely, but your ball should still form up nicely. It may take a couple practice goes to get it right.

Once you have a happy tension, you’ll want to make sure you have a happy winding speed. You may want to practice winding with an empty winder so you can get used to a pace that works well for your. You want to be able to do one ball in one sitting (if you have small children, you might need to wait till they are otherwise occupied) and you’ll want to make sure that the whole ball is wound at about the same pace. Speeding up and slowing down will make the ball tighter or looser and will make the ball uneven and sloppy.

When you’re done, the yarn ball (or cake, as they are sometimes referred to in this shape) is ready to remove from the winder. Just gently remove the starter piece of yarn from the v shaped slits and slide the ball off the winder. There will be a sizeable hole where the winder was siting, but if you gently squish the yarn from the outside of the ball toward the center that will go away and not hurt your ball.

Now you’re all set and ready to work!

Without a Yarn Winder

For those of you who DON’T have a yarn winder, but still want to have nice yarn balls that pull from the middle with less trouble than the store bought skeins, grab your yarn and hold out your hands because that is all you will need to make this happen.

Start off by laying your yarn across two fingers and holding it in place with your thumb.

lay-yarn-across-fingers

Wrap the yarn around your two fingers angling it slightly (which way it is angled doesn’t really matter). The goal here is to start your nice tension. Don’t cut off the circulation to your fingers and don’t leave the yarn so loose that it’s hanging off your hand.

angle-1

After you have a few rounds in one direction, wrap the yarn at the opposite angle for a few wraps. This will help to crate a stable base for your ball as you get it started.

angle-2

Repeat that process, switching between angles every few wraps until you have a small ball forming on the end of your fingers. Try to keep from winding too tight. Especially with acrylic or synthetic yarns, the tighter they are stored, the more they lose their shape for working with later.

repeat

Once you have a small ball formed, slide your fingers out and use your thumb to hold the center of the ball. This will hold your starting string in place and help you to mark the center so you don’t accidentally cover over it.

hold-thumb

Now, wind your string around the ball, being careful not to trap your thumb and turning the ball every now and then to keep an even wrap going. Just like before, do a few wraps on this side and then turn the ball and do a few wraps on the next side. If it helps, imagine there are four sides to this ball and just try to work them evenly.

wind-right

When you’re done, you’ll have an easy to work ball like this:

done-hands

The nice thing about hand winding your ball as opposed to using the winder is that there is no size limit on your ball. if you want to take a one pound skein from the store and turn it into a hand wound ball you can easily do that (granted, it will take some time). If you wanted to do that with a winder, you would only be able to get partway through it before the winder was stuck due to the limited space between the threading post (the silver part) and the core (the part that holds the yarn).

 

 

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