How to Wind Yarn VERY QUICKLY with a Yarn Winder & Swift

by | Sep 12, 2020

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Got a hank of yarn in your stash?  Don’t wind it by hand!  Learn how to wind yarn into a ball super quickly and easily with a yarn winder and yarn swift.

These days, much of the yarn available at major chain craft stores comes pre-wound in a skein, ready to use.  But what do you do when you get yarn in a hank, like this?

two skeins of purpleish navy blue hand dyed yarn on white background, shown at a diagonal angle

This type of yarn comes in a large, twisted loop, or hank.  You cannot just find the end of the yarn and start working with it.  If you begin using a hank of yarn without winding it into a skein first, all you’ll end up with is a tangled mess!

Although you can wind a hank of yarn into a ball or skein by hand, it can be a time-consuming, tangle-prone process.  If you hardly ever use yarn that comes in hanks, you may prefer to wind by hand.  But if you plan to use hanks of yarn more often, an inexpensive yarn ball winder and yarn swift can save you a ton of time!

By using a yarn winder and swift, I wound each of those deep purplish-blue hanks of yarn into one of these center-pull cakes in about 5 minutes.

hand holding a center-pull cake of deep blue tonal yarn on white background

Not only is a yarn winder handy for winding hanks of yarn, it can also tidy up your leftover skeins.  Half-used skeins of yarn are often floppy, messy, and tangled.  If you have a yarn winder, you can quickly transform those messy leftover yarns into neat, tidy mini-cakes.  These are so much easier to keep from tangling in your stash!

left, a messy, half-used skein of speckled pink yarn, right, hand holding that same yarn wound neatly into small yarn cake

What is a hank of yarn?

A hank is basically a long loop of yarn that has been twisted over on itself.  One end of the loop is tucked into the other, creating a bundle of yarn that is easy to store and transport.  When hand dyed yarn is sold in hanks, it can be much easier to see the lovely dye job.  Yarn sold in a hank must be wound before you can use it in a project.

What is a yarn winder?

A yarn winder is a little contraption that clamps to the edge of a table and winds your yarn very quickly.  It has a metal guide to feed the yarn, and a handle that you turn to wind yarn onto the machine.  There is also a notch across the top to secure the starting end of the yarn.

While there are some rather expensive models of yarn winders, there are also several very inexpensive ones available.  If you’re looking for the most budget-friendly yarn winder, this model from Amazon is a good choice.  (Watch the video in this blog post to see this model, and what I like / don’t like about it.)

However, for a few dollars more, you can get this nicer-quality model (shown below) from KnitPicks.  Both of these winders do their job just fine, but the KnitPicks winder is a little easier to use and feels like it will last longer.  (The KnitPicks winder is also available from Amazon.)

KnitPicks yarn winder on gray background

What is a yarn swift?

A yarn swift is a device that holds the hank of yarn open, and spins freely as you wind the yarn off of it.  There are several types of swifts available, but the type that I use is called an umbrella swift.  You can wind yarn by hand off of a swift, but it is much faster with a yarn winder.

Yarn swifts can range in price and quality, but most any swift that spins will do the job.  If you’re looking for a budget-friendly option, this swift from Amazon is a good choice.  The price is very reasonable.  I have had this one for a couple of years, and it still works just fine.

If you would like a higher-quality yarn swift, I recommend this birch swift from KnitPicks.  It is functional and beautiful, and spins very smoothly.  (This swift is also available on Amazon.)

birch yarn swift on gray background

The yarn swift and winder clamp to the edge of a table.  The untwisted hank of yarn goes around the swift.  The yarn can then be fed from the yarn swift onto the yarn winder.  As you turn the handle on the winder, it pulls the yarn from the swift, causing the swift to spin, and winding the yarn into a center-pull cake.

knitpicks birch yarn swift and ball winder on grey table, winding a deep purplish red yarn

See the video below to learn how to wind yarn using this setup, as well as a brief review of the swifts and winders I recommend:

Have any questions about yarn winding?  Leave them in the comments below!

Pin the image below to save this tutorial for later!

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If squeezing yarn, collecting yarn, or making stuff from yarn is your thing, you’ll feel right at home here. My mission is to share the joy of yarn crafts with makers of all skill levels by creating clear, thoroughly-explained video tutorials and modern, approachable projects. So, whether you’re a newbie or you’ve been yarning for years, stick around and check out some of my FREE patterns & tutorials!

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Yay For Yarn

Hi! Thanks for stopping by. Knitting and crochet are my passion, and I love helping others create beautiful things from yarn. If you enjoyed this post, why not check out some of my other free patterns, tips, and tutorials? Happy Yarning!


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