Tangled mess

OK, men...I am in the process of balling several hanks of yarn, and no matter how careful I am, I end up with knots and tangles that I can't fix. I am losing dozens of yards of good yarn. This is about enough to get me to give up knitting. I started this hobby to have fun, not for this kind of nightmare. I welcome any advice.

Patrick :(


Pinecone's picture

It's one of my least favorite things about knitting too. I bought a ball winder but do not have a swift, so I loop the hank around the back of a chair and move my hand around the back of the chair to guide the yarn off. You might try that. Another option would be to purchase a swift, or to make one yourself. Here are some links to sites with make-it-yourself instructions:



I googled "homemade swift". There were lots more. I remember seeing one that is made out of plastic coat hangers... but didn't see it this time.

Good luck!


YugiDean's picture

I agree with John. You will lose your mind if you don't either get/make a swift or use the back of a chair (which is what I ended up doing). It's even better if you can put the skein on the back of a chair that spins. That way, the chair can spin just like a swift does...sorta. But when I started doing that, winding became much less of a practice in self-torture.

"Men can starve from a lack of self-realization as much as they can from a lack of bread." --Richard Wright


eyedoc's picture

Yeah. I have to agree with John and Yugi. I use the back of a chair. The first time I ever tried to wind from a hank I thought I was going to scream. It was yarn from Manos del Uruguay that we used here for a scarf KAL a couple years ago. It was truly a nightmare. I was using a ball winder but until I figured out to use the back of a chair I ended up with about 3 balls from one hank due to tangling and knots!


Tallguy's picture

That is one of those things that is absolutely necessary to have if you are going to work with fibres: a swift and a ball winder. You can't wind balls of yarn CORRECTLY without a ball winder. By hand, you are changing the twist, and sometimes that is very critical.

Your local guild has them. You can go over one day, and do all of the skeins and make balls for your self. If you are on really good tems with your LYS, they will likely let you use theirs. And put that on your birthday wish list... someone close will get it for you! ;-)

There are many made-at-home versions of the swift. You will find many sites explaining how to build them. Heck, you can even use your lampshade! As for a ball winder, I have never come across any cheap alternative. But it`s definitely an excellent investment for the cost. You really don`t have a choice, if you are one that cares about quality.

Joe-in Wyoming's picture

I happen to have a swift and ball winder. Still, for many years (even with the two items) I've wound my yarn into balls by hand. There isn't any way to say which works better, but experience usually tells you whether the twist is getting tighter or looser. It just becomes second nature - or so it was for me. -- Books, knitting, cats, fountain pens...Life is Good.

Books, knitting, cats, fountain pens...Life is Good.

rmbm612's picture

Bite the bullet and buy yourself a ball winder and umbrella swift. I just checked on the KnitPicks web page. Ball winder are $19.99(that's reasonably priced and it mounts on a table top or can be held in one hand and cranked with the other) I wish mine had that feature. The swifts are currently on sale for $64.99....a 24% savings. Unless you buy only pull skeins of yarn you'll have no fun and lots of time consuming frustration with hanks of fiber. Hanks of yarn would also be more expensive if they were put up in pull skeins. If you are serious about knitting, treat yourself and go to KnitPicks.com and order the winder and swift. BTW no sales tax and no shipping charges for purchases over $50.00.

Kerry's picture

Patrick I sympathise with you, I've spent most of this weekend balling 100g of laceweight merino. The first half went well but the second half was a nightmare.

PaulJMC's picture

This drives me nuts too! I tried a door handle methot and a a back of chair method, but best so far (if he is in the mood for it) is to have the other half sit there opposite me with the hank over his hands!
Good luck!


In cielo non c'e vino...beviamolo sulla terra!

OperaGeek's picture

Well, my new vocabulary word of the day is "swift." Never heard of one before now, and that may be something I get someday. For now, the chair method worked fine for me. I found an article online that showed 2 chairs backed up to each other, which is what I tried without one inch of yarn wasted. Before that, I tried the nearest hands which belonged to my 7 year old son. I'll have to reserve that method for someone older...

Thanks so much, everyone, for the advice, sympathy, and encouragement. My blood pressure is down again, the tears are at bay, and my headache (literal and figurative) is gone.

Patrick :)

Bill's picture

I have a swift I'll give you when you come to San Francisco...easily packed in your suitcase...or I can mail it.
I made one a few months ago...(bigger)..so don't really need this one.

michaelpthompson's picture

We've probably all been there Patrick. I know I have. I turned three skeins of yarn into a ball containing about two skeins before I found out my LYS has a swift and a ball winder. When I came back for more, they nicely put it into a ball for me.

I first tried just to wind off the skein into a ball and lost about half the first skein. Then I did some internet research and tried it on a chair, first the back, then the legs of an upside down chair. Lost nearly half that one too. Had my son hold the third in his hands like you see in old Western movies, and got all of that one.

I just got a ball winder, which I'm going to use to pull out a scarf that I finally decided was way too wide. I'll save up for an umbrella swift next. Don't ever want to wind a ball of yarn without one again.

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"All knitting is just one stitch at a time."

Tom Hart's picture

Hmmm...the only times I've bought yarn in hanks or skeins has been in a store that's got a ball winder and swift. Not sure I could be bothered otherwise. You're lucky you've got kids though. I have a friend whose mother knitted and she and her sibs were recruited regularly for yarn winding duty.