Tag Archives: skein

Prepped and Ready

I have about 37 different “favorite parts” of knitting.  I love picking out yarn, I love casting on, I love binding off.  I love trolling Ravelry for the perfect pattern, and I love deciding that Ravelry doesn’t actually have the pattern I’m looking for and deciding to go my own way. I love getting deep into a big swath of stockinette or garter stitch, and I love carefully picking my way through fussy little lace.

But my current (and by current, I mean “this morning.” It could change by this afternoon) favorite part of knitting is getting my yarn ready for knitting.

I just spent a quiet hour with a podcast, a cup of coffee and my yarn swift, turning these squishy, gorgeous skeins of yarn into usable little cakes.IMG_0227There’s something really meditative about spooling up skeins of yarn. Watching the swift spin faster and faster, and the yarn zoom around the ball winder is very calming to me.  Something about getting everything set and prepped and ready to be used is so satisfying.IMG_0236It feels like the first day of a new school year- all that promise.  Only instead of new notebooks and pencils in my Jansport, I’ve got all that lovely yarn stashed away in my knitting bag and the perfect set of needles ready to go.  I can’t wait to get knitting with this yarn.IMG_0263I’m sure I’ll get frustrated with this project at some point (I’m guessing at about 60% completion), but right now, I couldn’t be happier with it.

What’s your favorite part of starting a knitting project?

I’m Still a Baller: Winding Yarn Part 3

I want to show you one more way to wind a ball of yarn.  This one’s easier, but it takes a bit of hardware, so it may or may not be right for you.

This is a ball winder.  They cost about 45-50 bucks, depending on the brand, which is a little pricey.  If you wind a lot of yarn, it might be a worthwhile investment.  If you only go through a couple skeins of yarn a year, maybe not.  If you don’t want to invest in one for yourself, see if your local yarn store has one available for customers, sometimes they do.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMine screws to the edge of a bookshelf or table.  I’ve seen ones with handles that you can hold, but that seems like it would be awkward to use, since I don’t have three hands.

When you have your ball winder situated, thread your yarn through the little metal eyelet, and attach the end to the slots at the top of the winder.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen start twirling the handle and watch the yarn start to wind itself into a ball.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATurning the handle spins the  top part of the winder, which, in turn, winds the yarn into a perfect cake.  Keep going, and watch the yarn build up.  Ooh! Aah!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOnce you have wound all the yarn, wrap the end around the outside of the cake a couple times and tie off the end.  Pull the cake from the winder, and you’ve got yourself a perfect center-pull ball of yarn.


I’m a Baller, And You Can Be, Too!

You’ve got your skein untied and ready to go.  What’s the next step?  Rolling your yarn into a ball.

Start by wrapping the yarn in a figure 8 around your thumb and forefinger.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFold the figure 8 in half.  (Does that make it a figure 4?  Probably not.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen, start wrapping around the little yarn nubbin you made from your figure 8.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWrap it snugly, not so tight that you have to put muscle into it, and not so loosely that it’ll just fall apart.  Keep going until your proto-ball gets nice and chubby.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen, turn it 90 degrees, and hold it between your thumb and forefinger.  Wrap the yarn around the ball in the new direction, catching your fingertips as you go.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKeep going, turning the ball  every 20 or so wraps.  Turning the ball and wrapping in different directions will give you a nice round, even ball.  Making sure that your fingers get caught every time you start wrapping in a different direction will ensure that you end up with a squishy ball of yarn.  This will stop you from wrapping the yarn too tightly, which can end up removing all the springiness from your yarn (imagine keeping a spring stored in the stretched-out position, it would eventually stick that way).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen you finish, your ball of yarn should be firm enough to hold its shape, but loose enough  that you can squeeze it like one of those foam stress balls.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATuck the end of your yarn around the last group of wraps, and your yarn is ready to go into storage.  Or, cast on and start knitting!

All Twisted Up: Dealing With Skeins

Let’s talk about skeins. This is a skein:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASometimes yarn is sold in skeins (instead of pre-wound balls).  Skeins are looser than balls, which allows you to see the texture and color of the yarn more accurately.  It’s also less work for the dyers and spinners, so often if you find fancy-pants yarn from some small fiber company, it’ll be sold in a skein.

But, skeins are a pain in the butt for knitters.  You get home from the yarn store with your brand-new purchase, and instead of starting to knit right away, you have to spend a half hour rolling the yarn into a ball first.  Infuriating!

But, have no fear.  Skeins are easily dealt with, as long as you exercise a little patience.

First, unloop the ends of the skein from one another.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen carefully tease apart the skein until it lays nicely in a big ring, being sure to keep the strands from tangling.  I like to do this step on the floor to give myself plenty of space to work.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADepending on the brand of yarn, the skein will be held together by one or more (usually between 2 and 4) bits of scrap yarn.  You can cut or untie the scrap yarn, whichever is less scary to you.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen, I to loop the whole skein over the back of a chair, my knees, or around my husband’s hands (if he’s in a helpful mood).  This will keep the big loop of yarn from tangling as I roll it into a ball.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Go slowly and be patient, and if something weird happens (like loops of yarn start flying around) stop immediately and put the loops back around the chair.  If you start getting a tangle, if you keep going it will only get worse.

Next week we’ll talk about how to roll yarn into the perfect ball.

**And a note on Swifts:  If you are a moneybags, there is a tool called a yarn swift that is specifically designed to hold your skein of yarn (instead of a chair back) while you wind it into a ball.  Some people swear by them, but I have never had an extra $65 to spend on a swift (not when I could buy yarn instead!)

So Twisted

So,  you’ve got your pretty yarn all died and dry.  It’s in a big skein, but the threat of tangles still looms.  What’s a girl to do?


Here’s what to do to get your yarn into a pretty little twist.  It’s not terribly practical, but it’ll keep your yarn tangle-free until you get a chance to ball it up.  (Also, skeined yarn looks pretty, so if you’re giving your yarn away as a gift, this might be the way to go.)

Step 1:  Loop the yarn around your hands.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAStep 2: Twist, twist, twist.  Twist until you can’t any more.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAStep 3: Fold the yarn in half.  I either hold the middle of the yarn in my mouth or under my chin. Don’t gag.  Ew.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAStep 4: Tuck one end of the skein through loop at the other end.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAStep 5: Futz with the skein to even out the twists.



Skein Rhymes With Pain

Before we get started dying your yarn, we need it in a skein.  A skein of yarn is basically a nice neat loop of yarn held together in a couple spots by scrap yarn.  It’s good for dying , since it lets your dye get to every little bit of your yarn, but prevents your yarn from becoming the world’s biggest knot.

Sometimes you can buy yarn already in a skein (usually from knitting specialty stores), but usually it comes in balls when you buy it from JoAnn’s or something like that.  Putting it in a skein is a bit of a pain, but it’s worth it.

So, how’s it done?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFirst, wrap your yarn around something.  I’m using the backs of two chairs sitting next to each other.  You could use a really big book, or the hands of a very patient friend.  Keep wrapping until you have it all wrapped up.  (I’m actually splitting my ball of yarn in half, and making two even-ish skeins of wool.  This way, I can dye them separately and have two different colors of yarn.)  Tie the ends of your yarn together to keep everything neat.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen, using scrap yarn or embroidery floss, add a couple ties around your skein.  Hold the embroidery floss behind the yarn, while it’s still wrapped around the chair back (or whatever).  Split the yarn in half with your thumb.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATake the bottom end of the floss, and loop it behind the middle of the floss, in between the two halves of the yarn.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKnot the ends of the floss together.  Make sure the tie is secure, but loose around the yarn.  If it’s too tight, you’ll end up with white spots in your dyed yarn.  And no one wants that.

Add a couple more ties around the skein.

Slip the skein of yarn off the chair back, and you’re ready to start dying.  (The yarn, that is.  Don’t actually die.  That would suck.)