Tag Archives: swift

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?

‘Round and ‘Round

I love getting a brand-new, squishy skein of yarn as much as the next knitter, but I also used to kind of dread it.  Un-raveling and balling-up a big (often tangled) skein is the absolute pits!  I used to have a whole system that involved two kitchen chairs, about an hour and a lot of swearing.

But then, for Christmas, my husband gave me one of my most favorite new tools!

My umbrella swift!  (I’m not sure which brand/model it is, but google “umbrella swift” and you’ll find a bunch.)

I always kind of wanted one, but never could justify buying one for myself.  After all, I didn’t need it.  I’d use it, if I had one, but not very often.  Also, they’re a little expensive- and I hate spending money.

So all that made this bad boy the perfect Christmas present.

And you know what?  I love it!  It’s the best!  It makes balling up yarn go so fast, and it’s super fun!

I undo the skein, taking off any scrap yarn that was used to keep the strands together, and put the big loop of yarn around the swift.  Then, I take the end of the yarn and attach it to the top of my ball winder, and away we go!  (Ignore the ugly avocado-green end table that I picked up from the side of the road.  It might not be pretty, but it’s very useful.)I get the ball winder spinning, and the swift twirls away, unraveling the skein without a single tangle!  It’s amazing.  This time, I balled 6 skeins of yarn in about 10 minutes.  That would have taken me hours without my umbrella swift!

Do you have a favorite not-technically-necessary-but-really-nice-to-have tool?

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!)