How to Ball a Hank of Yarn

4 Tips to ball your yarn

Isn’t it exciting when you look in the mailbox and find your shipment of squishy, sheep smelling skeins of warmth and goodness!? If you are like me, you can’t wait to start casting on!

I want to help you get off to the best possible start with your project and give you some tips on how to get your skein of yarn into a ball or a cake.

1st Tip – When you get your yarn and slide off the Mountain Meadow Wool wrapper, don’t throw the wrapper away, it has information about the yards of the skein and most importantly the dye lot. If you need another skein you will want to know the weight of yarn, dye lot, and the name of the color!

2nd Tip – Inspect the skein:

Mountain Meadow Wool skeins have two ties.  One tie is the two ends of the yarn tied together; the other ties is generally a colored tie that is figure 8ed through the yarn.

Skein of yarn

Look at the colored tie and make sure that all the yarn is going through the tie, and that no strands have gotten doubled back over the tie.  When our team members twist the yarn, they look to make sure that all the yarn is going through the ties, but sometimes a strand will be missed. One strand in the wrong place can cause a lot of headaches, so don’t skip this step.

Skien on swift

3rd Tip - Another look at the skein, this time spreading the yarn out so it will be flatter than in a bunch.

4th Tip – Do you have a yarn swift and ball winder?

If not, you can easily put it in a ball. If you have a yarn swift put the skein around the swift with a little bit of tension.  Snip the colored tie and remove it. Snip the yarn ends just beyond the knot.

Skien of yarn being cut

Skien of yarn being cut

Determine which end is on the inside of the skein and which looks to be on the outside. Choose the outside strand; you may want to tuck the inside strand between the other yarn and the swift so that it doesn’t get tangled up as the swift goes around and around.

Attach the yarn to your ball winder, and turn the handle with consistent speed, don’t go too fast!  When getting toward the end of the yarn slow down, you may need to apply some tension to the yarn as the last rounds come off the swift.

Skien ono ball winder

Don't have a yarn ball winder or swift?

Okay, you don’t have a fancy swift and ball winder, no problem!  Here are a few options:

A) Set two kitchen chairs back to back and put the skein around the backs of the chairs, then spread the chairs apart to put a little tension on the skein, then proceed to cut the ties and make your ball.

Skien of yarn on chairs

B) Put the skein over something round, such as a laundry basket that is upside-down.

Skien of yarn on basket

C) My favorite method is to get the family involved by having a patient person put their hands inside the skein, with the yarn against the back of their hands and applying a little outward pressure as you go around and around making your ball.

A little bit of prep time will make this process a breeze and once you have your yarn in a ball you are ready to knit!

Knit On my fellow Fiberistas!!


  • Diane Lavender

    I have wound my yarn into center pull cakes for many years. When I finish a project, my left over yarn is rewound into a small cake
    for storages and eventual use in another project. So simple to roll up the yarn lable and insert it into the center of the cake. While i have used a number of mechanical winders, I prefer, and now only use a simple wooden nostepinne to wind my yarn with. While a nostepinne is inexpensive, the same can be done with a larger sized straight needle, or even the tube from the center of a roll of paper towels. I have discovered that while most spinners I know how to use a nostepinne, many knitters have never learned how to use one. Maybe a blog post on using one would be helpful??

  • Norah Bryant

    It was such a great feeling when I learned the center-pull ball winding method , I did it by hand for years until I invested in a swift & winder. Center pull makes everything so much easier.

  • Deb Mig

    Winding yarn is how I became a knitter. When I was around eight my mother used me as the yarn holder. I was hooked by the feel of the yarn and started knitting then using her leftovers. I had the best dressed Barbies!

  • Mary

    I sit on the floor with the hand draped over my knees to unwind the hank as I wrap the ball. I have a good swift, but it gets little use. Prefer it this way. I hole punch the label, and half-hitch a gathered hank of a couple yards of yarn through the hole. That way, I know the exact yarn that label refers to. Huge yarn collection – not going to rely on memory!

  • Susan

    Many knitters don’t realize that there is a measurable difference in the degree of twist you get when knitting from a center-pull vs outside-unwrap ball of yarn, but there is. That’s why the center-pull ball is better according to the experts. When I learned this and could see the difference as I knit from both kinds of balls, I became a center-pull evangelist. (Would love to see another blog post on this.)

    I use the smaller Rx bottle as the center of my center-pull self-wound ball as well, folding up the ball band and sticking it in the center of the ball for safekeeping. Therefore I don’t miss not having a ball winder. However, I really do think a yarn swift is necessary if you are winding a lot of skeins and want some consistency in tension. I fell in love with the low-tech wooden Amish yarn swift they sell on Amazon for about $35. It is, like many things, now made in China but quite beautiful. If that’s too rich for you, you can Google how to make a yarn swift. You will get several home made yarn swift plans that can be made easily, even by people not all that handy.

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