Winding and pulling balls

rdought's picture

I typically hand-wind my balls and pull them from the outside. Put a round ball in a bowl, basket, or even a bag and they tend to behave when pulled from the outside. However, there's another world out there!

Some guys like to wind their balls mechanically, make them flattish, and pull them from the center. Sure, they don't slide around so much and pulling from the center can initially be nice, but eventually they're disheveled and misshapen.

What are the advantages/disadvantages of hand-winding versus mechanical-winding and pulling from the outside or the center?


rdought's picture

With the references to

With the references to toilet paper, this seems appropriate:

New York Built's picture

Simplicity, itself! Hey,

Simplicity, itself!

Hey, with two of those clamp-dowel Home Depot specials, I can knit linen, cotton and hemp off the small skeins. Thanks for the heads-up! His idea solves the problem.

The ball in the bowl does as well for wound balls of other yarns.

"Champagne for my real friends, real pain for my sham friends."
– Francis Bacon

elib1971's picture

Fantastic. Although I make

Fantastic. Although I make stick with the yarn-in-bowl method for now.
Eli B.

elib1971's picture

I suspect that I have had

I suspect that I have had this problem in the past, so I diligently read all of this. Unfortunately, much of it went over my head. You all are clearly advanced knitters and probably passed your physics exams as well!

I think I understand the centre pull problem and that one can face a similar problem when pulling from the outside without allowing the ball to spin. Either way, the toilet paper imagery is effective - when I pull, I get a tube and I either add or lose twist. I also understand that the making of the ball itself can cause problems.

What I am missing is how to avoid the problems. I prefer not to leave yarn in a skein as I like to take my knitting with me and I end up with a big tangled mess when the yarn is not in a ball. Do the commercial winders help to avoid the problems which arise during winding? I usually ask the nice people at the yarn store to wind the yarn into balls for me using their winding machine. Is rdrought avoiding the problem of gaining or losing twist during knitting by putting the ball in a bowl or bag and letting it turn? That sounds clever to me.

Basically, what do you guys suggest I do to be able to knit relatively conveniently without adding or losing twist? (Sorry if I am being really dense about this).

Eli B.

Tallguy's picture

Yes, you are correct in

Yes, you are correct in thinking that the ball winder will not add or remove twist. The ball is rotating as it is being wound. The same in unwinding the ball, it must rotate. Placing the ball on your make-shift lazy kate will work, or you can also put it on a lazy susan. There is a commercial version of this to use in knitting as well! and somewhere I've seen a smaller cone support of brass for coned yarn or yarn balls.

If you rotate the ball while winding it, or while taking yarn off the ball, then you will not have problems. There still is a small detail of twisting when knitting English style, but it's minor. You MAY not have that problem if you knit Continental.

jonathan1986's picture

i have absolutely no idea

i have absolutely no idea what you are all talking about.....I mean I´ve read it all and it makes no sense whatsoever, perhaps I should take up stamp collecting and leave the knitting to the people who actually know what this all means

MMario's picture

hell - you don't have to

hell - you don't have to know what something *means* in order to do it.
I don't understand music theory at all; can't read music, and can't recognize a note to save my life.... but I have two CD's out and sing constantly....

albert's picture

But if you buy your stamps

But if you buy your stamps in rolls, you'll have to decide whether to pull them out from inside or outside the roll.

cashmere knight's picture

Thank you to everyone who

Thank you to everyone who had some input here. This is really an eye-opener for me. Hear about twist...ply...wpi...all the time with knitting and yarns, but in all honesty, I never gave any of that a thought while winding the skein into a ball. The only thing I practice while winding my yarn into balls is keeping the yarn as close to its original strand size, very loose...I don't pull tight with it as I've seen some do. When I would hear about yarn being splitty, I didn't know what it meant. I asked the clerk at the LYS one time if splitty meant that the yarn lost its ply. She wasn't real definitive, she said she thought so. Just about every time I cast on for a project, with the repeated 'spindling' of the yarn around and across my fingers for every stitch, I see it lose twist all the time. I hate that...absolutely hate that. I want to see the nice robust, full strand in stitch formation on the needles, not the 4-ply laying flat. Don't know if you're getting the mind picture. But at that point I didn't know what to do about it. Much more of this for me to put in practice. This was all very, very informative and helpful. Thanks!

"Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution." --Albert Einstein

New York Built's picture

For those who partake of the

For those who partake of the vegetable end of the periodic table of the textiles, or may taste of those fruits soon, please note from study and experience:

For all bast fibers,like linen, hemp, ramie, jute and to a limited extent cotton, you will rue the day you decided to go for it from a center pull ball. Tangles, knots and a Mexican bus accident of horrific disorder will be your bitter and cold repast. Don't do it. Leave it in hank or skein.

"Champagne for my real friends, real pain for my sham friends."
– Francis Bacon

jessemkahn's picture

honest question: what if you

honest question: what if you wind it like a center pull ball, but then start from the outside? will the incur the same frustrations and traffic accidents?

New York Built's picture

I gave up seditious and

I gave up seditious and lying answers long ago.

Draw from the end or beginning of a center pull ball made from bast fibers - and carnage and small mammal husbandry may be your fate. The central structure of the ball does not support much twisting. Wool and other fiber "stickiness" will hold.

Eyewitness accounts have drawn parallels from watching suns go nova, collapse into black holes and consume their I said, carnage and small mammal husbandry.

ann g's picture

Very enlightening

Very enlightening HuskerChub!

And, TallGuy, how can I identify the right end of the center pull ball?

I always hand-wind the skeins into a center pull ball. It's a very zen procedure and it actually helps to locate knots and other unsightly problems before any actual knitting is done! My cat also loves it when I'm winding yarn, if not for the same reason though... This is the method I use and to top it all, you could reuse the same toilet paper roll after HuskerChub's experiment (because you're not going to rewind all that paper by hand, are you?)...

Tallguy's picture

Ann G, there is something to

Ann G, there is something to be said for hand winding a ball of yarn. However, after you have done a couple hundred skeins worth, the fascination is gone from that activity.

Okay, while it is not wrong to wind by hand, there are a few things you need to be aware of. As I’ve said before, you are going to add or remove two twists per revolution. Sometimes that can really make a change in your yarn.

As you have said, some yarns will “split” for you. Some yarns come with very little twist in the ply… removing just a bit and you have that flat ribbon of a 4-ply, and you may think you have four yarns instead of one.

When winding from a skein, are you using a swift or using the back of a chair or holding it over your knees? As you unwind, what direction are you going – clockwise, or counter-clockwise? One will add twist, one will remove it.

When winding by hand, which direction are you winding the ball -- clockwise, or counter-clockwise? Are you winding from the top of the ball toward you and under, or are you winding away from you and then under? One will add twist, one will remove it.

Which hand are you using – right or left? The directions are now reversed, and your twist will now be removed or added.

After you make your ball, do you draw the yarn from the centre or outside of the ball? One will add twist, one will remove it. When you look at the wound ball from the end, does it wind off clockwise or counter-clockwise – I like to think of it as making a “9”or an “e”. Turn your ball over, and look at it from the other side… is it a 9 or an e? See the difference? One will add twist, one will remove it. Pull up a length of yarn… sometimes it will kink up on this side, but not on the other. (Try this trick with bathroom tissue, or ribbon. Every try to wind it back on -- smoothly? Why does it twist up for you?)

When you knit, you are correct that you untwist your S-ply yarns one twist with every stitch – when you knit English style. This doesn’t normally happen when you knit Continental, depending if you pick or wrap with your left hand.

Did you know that yarns are spun and plied differently for knitting than for crochet? That’s because of the way we handle the yarns. If you use the wrong yarn, it will split for you easily.

If you haven’t noticed any of this happening when you knit, then don’t worry about it. If you have, then take a measure to correct it. Sometimes it’s as simple as flipping the ball over and using it from the other side. If you know what effect you are getting doing anything a certain way, you can use it to your advantage. It becomes the difference between frustration and satisfaction with your craft.

ann g's picture

And THAT may well be the

And THAT may well be the reason why the linen I'm working with for the first time now, is splitting and getting me frustrated! I'll have a good look at my balls (no pun intended, obviously) tonight to see how they're wound/unwinding. Of course it takes a spinner to have inside knowledge and point this out!

New York Built's picture

Leave linen and all bast

Leave linen and all bast fibers in hank or skein. The additional twists in balling, knitting and unwinding adds bias, knots, tangles and annoyance to an otherwise delightful fiber.

"Champagne for my real friends, real pain for my sham friends."
– Francis Bacon

cashmere knight's picture

Thanks Tallguy for posting

Thanks Tallguy for posting this. The detail about the winding and twist of the yarn, and how our handling it makes a difference is definitely some new learning for me. More informed now, and happier for it, too! Thanks!

"Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution." --Albert Einstein

daveballarat's picture

Very enlightening... I am

Very enlightening... I am frustrated with my yarn splitting on my aran... and sometimes my sock yarn has been splitting too... I do have a ball winder, it's still in the box, I bought it when I was back home... not sure if you can buy them here in Turkey. Not planning on doing any winding of any sort until I get these current projects out of the way... and that won't be until I move house... today is moving day... oh I hate moving house... and the cleaning afterwards... would much prefer to sit back and work on a project... yes, I'm a lazy bastard.

Thanks for the insights ... will take it in to consideration when about to start my next project.
Istanbul, Turkey

Crafty Andy's picture

Visit Crafty Andy's Blog

Visit Crafty Andy's Blog
Isn't that Special!

Tallguy's picture

OMG HuskerChub! That is the

OMG HuskerChub! That is the first time I've ever heard someone say the same thing I've been preaching for years! It is so very true: You do alter the twist of your yarn when you wind them by hand, or when using it from the outside, or the inside of the ball. Why do you think some yarns "split" for you? Why does one ball seem "different" than another? You are probably using the yarn from the wrong end of a centre-pull ball (there is a right and wrong end, you know). The only correct way is to have the ball rotate when winding, or when releasing yarn.

I wrote a long article on this very same subject. It is too detailed for most people. They prefer to get their yarns from WM so who cares about a little twist gained or lost! But as spinners, we work very hard to get just the right amount of twist in the yarn we need for a project... and then go and ruin it all by winding the wrong way?? I don't think so.

It if matters, you will learn to do it correctly. If not, then continue as you were. Enjoy!

HuskerChub's picture

!@#$%%!@#$! how do I reply

!@#$%%!@#$! how do I reply to this without it being preachy and LONG? I can't so here goes LOL.

You are missing the point of a center pull ball, it is not that they hold shape until they collapse on themselves, it's a physics thing. Yarn that is hand rolled, wound on a ball winder, or nosdepinne will add extra twist to the yarn if it is pulled from the outside. The only way to take yarn off of the outside of the balls without adding twist is to put it on a stationary object and let the ball spin as it unwinds. I know, I know ya'll are groaning and telling the big mouth know it all to shut up but it's true, you are adding twist. Is that bad? Depends on the yarn and your personal style. Most spinners will shutter at the thought of adding twist to their perfectly spun yarn, or taking out some of the twist/ply...don't ask unless you really want to know LOL. But, here is a quick little experiment that will prove my point--well maybe. Quick, hurry and run to the bathroom and grab a brand spankin new roll of toilet paper and then come back to the, now, quickly...............hmmmmm deeeeee dummmmmm.....OK, your back. Put your roll of tp on the floor flat side down. Now stand up and pull the tp off the roll straight up into the air, the tp has formed a tube of paper (you added twist by taking it from the outside of the roll) hell kick the thing over and lit it roll all over the floor, same result. Why does it no twist when used in the has a stationary center holding it allowing it to spin as you unwind it.

Now if hand winding a ball is a zen thing for you and you want to learn to wind a center pull hand wound ball, give me a shout and I'll try and put something together to show how easy it is. A friend, David X, that is very anal about the "right way" to do things does this. If he uses a ball winder he winds it 3 times to insure that there is no possible way of that there is any tension on the yarn as he winds it. Wool esp can be damaged by winding it too tightly. With hand winding a ball this is far less likely to happen. If you have your yarn on a swift and wind the ball directly from the swift to the ball winder you ARE putting too much tension on the center yarn and if you do not knit it up within a very short period of time you are not going to be as pleased. David would recommend that you unwind the yarn from the swift into a nice pile on the floor and then wind from the pile. Danger! If you cannot wind this yarn immediately and there is anything that will potentially move your yarn pile, save it till later. If the pile is moved in anyway you run a huge risk of tangles!!!! Start winding with the last end of the yarn from the swift and make sure that the pile is untouched and you will never have tangle issues. As a safety measure you can build your pile in a container that can be covered and very gently moved if you need, just don't shake it or you are screwed, and not in a good way ;).

cashmere knight's picture

So in light of the roll of

So in light of the roll of paper description, are you knitting from the wrong end then if your yarn is twisting on you as you are knitting with it? Too much twist then....? Also, if I were to take a skein of yarn, for example, Paton's that's wound with some kind of configuration to the ball and direction to the strand, and mount it on a dowel through the center and standing up on end on something like a lazy susan, or turntable, so it turns when I'm using the yarn, and then decide on which end it is to be stood up, is that good handling of the yarn? Just wondering?

"Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution." --Albert Einstein

rdought's picture

Thanks! This is great

Thanks! This is great information. I think that I understand the adding (or losing) of twist. (I've suffered the consequences of it during knitting!) As you said, if I have a roll of paper on the floor and pull up from the outside, I end up with a tube. But wouldn't the same thing happen if I were to pull straight up from the center? In both cases, the ball is stationary and only the yarn is moving, which should affect the twist. In any case the best solution is to allow the ball to spin as it's unwound.