How To Use A Yarn Winder: Easy Steps For Tangle-Free Crafting

By Jodie Morgan

| Updated:

Organizing yarn is key, and a yarn winder gives you a perfect way to transform messy hanks into tidy balls, ready for knitting. In this guide, I’ll teach you how to use a yarn winder to make knitting fun and frustration-free.

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Table Of Contents

How Do You Wind A Skein Of Yarn With A Ball Winder?

Winding a skein of yarn with a ball winder saves you time and keeps your yarn organized. Allow me to share my tips for getting the perfect ball of yarn!

Setting Up The Yarn Winder

So, how do we set this up?

Preparing Your Workstation

First, let’s create a comfortable and organized space for setting up the yarn winder. I like to choose an area with plenty of elbow room. You also want a sturdy table with square edges to ensure the yarn winder clamp has a proper grip.

Leave some space for your yarn to sit.

Clamping It To The Table

Now it’s time to anchor your yarn winder in place. To prevent any damage to your surface, place a piece of cloth between the clamp and the table. Clamp the winder to the edge of the table, and ensure the bolts are tightened!

Preparing The Skein & Setting Up The Swift

For better results when using a yarn winder, I recommend incorporating a yarn swift into your setup. Secure the swift to another part of the table using a clamp. (The best distance between your ball winder and yarn swift is 12-18″.)

Next, you’ll need to untwist your hank to form a large circular loop, and remove the ties keeping the yarn together. If you’re using scissors, be careful!

Slide it onto swift, ensuring it’s free from tangles. For an umbrella swift, you push up the knob at the bottom of the pole, and the arms spread out. The arm-span needs your yarn loop to fit around the outside.

Some adjustments are required, depending on the loop size. Don’t rush this step! It’s essential to avoid twists or knots at this stage for smooth winding later on. Give the yarn end a gentle tug and see that the swift spins freely.

Now everything’s in position, you’re ready to begin winding your yarn.

Using The Yarn Winder

Find the end of the skein of yarn on the outside. This is the end you attach to your winder. Slip the yarn end through the metal yarn guide arm and into the slit/notch at the top of the winder bobbin/spindle. This ensures an even flow. This end is where you access the working yarn from your pull ball cake.

Here comes the fun part! Start winding the yarn by turning the handle of the winder. Use your other hand to guide the yarn to control the tension, and keep an eye on it—you want it to be firm but not too tight.

A little tension helps create a neat and compact yarn ball, while too much might stretch your yarn and affect its elasticity. Increase your speed a little more. Ensure the ball winder and the yarn through the metal yarn guide arm move freely.

As you wind, maintain a steady pace and gently guide the yarn onto the winder. Watching the yarn transform into a neat ball is satisfying, if I may say so!

Removing The Yarn Ball

Once your yarn is all wound up, it’s time to remove the new yarn ball from the winder. Use your pincher fingers on one hand to hold the thread in the slot at the top of the winder, and your other hand to slide the yarn muffin off the ball winder.

The end you have in your pincher fingers is the center pull end. Unwind a couple of feet of yarn from the outside. Wrap around the middle a few times and tuck it in.

Remember not to pull too hard, as this can make your precious yarn ball unravel.

There you have it! A beautifully wound ball of yarn, ready for your project. A storage tip is placing the yarn label inside the center of the cake for easy access.

It might not be easy at first, but with practice, you’ll get more familiar with it.

Here is a fabulous video tutorial by Stacey at Very Pink Knits. The swift holds the Yarn while you wind it. Use a yarn winder and swift to save the hassle.

The important thing is to take your time when first starting out. This allows you to stop tangles from happening. There’s nothing more frustrating than your precious yarn getting into a big mess because you’ve gone too fast!

Pin For Later

How To Use A Yarn Winder Pin

FAQs About Using Yarn Winders

Do You Need A Yarn Swift To Use A Yarn Winder?

In my experience, yes, you need a yarn swift to use a yarn winder. But it’s not absolutely necessary. A yarn swift makes it easier to hold and unwind hanks of yarn while you wind the yarn into a neat cake.

If you don’t have a yarn swift, you can still use a yarn winder, but you need to use a bit more creativity to keep your yarn from tangling. You could also make one! See my post on making a DIY Yarn Swift here for more information.

What Can You Use Instead Of A Yarn Swift?

If you don’t have a yarn swift, don’t worry – there are alternatives you can use to keep your yarn from tangling while you wind it. Here are some options I’ve tried:

  • Someone else’s arms: Get them to hold the hank of yarn around their elbows, and as you wind, keep the tension even to prevent tangling.
  • Two chairbacks: Drape your hank of yarn loop over the back of two chairs a decent width apart to keep the yarn taught. Ensure they’ll stay put, and gently adjust the tension as you wind.

Do You Turn A Yarn Winder Clockwise Or Counterclockwise?

When using your yarn winder, the standard practice is to turn it clockwise. Based on my experience, doing this while holding the yarn end allows for even tension.


With some practice, using a yarn winder will become second nature. Your yarn will be neatly wound and ready to use for your next knitting adventure.

About The Author

Jodie Morgan From Knit Like Granny

Jodie Morgan (Author & Founder) | Lives In: Regional Australia

Author: Jodie Morgan is a passionate knitter and blogger with 40+ years of experience currently living in regional Australia. Taught by her mother and wonderful grandmother “Mama”, she fell in love with crafting from a young age. When she’s not knitting, you’ll find her enjoying a cup of coffee with cream, or sharing helpful resources and tips with the online knitting community. Get to know Jodie and the team on our meet the team page.

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