How to Wind Yarn Without a Yarn Winder: A Beginner’s Guide

By Jodie Morgan | Last Updated: | Published:

As a knitter, I know how frustrating it can be to have a tangled mess of yarn on your hands. While yarn winders can be a great investment, not everyone has access to one. So what can you do if you need to wind your yarn but don’t have a yarn winder? Here are some methods that I’ve found to be quite effective:

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Methods for Winding Yarn Without a Yarn Winder

Using Your Hand And Fingers

One of the simplest ways to wind yarn without a yarn winder is to use your hand and fingers. I use my knees to hold the yarn hank loop or the back of a chair. Start by making a loop with your thumb and index finger, then wrap the yarn around your four fingers in a figure-eight pattern.

Once you’ve wrapped the yarn around your fingers until all the yarn is used up, remove from your fingers and tuck the end of the yarn under the wraps. Now you’ve created a tidy ball.

Using The Back Of A Chair

Another method for winding yarn without a winder is to use the back of a chair. This method is typically used when you want to create a ball by hand and the chair back holds the yarn hank in place as you wind. Similar to a swift holding the yarn hank.

Or if you have a ball of yarn you want to unravel and wind the yarn into a hank form, a chair back is handy. This is excellent for when you are reusing yarn and need to wash it to remove all the kinks created by knitting it.

Start by tying the end of your yarn to the top of the chair, then wrap the yarn around the chair back. Once you’ve wrapped all the yarn around the chair back it forms one big loop.

Using another length of yarn—which can be the same yarn or a contrasting colored yarn, tie the hank strands together in at least four places to secure the ends.

I prefer to use a contrasting colored yarn so it’s easy to see them. These strands should be tied tightly enough that they hold the hank together but not so tight that they won’t allow the fibers to move around.

Make sure the yarn doesn’t tangle when you take it off the back of the chair.

Using A Pen Or Pencil

You can also wind yarn around a pen or pencil. Start by taping one end of the yarn to the tip of the pencil, leaving a few inches for a tail. Begin winding the yarn around the pencil, near the opposite end of it.

Once you’ve wound approximately half of the yarn, push down the ball of yarn you’ve wound to the end of the pencil. Proceed to wind the ball until all the yarn has been used up. Remove the tape from the pencil, and gently pull the pencil out of the ball. Then you’ve created a center pull ball.

Using A Cardboard Roll

Finally, you can also wind yarn around a cardboard roll. Start by cutting a cardboard roll to the desired length, then make a small cut in one end of the roll.

Insert the end of your yarn into the cut and start wrapping the yarn around the roll in a figure-eight pattern. Once you’ve wrapped the yarn around the roll until all the yarn is used up, slide the bundle of yarn off the cardboard roll.

These methods may take a bit of practice, but they’re a great way to wind yarn without a winder. Plus, they can be quite relaxing and meditative – perfect for a cozy night in with your knitting!

Tips and Tricks for Winding Yarn Without a Yarn Winder

Over time, I have learned a few tips and tricks that I would like to share with you for the methods above.

Finger Winding

  1. Don’t wind too tightly, if too tight you’ll restrict the circulation of blood to your fingers and this is very unpleasant.

Using A Pencil

  1. I wouldn’t recommend using a pencil with an eraser on the end. This can sometimes come loose and be left in the center of your ball.
  2. Also the metal casing that holds the eraser on the end of your pencil can sometimes have rough edges. This can snag the yarn as you try to pull the pencil out from the ball when you’ve finished winding.


When winding yarn, knots can be a problem. They can get in the way and ruin your knitting. Here’s how to avoid them being included in your wound ball:

  1. Check your yarn for knots as you wind.
  2. If you find a knot, untie it if you can and then continue winding.
  3. If you can’t untie the knot, cut the yarn and remove the knot section. Then rejoin the yarn strand with a Russian join or a felted join.

I hope these tips and tricks help you wind your yarn without a yarn winder. Remember, practice makes perfect, so keep trying until you find the method that works best for you. Happy knitting!

About The Author

Jodie Morgan From Knit Like Granny

Jodie Morgan (Author & Founder) | Lives In: Chiang Mai, Thailand

Author: Jodie Morgan is a passionate knitter and blogger with 40+ years of experience currently living in Chiang Mai, Thailand. 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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