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How to Wind a Skein




Lots of hand-dyed and more premium yarns come in skeins or hanks rather than balls. A skein is a large loop of yarn that has been twisted. You need to wind a skein into a ball before you use it else it will become a tangled mess!


Why does Yarn come in Skeins?

It isn’t just to make everyone’s life a bit more difficult or because it looks pretty there are a few good reasons that some mills and dyers wind their yarns into skeins.

It is easier to see the overall dye of the yarn, if you have a variegated or ombre effect yarn it is harder to see what your finished knit or crochet piece will look like if its wound into a ball and only the outer layers are showing.

In a skein, it is also easier to get a feel for the drape and texture of the yarn so it’s easier to decide whether a yarn is suitable for your projects.

Finally, it puts less tension on the yarn, by storing yarn in balls you may cause the yarn to stretch if the ball is very tight and if the yarn is left in a ball for a long time. Many spinners and dyers prefer to store and ship their yarn in skeins to prolong its life.


We recommend not winding your yarn until you are about to use it so that the tension isn’t altered.



If you’re going to be winding a lot of skeins like we do we’d recommend using a yarn swift and ball winder but we will show you how to wind a ball with or without equipment.


With a Swift and Ball Winder



Swifts and Winders normally clamp to a table

1. First carefully untwist the skein keeping all the strands in place. There will be ties around the yarn to keep it from tangling, use these as a guide of what strands to keep together. You should have a big loop of yarn


2. Place the large loop around the swift and open the swift (like an umbrella) until it is wide enough to hold the yarn firmly in place


3. Locate the ties holding the skein together, on Wild Woolers yarn these will be very obvious in another colour but for most dyers they will be the same yarn so can be tricky to find. Cut these ties carefully, making sure not to catch any other yarn in the scissors.



4. Find the ends, sometimes these are loose and sometimes these are tied together, if so unknot or cut them



5. Set up your ball winder next to the swift and feed one end of the yarn through the metal yarn guide and into the notch at the top of the winder.



6. Turn the crank handle of the winder slowly and you will see the ball begin to form. Use your other hand to guide the yarn from the swift to the winder so there is not too much tension on the yarn. Make sure not to go too fast or you risk pulling the yarn too tight or the winder skipping and tangling.


7. Once you have finished winding slide the ball of the winder you will now have a ball of yarn that is both a centre pull or outside pull. It’s a good idea to wrap the ball band around the yarn or slide it into the centre so that when you come to use it you know what yarn it is.



Without Equipment

There are several ways to wind a ball of yarn without proper equipment, the easiest is to lay the hank around the back of a chair (spinning chairs will speed up the process). Another method is to lay it around a friends arms. And if you really have nothing to help hold the shape you can lay it very carefully around your own knees or even feet!


1. First, carefully untwist the skein keeping all the strands in place. There will be ties around the yarn to keep it from tangling, use these as a guide of what strands to keep together. You should have a big loop of yarn (see step 1 picture above)

  1. Place the loop of yarn over what you will be using to hold the shape


3. Locate the ties holding the skein together, on Wild Woolers yarn these will be very obvious in another colour but for most dyers, they will be the same yarn so can be tricky to find. Cut these ties carefully, making sure not to catch any other yarn in the scissors. (See step 3 picture in above section)


4. Find the ends, sometimes these are loose and sometimes these are tied together, if so unknot or cut them. (See step 4 picture in above section


5. Start unwinding the yarn and wrapping it around your fingers, if you are using your knees go very slowly to make sure you don’t lose the loop shape of the yarn.


6. Wrap your fingers until you have a holdable amount, slide your fingers out and wrap the ball in a different angle, keep changing the angle as you go to make sure the ball won’t fall apart.


7. Wrap the ball until all the yarn is wound and slip the final strand between a couple of layers to secure it, to keep track of where the end is you could use a hair clip or a sewing pin. It's a good idea to wrap the ball band around the yarn or attach it another way so you will know what yarn it is when you come to use it.



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