How to Wind a Center-Pull Ball of Yarn With Your Hands or Swift

//How to Wind a Center-Pull Ball of Yarn With Your Hands or Swift

How to Wind a Center-Pull Ball of Yarn With Your Hands or Swift

Hello, my lovelies!

I was sitting at the university library yesterday with my love (as he downloaded his latest photography program) and as I didn’t have a darning needle with me and couldn’t work the sewn bind-off on my Pretty Thing Cowl, I needed something to do.ball of gradient yarn

So I decided to figure out/create a demonstration for you on how to wind a center-pull ball with your hands.

Video and written version is first and then scroll down for the VIDEO.

1. Start with a skein of yarn (this is a wee skein I dyed into a gradient as a test to see if this would be feasible to make and sell full time. That’s still up in the air.)

2. Spread the skein out. So it doesn’t get tangly (tangley?) you can wrap it around your knees or have the closest person you can find to hold it. (Note: If the closest person to you doesn’t know you, they might give you a strange look when asked to hold your yarn. If only they knew how lucky they were). If you have a swift and you’re near the vicinity of said swift, you can use that. As I was at the library, I tried the knee technique and then opted for my boo to hold it.

skein of hand dyed yarn3. Clutch the tail with your hand and begin winding the yarn around your thumb. Start off loosely or your thumb will turn blue and fall off. Or at least feel like it. You can turn the skein around your thumb if need be, but make sure to keep it on your thumb the whole time.
winding a center-pull ball of yarn

4. Ta Da! Promised center-pull ball is done! Once popped off your thumb, you will have a tidy, perfect little ball of yarn.

wind a ball of yarn with your hands

To speed this process along you can invest in an actual ball-winder, which I have and love, but this thumb-method is great if you’re out and about. Or as I like to say, oot and aboot. And although I did a small ball, you can do larger balls as well.

Here’s a video showing you how fun this is, and how to use a swift and ball winder if you want to invest in those!

First yarn: Sugar Ribbons Superwash Dewy Dk Yarn:


Second yarn: Spilled Wine Pearlescent Superwash Merino Silk Worsted:


Our colors are limited edition and come and go so they may not be available at all times for you.

The ball winder I used:  Stanwood Needlecraft Large Metal Yarn/Fiber/Wool/String Ball Winder, 10-Ounce

Swift (the umbrella thing): Stanwood Needlecraft Wooden Umbrella Swift Yarn Winder, Medium


So there ya are! I hope you get some use out of this tutorial!

Enjoy your day and be blessed!!

“Anything will give up its secrets if you love it enough. Not only have I found that when I talk to the little flower or to the little peanut they will give up their secrets, but I have found that when I silently commune with people they give up their secrets also – if you love them enough.” – George Washington Carver



By | 2017-09-04T14:05:14+00:00 March 4th, 2012|Tips & Tricks|38 Comments


  1. Cat March 4, 2012 at 8:17 pm - Reply

    I always thought I was cheating using my fingers. But I use my forefinger and take the yarn off sooner. I just pinch the loops a little and wind looselyonto that instead of winding the whole thing on my thumb. I once had a woman comment on how “unusual” and “quick” my knitting style was when I was only rewinding a loose ball. -_-‘ oops…

    • Chandi March 4, 2012 at 9:50 pm - Reply

      Oh, nice!! I just discovered this method so it’s good to know others have similar techniques!

  2. Samantha Rudzinski December 6, 2012 at 1:34 pm - Reply

    Awesome! Thanks so much for this! I will definitely be trying it out! A ball winder is on my wish list though;)

  3. Lyn Mercer April 10, 2013 at 11:21 pm - Reply

    I learned this technique in 1976 from a friend and still use it …

  4. Melanie April 10, 2013 at 11:36 pm - Reply

    I just wanted to say that I enjoy your site, LOVE your dyed fibers and wish so much that I wasn’t allergic to almost all of them.

  5. Eve Martino April 11, 2013 at 1:38 am - Reply

    Thanks, never thought of that.

  6. Anne Marie April 11, 2013 at 4:45 pm - Reply

    Oh, I’ve never thought of doing it like that. I use the thumb. If I want to wind from inside, I use a stick thingey (don’t know what it’s called) I bought at a craft fair.

  7. Karen Wolk September 6, 2013 at 5:06 am - Reply

    I use my knees while sitting “Indian Style” to stretch the skein around. Then, instead of my thumb, I use my index and middle finger to wind the yarn around. I don’t hold the yarn from the middle of the ball at all, but keep an eye out for it, so it doesn’t get twisted into the ball. Also, I turn the yarn around on my fingers to get the “ball winder” look. Eventually I end up with the ball on my index finger and finish that way.

    I love winding the yarn myself because then I get the feel of ALL of it. AND when you give something as a gift I know that I’ve touched all the fiber with my love. 🙂

  8. Pamela sierpinski February 7, 2014 at 2:31 am - Reply

    I’m going to try it. I love little tricks. Also Love your site, the colors you create for your yarn and personality. Thanks

  9. Terry February 7, 2014 at 3:25 am - Reply

    I use my knees to “hold” the yarn, wrap the skein’s wrapper around my large cookie-stirring-spoon, leave a few inches of yarn hanging from the bottom, and wind the yarn around the wrapper.
    This allows me to wind up to a 1000 yd skein of lace-weight into a nice neat easily used “ball”!

  10. Louise February 9, 2014 at 10:22 pm - Reply

    Thanks! I’ve wondered without a ball winder how I could do it! Swift & ball winder are on my wish list.

  11. Allison C. December 27, 2014 at 9:58 pm - Reply

    Thank you for the tutorial! I received 2 Peacock Feather hanks for Christmas from your site and wasn’t sure how to go about using them properly. Now i can just wind them like this, yay!

  12. Linda Black December 28, 2014 at 1:36 am - Reply

    I use the back of a chair and the tube from a roll of tin foil it is just the right size about and inch with a notch cut to put the start of the yarn and start winding. It works great until I can afford the swift and winder. for left over yarn I some times use a small pill bottle and put the end inside then replace the lid to hold the yarn still. As they say necessity is the mother of invention

  13. Joy December 28, 2014 at 5:03 am - Reply

    Thank you, I just got a winder for Christmas!! So excited to finally get to use it!! 🙂 Nice to know of other ways to do it when my winder might not be accessible! Thank you so much!!

  14. Naomi February 9, 2015 at 3:34 pm - Reply

    I recently discovered how to make a yarn ball with a empty toilet paper roll!

  15. Stevie Baucom June 19, 2015 at 2:08 pm - Reply

    You are so adorable! I didn’t know about the thumb way. I use a size 17 needle and start wrapping along part of it and holding the tail. and Just keep going until it resembles a cake. Works pretty well. I can’t wait to get a swift and a winder, but I never knew what swifts were good. I’m going to bookmark the ones you use.

  16. Stacy June 19, 2015 at 4:26 pm - Reply


    You are so darn cute! Thanks for the tutorial! I find winding yarn very relaxing! I’m envious of all those cubbies of yarn behind you! We have a rainy dreary day here in St. Louis, so I’m going to buy some BRIGHT colored yarn today!!

  17. Bethany June 19, 2015 at 6:22 pm - Reply

    Hahaha! Yarn barf 😉 I have a swift my dad made for me, so I’m lucky, but before that I would use the back of two chairs to hold the yarn. Place them back to back, place the yarn around the backs and place the chairs far enough apart to create tension. It frees you up to move with the yarn.

  18. Merry Miller Moon June 19, 2015 at 7:14 pm - Reply

    Okay-first off, I LOVE your skirt. I want it! Second, I just had this issue the other night, I tried to wind up some of my yarn and it was a huge mess and kept unraveling. It was fate that you created this tutorial-Yarn God Fate I tell you! 🙂 And, I love the bloopers at the end! You are the best Chandi! 🙂

  19. Rita Bouchard June 19, 2015 at 9:49 pm - Reply

    I like you ball winder. What brand is it?

  20. Kathie June 20, 2015 at 4:59 am - Reply

    How do I subscribe? Would love to!

  21. Cheri Kocha Steinbrinck June 20, 2015 at 12:36 pm - Reply

    Hi, I feel so smart since I used a chair to wind up 2 skeins into more useable forms, but next time I will try the ball method. I had wound them onto an empty paper towel roll, which works but is not as easy. i always try to be sure to keep from pulling the yarn tight so I don’t stretch it and ruin this beautiful blue Chandi yarn!

  22. Lorraine June 20, 2015 at 1:14 pm - Reply

    Chandi you are such a blessing! You have such a great spirit and personality, always so exhilarated and happy. I always look forward to your videos, they’re the best and I learn from you. My next purchase is a yarn swift. Thank you for another great video! Have a fabulous weekend

  23. Amanda August 2, 2015 at 9:09 pm - Reply

    I have an Amish swift, I wonder if that works with a winder? I’ve been doing it by hand wrapped around a smooth pencil or pen, but I’ve been doing that for the five years that I’ve been knitting and It’s time for an upgrade! My balls are always lemon shaped, that’s just how I learned. Curious about actual spherical balls, but I don’t know that I’d prefer them. If you can’t afford a winder yet, like me, even just having a swift makes it go faster and easier because the yarn being wrapped around any ol’ object will still cause more problems than something that’s moving around as you pull. However, the only downfall I find with the Amish swift is that it’s not as adaptable to the diameter of your hank, so sometimes to get the tension right some of the pegs have to be wider than others which isn’t ideal. Still prefer it to not having a swift. Either way, with Netflix and wine + winding is Devine.

  24. Sondra Burnham May 11, 2016 at 5:00 pm - Reply

    I’ve long been a knitter who always had trouble with my first row of any pattern. The ridge turns out larger at one end. Casting on is a problem also, as it serves and sets up for the first row. Thus, i tend to knit tighter thinking that will cause my first row not to have a open stitches at the end. This is so hard to describe, but i tried. Wondered if you had any helpful hints..that is, if you can understand what I’m describing.
    In addition, Chandi, i love the sight of your yarn and think your yarn looks luscious. I hope to buy some soon. I keep looking at your yarns and have a longing to purchase what i belive to be, some of the finest yarns around! Cost has been prohibitive because I’m on a fixed income and I just wind up not having enough to make a purchase. Sometime, though, I’ll just do it!
    As for winding, in the past, I’ve used the back of a chair to place the yarn, winding onto my little ball winder. Going slow, I’m able to have a nicely wound skein. Oh, i attach the winder to a stool. And, that seems to work very well also.
    I’ve also used the, have a friend hold her arms out method, placing the opened hank around her arms, then roll into a ball. Honestly, so far, I’ve liked the friend method,, because you have someone to talk to while winding the yarn.
    Have a lovely day to all. And Chandi, keep it up. You’ve a huge business, which I’m sure will continue to make and sell your beautiful yarns. You have a good day and thank you for putting out such delicious yarns and ideas to put your yarns to use.

    • Chandi May 19, 2016 at 1:28 pm - Reply

      Thank you, dear! It’s hard to know without seeing up close and personal. If you can get to a local yarn store, they should be able to see what’s happening and help. Glad you love the yarns!

  25. Jennifer Flockton June 8, 2016 at 3:13 pm - Reply

    I always look forward to seeing the gorgeous colours your yarns portray.I enjoy watching the tutorials and find them very helpful.Keep on doing what you are doing.xxxxJenny?

  26. Kate Komstead June 18, 2016 at 3:35 am - Reply

    thank you sooOoo much for this! i’ve already ruined 2 skeins of yarn from your website by trying to wind them inforrectly 🙁 so hopefully no more big hot messes!

  27. Cindt July 25, 2016 at 2:22 pm - Reply

    I LOVE watching your videos! I wind on my swift and ball winder, usually, but if I’m traveling or something away from home, I use this hand method to make my center pull balls. Great when I want to use a new skein but don’t have access to my ball winder. Lol

  28. Kathleen July 25, 2016 at 3:16 pm - Reply

    Got an easy way to find the ends of a regular skein of yarn. It used to be you could find both ends and do double knit from one skein. I haven’t had a skein that I could do that from for a long long time.

  29. Lynn July 18, 2017 at 8:44 pm - Reply

    Hi Chandi! I’m crocheting all the time now thanks to you. ? I’ve tried winding the yarn the way you show in this video but I keep getting snarled clumps out of my center pull. Any ideas on what I’m doing wrong? A mllion thanks.

    • Chandi July 26, 2017 at 2:21 pm - Reply

      Lynn, I would just try winding more loosely! 🙂 Chandi

  30. Sandra July 19, 2017 at 12:37 am - Reply

    Chandi, I see you have a matching skirt and headband. I was curious if you sew also?

    • Chandi July 21, 2017 at 3:08 pm - Reply

      A little…. I try my best. : )

  31. Lynn Clogston July 19, 2017 at 8:43 pm - Reply

    I do it with full-size skeins while sitting at my computer or watching tv. I put the skein around my neck like a lei (have to be careful that my long hair is secured), and use a slightly different technique. I start by wrapping the yarn around my three middle fingers (start out somewhat loosely) and leave a 6-inch long tale that I’m careful to keep free of the skein. Works very well for larger amounts of yarn.

  32. Susan Guarente January 4, 2018 at 11:14 pm - Reply

    I wish i read this before starting my skull scarf with my beautiful Raven yarn!!! U should see the birds nest if a tangle i am SO determrnd to get out!!!!!! Thank you!

  33. Patricia November 16, 2018 at 4:27 pm - Reply

    Thank you Chani! I will try it

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