Using a Yarn Ball Winder to Correct Tension Issues

Using a Yarn Ball Winder to Correct Tension Issues.png

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I figured the best thing to do would be to put together a post all about yarn ball winders. In this post, we'll be looking at what they do, how they work, what the point of them is, and most importantly if they are actually worth parting with your hard-earned cash for.

Just recently, one of my subscribers asked about yarn ball winders. They wanted to know whether I would recommend getting one, and why?


First things first, if you just want the short answer... Yes, I would absolutely recommend getting a yarn ball winder.

When I was deciding whether or not to buy one, it was a looong time ago. They cost about £10-£15 more than they do these days, and as a poor student, I agonised over whether or not it would be useful to me and worth my money.

I watched numerous YouTube videos of these complex set-ups, which made it appear as though you needed all sorts of extra equipment to simply wind a ball of yarn. Remember, I was studying knitting at University, so I needed every sample to be as perfect as possible. I tried lots of different methods to get a centre pull ball including a homemade nostepinne and winding a butterfly around my fingers.

Even the most simple yarn ball winders seemed to be not quite what I needed.

Even so, I gave in and dropped close to £30 on one after I tried everything I could think of. It doesn't sound like much but I spent a month eating nothing but 9p per pack super noodles after that.

It turns out that all of these videos I watched were incredibly and pointlessly complicated. It's REALLY not that difficult. You don't need anything extra, you just need the yarn ball winder.

So, what's actually the point of a yarn ball winder?


Well, it's a little self-explanatory, but it winds your yarn into balls. But not just any balls. It doesn't create those perfect little round yarn balls you see cartoon kittens playing with, it creates centre-pull yarn cakes. It's the centre-pull part that is really important. I'll explain why.

Uneven tension is an issue many knitters struggle with, even advanced knitters.

Uneven tension causes "rowing out" (check out this awesome post from TECHknitting) in stocking stitch. It also causes very loose and/or tight stitches that are visibly different in size to the rest of the stitches. This gives an overall untidy appearance to the knitted fabric.

Uneven tension is caused by many things, so getting a yarn ball winder isn't an instant or guaranteed fix. It can definitely help matters, though.

When you buy a ball of yarn, it usually comes in one of two forms; a bullet skein or a twisted hank.


A bullet skein can be worked with by taking the yarn from the outside or inside of the ball. Taking it from the outside of the ball is by far the least effective method. It definitely provides the worst possible tension.

As you work with it and use more yarn, the ball will end up sitting on top of your working yarn. You will often need to give the working yarn a tug, in order to release the yarn so you can continue working. This may seem like a tiny thing, but it can actually make a big difference in your tension.

You can also work with a bullet skein from the inside of the ball, which does actually create the centre pull ball form we're looking for in order to get great tension. However, this comes with its own issues.

When the end of a ball of yarn is tucked away inside, it's pretty hard to find it. You invariably pull out a whole lump of yarn (sometimes referred to as yarn vomit) which then gets very easily tangled if you don't work it straight away.

Here is some delightful yarn vom for your viewing pleasure:


The solution to this is to first wind your yarn on a yarn ball winder.

It is an extra step. When you have a lot of yarn for a project that can be annoying, but I promise it's worth it. I use my ball winder all the time.

Now and then I start a project without winding my yarn first... I always regret that decision. Every. Single. Time.

It really is as simple to use as that!

It creates a perfect little cake of yarn that has a flat bottom, so you can set it on the floor or a table and it's not going anywhere. (Plus, this makes it so easy to store.) The working yarn then comes from the middle of the ball in a smooth, continuous flow from the ball to your hands. It seems like such a little thing, but it really can make a massive difference to the appearance of your finished fabric, and it makes the process so much more enjoyable.

Now, if you have a twisted hank of yarn, you almost definitely need a yarn ball winder, as you can't knit from it as it is. First, you will need either the back of a swivel chair or a yarn swift to loop your hank over, this is the yarn swift I have and absolutely love - it's affordable and doesn't take up a lot of room. Then you need to wind your yarn ball from the swift. This will create exactly the same flat-bottomed yarn cake as before, and you're good to go!

Like I said, yarn ball winders are definitely worth the money.

I bought mine for £30 about 7 years ago and it's still going strong. I use it all the time and I wouldn't be without it. They are a lot less pricey these days too, you can pick one up for between £10-£15.

If you would like to know more about how to improve your knitting, I've created a new course, called Knitting with Confidence. It teaches you everything you need to know in order to both prevent mistakes from happening and how to fix them if they do!

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