How to Wind a Center Pull Ball

This tutorial is meant to show how to use a yarn swift and ball winder to make a center pull ball out of a hank of yarn.  You will need:

  • Yarn Hank
  • Yarn Swift
  • Yarn Ball Winder

I use Knit Pick’s Swift and Ball Winder. I attached both to my dining room table a few feet apart from each other.  You may want to add a table cloth before doing this on your own table as it can scratch the table where you clamp the swift and winder.

What is a Yarn Hank

For those unfamiliar with yarn hanks you probably won’t come across them until you go to your local yarn shop and move away from the larger or discount craft stores.  It will be difficult to find many luxury or hand dyed yarns that are not sold in hanks. Hanks are yarn wrapped into a very large circle and then twisted together.  Here is a hank of yarn being opened up.  All yarn hanks must be wound into a ball before using, otherwise it will most likely become a hopeless unusable tangle.  There are typically several yarn ties that are holding the hank together.  These are to help keep the yarn held together and untangled before winding it.

What if I Don’t Have a Swift or Ball Winder

A yarn swift and ball winder are definitely investments that seem quite expensive to a new knitter.  I wouldn’t recommend buying them unless you plan to keep buying yarn hanks.  If your hank of yarn is a one time splurge then you would be better off with a making the center pull ball by hand.  You can do this by replacing the yarn swift with the back of a chair, or even better have someone hold the yarn spread between their hands.  You can wind the pull ball around your hand or a toilet paper cardboard roll instead of a ball winder.  Below are some good tutorials for winding a center pull ball by hand.

Winding a Center Pull Ball by Hand – YouTube Tutorial by Megan LaCore
Make a Center Pull Ball By Hand – Warmth in the North Blog
Hand Wind a Pull Skein – Ann Torrence Blog

Sometimes your local yarn ship will also have a swift and winder available for your use when you buy the yarn.

Winding the Center Pull Ball

Use the following steps to begin winding center pull balls with a swift and winder:

1. Set up your yarn swift. You should have the directions it came with but if not there should be some sort of clamping device to attach the swift to a table.

2. Untwist your yarn hank

3. Place the yarn hank over the umbrella portion of the swift.  This can be the hardest step.  You want to make sure the yarn hank is not twisted and the umbrella is open enough to give good tension.

4. Remove all the yarn ties holding the hank together.  One of these will also contain both the inside and outside yarn ends.  They are often tied together.

5. Locate the yarn end that is on the outside of the hank.  There are two yarn ends.  You may have to unwind it a bit but you want to find the end that is on the outside facing you instead of the end that is closer to the center of the swift.  This helps prevent tangles and the swift from getting stuck.

6. Get your ball winder ready.  Attach it to the table and position the metal yarn guide.  You can also hold the ball winder if you prefer and that is the type of winder you have.





7. Pull and wind the outside yarn end through the metal yarn guide then pull the end across the ball winder center notches.  Different winders may have a notch located near the bottom or side of the winder.  I think the winders with the center notches are the easiest to use.

8. Slowly turn the handle on the ball winder until the yarn is wrapped a few times over the yarn end.  I typically use the pull balls from the outside.  For a center pull ball you will want a shorter yarn piece across the center notches so it is easier to pull this end out later.

9. Continue to turn the handle on the yarn ball winder until all the yarn from the swift is now on the ball winder.  If the swift gets stuck carefully untangle it from wherever it got stuck.  You may have to unwind and then rewind some of the yarn from the winder if the tension was loose and dropped below your yarn ball.

10. Pull out the inside yarn end that should still be across the center notches of the ball winder.  If you pull from the outside of the yarn ball you do not need to do this

11. Remove the yarn from the yarn ball winder carefully with both hands.  You now have a yarn ball that you can pull from the center, outside, or even both ends if you prefer.