Knitting Blog

How to Wind Yarn in Minutes

Love it or hate it, winding yarn is a fact of life if you’re a knitter or crocheter. But turning a hank into a workable skein doesn’t have to take hours of precious stitching time! With a swift and winder, the task is done in minutes, so you can grab your needles or hook and get to the good stuff.

Here, we’ll show you how to use a swift and winder to quickly wind yarn.

What you need:

Tools for Winding Yarn
  • An umbrella swift — This is an umbrella-like contraption that holds your yarn in place and rotates as you wind the yarn.
  • A ball winder — Operated with a hand-crank, this tool collects your yarn and winds it into a nice, neat ball.
  • A hank of yarn — You’re looking for yarn that’s sold in the twist-like shape above. (Other yarns don’t need to be wound like this.)

Step 1: Set up your swift and winder

You’ll need a large, flat surface, like a kitchen counter or table. You can use a tablecloth to protect any sensitive materials like wood or soft stone counters. Make sure that you’re working on a flat plane — no curved edges, or your equipment will slip off.

Slide the clamp over the edge of the surface, and tighten the screw to hold the equipment in place. The winder and swift should be at least a foot or more apart.

Step 2: Set up the yarn on the swift

Opening a hank of yarn

First, you’ll need to twist open the skein, so it’s in one large loop. Make sure to remove any labels before this step — but we do recommend keeping your labels somewhere safe! You never know when you’ll need that information again.

Then, grab the top of the umbrella swift and pull up slightly, so it’s in a narrower position. This makes it easier to lift the hank of yarn over and around it. This step can be a bit fiddly, so you may want to enlist the help of a friend or family member.

Putting Yarn on Umbrella Swift

When the yarn is in place, move the swift back down, so that the arms are in a wider position that holds the yarn taut (but not too tight — just tight enough that it doesn’t fall off.)

Untying Yarn Ties

You’ll likely find two extra strings of yarn or twine holding the yarn together — these keep the yarn from getting tangled while it’s in a hank. Find these and snip them off. At one of these spots, you’ll also see where the two ends of yarn are tied together. Untie the yarn or cut off the knot, and keep hold of one end.

Step 3: Connect the yarn to the winder

Now to secure the yarn around the winder! There are a few parts to this step.

Setting Up Yarn Winder

First,  you’ll need to slip the yarn through the metal guide, which helps create enough tension during the winding process. This slim piece of metal has a few twists in it: The yarn should go through one or both of the loops. Try sliding one end of the yarn through the loops.

Then, you’ll need to secure the yarn at the base of the winder. There are typically two small notches that can hold your yarn in place (as you can see above). Secure the yarn in these notches, leaving a small tail.

Step 4: Start winding!

Starting to Wind yarn

Start slowly turning the crank of the winder. The yarn might look a little messy at first, but don’t worry — it’ll fix itself shortly.

You may want to keep an hand on the stretch of yarn between the swift and winder, just in case any of the yarn gets caught or twisted as you crank away.

Continue turning the crank until there is no longer any yarn on your swift.

Step 5: Remove the ball

Remove the yarn from the notches at the base of the winder and slide the ball off the winder. It’s not quite a ball, but this shape works perfectly!

Ball of Yarn wound with umbrella and swift

You may want to tuck the yarn tail into the body of the skein so it doesn’t start to unwind. When you’re ready to knit, reach into the center of the ball to find the other yarn tail — now you’ve got an easy-to-use center-pull ball.

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FREE Guide! Choose and Use the Right Yarn

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Margaret-Rose Stringer

May I add two points …?
1 – I use an ‘Amish-style’ swift, and I find it quite wonderful. Low profile, too ! 🙂
2 – I tie a knot in the very end of the yarn to be wound, so that it can’t slip out of the winder’s notch.
There: possibly useful to someone.

Nicole St. John

I use an Amish swift too, and love it. I also tuck the yarn label into the center of the ball when finished so I know what it is later on.

dawn hinnenkamp

What is an ‘Amish Style’ swift compared to other styles?

susan sendelbach

I have all of the equipment, but I don’t use the winder because I can/t get a flat surface on the top of the cake. How do I do that?

J. Jacobs

What kind of shape do you get with your winder, if I may ask?


Just wondering what causes yarn to slip off the ball as its winding? Too much tension too fast? Too slow? I’ve tried it all and sometimes it works great, other times it just slips off and gets soooo annoying. Did a bunch of Cloudborn merino twist cause of the tealeaf sweater thingy, and a few out of them went easy peasy, others just GGGRRRRR lol. Just couldn’t really pin point what was causing it.

Is the winder position to the swift a big to do? Or does that not matter THAT much as long as it’s a bit away? Just wondering as it had been a long time since I wound yarn and didn’t remember my yarns slipping like that. Unless it was solely how perfectly round the yarn was lol.


What do I do when the hank is bigger than will fit on the ball winder? I hate to cut it, but I don’t see any other way.
Also, is it important to start from one end of the yarn rather than the other, because of the twist?

Susan Sarti

I have found that to prevent the yarn ball from slipping off of the winder just wind slower. The more silky and slippery the yarn, the slower you must go winding it. You can go faster with a 100% wool because it “grabs” the winder and itself and holds better. Try just going a litte slower.

Judith Sargent

I tie a small button or small charm to the end being wound, give it a little tug so ti’s tight. Works well looks cute!


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