A Knitting Snippet for you…. please be kind to your yarn (and it’ll be good to you). After buying yarn in skeins or hanks, wind the yarn into center-pull balls, rather than cannon balls. This gives three benefits: a relaxed yarn, a ball that stays where you put it, rather than entertaining the cat and access to two ends of the same yarn should you need it (for Garter Stitch Short Row Heels for example).
A relaxed yarn is a yarn not stored under tension (or bought under duress!). A yarn wound into a solid, classic, round ball of yarn is under considerable strain (even if you consciously try to keep it loose), as are coned yarns. This strain can result in stretching (especially in wool yarns): the bounce or elasticity is temporarily stretched out.
If you are anything short of totally Saintly, this can lead to ‘lying’ tension or gauge swatches. We all know that we should knit at least a 6″ square and wash and block it in the same way that we intend to treat our finished product. Yes, honestly! How many of us really do this? (There is no need to answer publicly.) Any reversible changes in the yarn would be undone by this treatment. For realists however, simply working the swatch with a relaxed yarn can give a closer approximation to the real look, feel and gauge.
To wind a center-pull ball; take a tube (a rolled up sheet of paper or an empty t.p. roll) or a smooth stick (custom made sticks are known as ‘nostepinne’), lodge the initial yarn tail into a slit in the tube or under your hand (if using the stick). Wind the yarn around the tube a couple of times to anchor it, then angle the yarn as you wind. Whilst maintaining this new angle, rotate the tube/stick a little after each turn, this will result in an evenly wound ball. Wind the last remaining couple of meters of yarn around the middle of the ball, include the label under these rounds if you wish and tuck the tail under the last few turns to secure it.
Now for the magic, remove the core and the yarn will heave a sigh of relief and spring into the available gap, happy and relaxed!
There are gadgets for making center-pull balls; the umbrella swift and ball-winder if you do not prefer the above method. Give it a try, though, and see how easy it is.