Happy Stitches

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The benefits of the Center-pull ball for knitting August 13, 2010

Filed under: Knitting tips and hints — happystitches @ 00:04

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.

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3 Responses to “The benefits of the Center-pull ball for knitting”

  1. Dorothy Says:

    I have a nostepinne that my husband had made for me and I love to just sit and wind the yarn into balls. I find it very relaxing and because of the thought behind the nostepinne every time I use it I am reminded how fortunate I am.
    I even wind balls that are already in center pull skeins because then I know if there is any pitfalls awaiting me. It can be daunting when faced with 1000 mt 2ply silk that was my last task but it is a pleasure to watch the yarn in anticipation of what I am going to make out of it, I also find it gives me a “feel” for the yarn as well.

    • Lucy Neatby Says:

      I agree that a nostepinne is a wonderful, tactile, elegantly simple tool for the same job as the ball winder. It does require a little more skill from the winder but its use can form a meditative part of the process.
      For youngsters however, the ball winder is great, it allows them to take an appreciated part in your knitting. My youngest daughter founded a modest business empire with a swift and a ball winder and wound for members of our guild for several years. It didn’t take her long to introduce a surcharge for skeins of lace weight! Education by experience.

  2. Marri Says:

    I’ve been winding my center pull balls by using my fingers. I drape the end over my thumb towards the wrist and start by making a loose figure eight around thumb and forefinger. I do this about twenty times, making sure the end stays free. Then, moving the thumb and forefinger towards each other, pinch the loops together and start to wind the yarn around the loops. Whilst doing this I make sure I just catch the tip of my finger under the wrapping to make sure tension is loose. Ensuring the pull end is not caught up, continue to wrap, making quarter turns every so often, keeping the top where the end pull open.
    It’s so much easier to do than to explain and I probably could have wrapped and entire ball in the time it took me to explain this!

    Thank you for the wonderful tips I have so far uncovered on your site.


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