How to Make a Ball of Yarn With a Ball Winder

Orange yarn ball
Click&Boo / Getty Images
Project Overview
  • Skill Level: Intermediate

A yarn swift and ball winder make quick work of turning a skein of yarn into a ball you can pull from the center. Both pieces of equipment are an investment, but if you buy a lot of yarn in skeins, these tools are great to have at your disposal. Once you get the hang of the operation, it's easy to wind a 50-gram ball of yarn in a minute or two, compared to the 10 or 15 minutes it would take to wind by hand.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Ball winder
  • Yarn swift
  • Table


  • Skein of yarn


  1. Set up the Yarn Swift and Ball Winder

    Before you can wind a ball using a yarn swift and ball winder, you need to set up your equipment. The yarn swift and ball winder clamp onto a table.


    Protect your surface with a tablecloth or pad.

    Slide the clamp at the base of the yarn swift onto your table and tighten the bolt. Do the same with your ball winder, placing them 12 to 18 inches apart.

    Setting up the swift and winder
    The Spruce / Sarah E. White
  2. Placing the Yarn on the Swift

    Probably the most complicated part of winding a ball of yarn using a yarn swift is figuring out exactly how to place the yarn on the swift. First, unwrap the skein from the wound position you purchased it in and untie any places where the skein was tied together. Make sure that both ends of the yarn are free from the skein and there are no twists in the skein before you begin.

    Raise the knob-like part of the swift that's at the bottom of the pole, and the arms will spread out like an umbrella (thus the common name for these devices: the umbrella swift). Slide the yarn onto the swift and then adjust as needed.

    The arms need to be spread out enough so that they will hold the yarn skein in place when the yarn is placed on the middle part of the arms. Once you have the arms in a good position for the particular skein you're winding, use the bolt on the knob to hold the swift in place.

    Yarn on the swift
    The Spruce / Sarah E. White
  3. Connecting the Yarn to the Ball Winder

    The yarn swift holds your yarn ball in place, and you could just use a swift to hold your yarn while you wind the yarn ball by hand. However, a yarn swift is typically used in conjunction with a ball winder, which makes short work of turning your skein into a center-pull ball of yarn. Before you can start winding, however, you need to attach one end of the yarn to the ball winder. Slip the yarn through the metal yarn guide and into the notch in the plastic disk at the top of the winder. Now you're ready to wind.

    Yarn attached to ball winder
    The Spruce / Sarah E. White
  4. Winding the Ball of Yarn

    Slowly turn the crank at the back of the winder in the direction indicated on the instructions that came with your winder, and the ball will begin to form on the winder. Use your other hand to gently guide the yarn between the yarn swift and the ball winder, as it is easy for the yarn to get caught on one of the arms of the swift, causing the mostly plastic parts within your ball winder to strain.


    It's possible to break a ball winder if you put too much pressure on the parts, so keep it slow and gentle at first and make sure the yarn isn't getting caught on anything as it winds.

    Beginning to wind a ball of yarn
    The Spruce / Sarah E. White
  5. Finishing the Ball

    Keep turning the crank on the ball winder and guiding the yarn off the yarn swift, and you'll have a finished ball in no time. The swift automatically turns along with the ball winder to keep feeding yarn onto the winder quickly and smoothly.

    A finished ball on the winder
    The Spruce / Sarah E. White
  6. Use Your Yarn Ball

    Once you've wound the complete skein of yarn, slip it off the ball winder. You'll notice that you haven't really made a ball—it's a little flatter and has a hole in the middle. The hole helps prevent you from winding the yarn too tightly, and it diminishes as the yarn sits or as you work with it in most cases. Now you have a ball of yarn that you can work with from the outside or use as a center-pull ball, which some knitters prefer.

    The finished yarn ball
    The Spruce / Sarah E. White