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So you are yarning away and your yarn starts to get away from you. Now you have to stop what you are doing, possibly forgetting my many runs or stitches you were doing, pick up your yarn, roll it back together and continue on your way. Worst case you could end up with something like this:

enter image description here

Image from velmaknits.blogspot.ca

What can I do to stop my yarn from rolling around while still keeping control to feed as needed?

  • is that picture (and sarcasm) needed to explain this question? I think the question is valid matt but sarcasm? – neongreenfruit Apr 28 '16 at 16:12
  • 4
    I don't see the inherit harm in it. No it is not required but I think it can help reduce the (sometimes) perceived formality of the Q&A. – Matt Apr 28 '16 at 16:15
  • That is a good point, I do like that the way it was asked made me smile, we should just make sure that going forward this doesn't become confusing because sarcasm on line can be interpreted different ways – neongreenfruit Apr 28 '16 at 16:17
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What you need to do is put your yarn in a container of some sort. It should be wide enough that the yarn can roll around a bit (don't want it to rub hard against the sides) and deep enough that the yarn can't easily jump out, but other than that the sky's the limit. Containers I've used and/or heard about include:

  • yarn bowls
  • baskets (be careful with wicker, it can snag)
  • drawers
  • bags (hung on door knobs or chair backs)
  • plastic storage tubs
  • You can use a #10 can with a hole punched through the lid on the spiral cut out. Super cheap. – Web Head Apr 29 '16 at 0:04
  • Another nice quality for the container to have is a smooth rim/lip on the container. I use an old cardboard coffee can when I'm at home. – dstinard Jan 16 '17 at 17:28
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Yarn Bowl

Picture of a yarn bowl

This is the easiest suggestion I can think of. You just need a bowl or bowl like object with a hole or path for the yarn to come out. The hole is large enough for the yarn but small enough to stop the ball from moving around. The weight of the bowl is important as well since you will be pulling on it. Having it close to yourself would help that anyway.

There are oodles of commercial options but avid crafters would make their own following the basic criteria above.

  • Not only the weight is important, but also the shape and smoothness of the yarn hole (mostly if someone tries a DIY solution). If the hole borders are ragged, the yarn could get caught and ravel (sorry for my english). – Lucia Bentivoglio Apr 29 '16 at 9:40
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    @Matt Hi! Short of purchasing a designated 'yarn bowl', it is perfectly fine and usually just as useful to use any old bowl which has a deep enough well to keep the ball in place. If your yarn is rolling smoothly off the ball, it would take quite a mighty tug to get it to jump out of the bowl... – Laurent R. Jan 16 '17 at 1:58
  • @LaurentR. I actually made one from a wooden Ikea bowl I found second hand. Thing is pretty awesome for what I paid for it. Would only be better if it was heavier. A bowl like you describe would work yes. – Matt Jan 16 '17 at 2:00
  • I recently saw a ceramic one for sale in the Tiger (cheap chain of stores which is now common in several European countries.) – Willeke Feb 24 at 9:10
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I want to say that I love the look of those yarn bowls and would love to have one, but my method is a little bit different from the suggestions. I wanted something that would allow my yarn to unspool as I worked, but that I could also transport easily. A friend made me a bag that had a super smooth (I would say it is satin) interior so the yarn could move around within the bag. It looked like a nice purse so I could also easily bring it on the bus and knit on the go! The yarn just comes out of the top of the bag. This way I could also store my project in the same container that I worked from.

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Something that can help on its own or even partner with the concept of the bowl is to work the yarn from the inside of the spool.

This works better for skeins but what you do is reach inside the skein and pull out the small ball of yarn that is inside. That is the end of the whole roll. If you can get that out, the yarn will feed from the inside and it won't roll the skein around.

This is also called pulling the center out.

Here is a video showing the procedure

  • I do this too but my yarn still goes everywhere... and sometimes it gets stuck and I spend 5 minutes unraveling the center of the skein. – Catija Apr 28 '16 at 16:41
  • I have had 50 / 50 luck with this. My friend swears by it though. My problem is more when I have to restart a row and I wind up my skein again making it roll away faster. – Matt Apr 28 '16 at 17:03
  • Please remember since this site is just starting out downvoting is a great tool but only if the poster is aware of what you think the issue is. Voting is still anonymous so there is not obligation to say anything but we can't correct problems if we don't know what they are? – Matt Apr 28 '16 at 18:36
  • Towards the end, the yarn becomes light enough to move around, and sometimes it becomes tangled as a result. Happens for both skeins like the one in the linked video and for "cakes" made on a ball winder. – skg Apr 30 '16 at 19:06
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If you don't want to buy a yarn bowl, you could also use a colander, and have the yarn run through one of the holes.

  • Be aware, though, that you'd have to cut the yarn to remove it from the colander. – Belisama Apr 28 '16 at 17:38
  • That shouldn't be a problem at the end of a project. – Ji Ugug Apr 28 '16 at 17:54
  • But it can be a problem (or at least an annoyance) in the middle of a project if you, say, want to take the project with you somewhere or use the colander for another project, etc. It's just a "be aware of this so it doesn't surprise you". – Belisama Apr 28 '16 at 18:14
  • @Belisama - To be fair, even some yarn bowls have this problem because, unlike the one in Matt's photo that uses a notch, they just have a hole. – BSMP Apr 28 '16 at 18:36
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One simple skill every fiber artist needs in their bailiwik is how to wind a center-pull ball of yarn - see the gorgeous one in the bottom photo. This is Highly Recommended as a necessity, or at a minimum, very helpful, when {a} your yarn purchase is in the form of a loose skein (problems with this are explained by the photos below) rather than wound at the factory ready to pull from the center already (such as a cake or center-pull skein); {b} you are recovering or neatening leftover yarn or are gleaning / re-purposing yarn which needs to be wound; {c} any of the above and your knitting environs require that you keep the yarn closer to your person, that is, when it is not practical to use a yarn bowl or yarn bowl alternative (e.g. one of many possible examples is knitting while walking.) Or {d} like myself, you just enjoy knitting from a center-pull ball.

This is what a plain skein of yarn, straight off the spinner, looks like (image ala Craftsy): you cannot knit/crochet straight from this skein, unless you wind it into a ball, or knit/crochet with it straight off a swift (an option not covered in this post):

enter image description here

Here is that same plain skein of yarn, with label and keeper-ties removed, ready to wind into a ball (photo again ala Craftsy):enter image description here

I have been winding center pull balls from plain skeins somewhat successfuly for years, using the following age-old method:

BASIC METHOD: HOW TO WIND A BALL OF YARN

  1. Carefully remove the label from the skein and un-twist / un-knot the skein until it is a long loose loop.

  2. Have someone hold the skein stretched somewhat tautly on extended arms / hands (as shown in the second photo above), or place it over the back of a chair, while you wind the yarn into a ball. The yarn must not fall off the person's hands, or the chair, or you will have quite a tangled mess. (Or, the best of all worlds would be to use a yarn swift... That would have to be covered in a separate article...)

  3. Carefully, snip the keeper-ties, and find the two loose ends of yarn.

  4. Decide which of the two loose ends seems to come off the skein easiest, and (for right handed people) hold a few inches of that end in your left hand, then begin winding the yarn loosely around two extended fingers of your left hand, until you have created a little ball. Make sure that throughout this process you do not lose that yarn-end, as it is the whole idea behind a center-pull ball.

  5. Pull your fingers out of the little ball, and continue to wind the rest of the yarn, evenly and somewhat more tightly but not overly tightly, onto the small ball you started. Change angles frequently, which will help the ball be stable and nicely round. When you reach the end of the yarn, wind it several times horizontally around the ball, somewhat tightly, and tie it off.

  6. You should easily be able to pull the yarn from the center of the ball for your knitting or crocheting project. Here is a photo tutorial of this basic ball-winding method, at Craftsy.com.

This basic method is a great start, but I was often frustrated by the balls producing tangled clumps, when the yarn was supposed to pull out smoothly. I recently refined my technique after finding this extremely helpful youtube, the second half of which shows how to wind a ball of yarn using a medicine bottle.

MEDICINE-BOTTLE VARIATION FOR WINDING A CENTER-PULL YARN BALL: The steps for using a medicine bottle are the same as for the basic method described above, with the following changes:

In Step 4: Instead of just holding onto the starting end of the yarn, you place several inches of that starting end into an empty, clean small-size (up to an inch in diameter) plastic medicine bottle. Place the lid back on the bottle, effectively trapping the starting end of the yarn inside. Now, begin winding your yarn around that little bottle.

In Step 5: Don't pull the bottle out, as you did your fingers in the Basic Method; just keep winding a nice firm ball onto the bottle, until you get near the end, then wind firmly horizontally around the ball and tie it off, the same as before.

In Step 6: Push the bottle out of the ball, remove the cap, and Presto! You have the starting end of your yarn ball, and it will pull much more smoothly because the core of the ball was created on a smooth shape and doesn't completely collapse when the bottle is removed.

I will never go back to winding my yarn the old way, as I have not had a single tangled clump to deal with since using this medicine-bottle method!

(This last photo credit goes to the producers of the referenced YouTube, Interweave Craft. Links to all credits and references are below.) enter image description here

References:

Craftsy Knitting Blog

You-Tube

  • Wonderful answer. Thanks for your contribution! Don't go anywhere – Matt Jan 16 '17 at 21:01
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HOW TO KEEP YOUR SUPER SLICK YARN ORGANIZED WITH CROCHETED YARN HOLDERS

Since posting the above answer on How to Wind a Center Pull Ball of Yarn, I have had the “challenging pleasure” of working with several yarns which are exquisitely slick. As the yarn is used up while making the project, and the interior of the Center Pull Ball becomes more and more hollow, the ball can disintigrate into a messy wad reminiscent of a pile of seaweed. In fact, some yarns I have worked with are so slick, the center pull is nearly impossible to create, as the ball literally falls apart as soon as you let it go.

Examples of yarn fibers which fit this description include pure silk, pure alpaca, or some synthetic yarns. Lightweight silk/mohair yarns sometimes misbehave also when the ball becomes very hollow. This is generally not a problem with wool yarn, as the fibers “stick” to one another in the ball, holding it together. Superwash Wool is not as sticky, but still maintains itself in a tidy ball quite nicely.

So, what to do? For a long time I have used socks for “keepers”, especially children’s socks with lots of elastic, which progressively compress the yarn ball as it gets hollower and hollower. Sometimes I will place the yarn ball into a smaller very elastic sock only at a later stage in the hollowing-out process, when it looks like the yarn ball is about to fall apart.

Another option is the mesh bags that onions or shallots come in. They are tube-shaped, and can easily be tied at the “bottom” with a scrap of yarn, and then loosely tied at the “top” where the working yarn comes out. I have even seen these sold for the designated purpose of “yarn cosies”. However I don’t find them to collapse tightly enough to work very well for super slippery yarns at the later stages of yarn-ball-hollowness.

My recent favorite solution is to crochet yarn holders using a mesh stitch, shown here on youtube. To make the mesh stitch into a ball shape, begin with a chain of 5 or 6 stitches, and join it into a ring. Then following the mesh pattern, increasing over 4 or 5 rows to a circumference slightly smaller than your yarn ball. (You want it to be a slightly tight fit when the ball is first placed in the holder.) Add 4 or 5 more rows without decreasing, and try your yarn ball in the holder again to see if you have made it long enough to close comfortably around the ball. Some ripping-out and re-doing is likely to occur, but despite this I promise this is a very quick project. When the ball fits nicely, and you can close the top edge loosely around the center pull working yarn, lace a length of strong yarn that will not easily break (suck as cotton or linen) or a chained cord through the top edge loops, and you can then loosely close the top edge around the working yarn. The mesh stitch is very stretchy and will continue to hug the center pull ball nicely so that you don’t end up with a big tangled mess....

center pull yarn ball holders The cream colored yarn above is Scrumptious “4 ply sport superwash”, 45% silk and 55% superwash merino. It is slick enough that without the mesh holder, I know I would have had troubles near the end of the ball.

A SPECIAL CASE: A LITERAL GIRDLE FOR YARN THAT IS AS SLICK AS SNOT:

If any of you have tried knitting with eyelash yarn, you know what I mean. The yarn shown below is Prism “Plume”, 100% nylon - very gorgeous, BUT the slickest stuff I have ever tried to work with. It comes in a skein of only 45 yards, so you would think this would be no problem. BUT, it was too slick to even START a center pull ball with. So I wound it onto a rectangular piece of cardboard, then made a mesh yarn “girdle” in the shape of a rectangle, with 4 or 5 ties extending from two sides of the rectangle. I had to experiement and customize the size of the mesh rectangle very carefully for the cardboard, so that there would be plenty of hugging action. Even when tied tightly, as seen in the top photo below (which looks like some exotic alien sea creature, I know...) this yarn is so slippery that I can easily pull the working yarn from the outside of the ‘ball’. In the lower photo you can see where I added more ties to the outside of the rectangle, a couple of inches from the edge, so that as the yarn ‘ball’ gets smaller, I can crank down the ‘hugging action’ even more, in other words reduce the girth of the girdle, to further prevent a mess.

Prism “Plume” safe in its “yarn girdle” Extra ties added for decreasing girdle girth even more when the yarn ‘ball’ gets smaller

One last perk of crocheting your own yarn holders: you can put the yarn tag into the holder before you put the yarn ball in, so that you will always have the yarn information right there with your yarn... Happy Knitting!

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Yarn bowls are great, but for portability, I carry my projects around in an ArtBin Yarn Drum. The lid has slots through which the yarn can come out, while the bag keeps the ball of yarn in place, and the whole thing zips up for easy carrying.

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