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  • Writer's picturePat


Some things never change...

My Queen Silvia Shawl

A ball winder and umbrella swift have been high on my wish list for many years. Is there anything more inspiring than seeing perfect little yarn “cakes” lined up ready to become something wonderful?

I love the way yarn streams smoothly from a center pull skein, and that the skein does not roll around the way a ball of yarn does. Stranded knitting is also easier because the skeins don’t tangle as much. I eyeball winders and swift, read reviews, and then talk myself out of them, because I actually love hand winding yarn, and can easily wind a respectable center pull skein, although not one as even and smooth as the ones that are wound on a winder. I also love yarns that are pre-wound so that the center end is easy to grasp.

Lavender, soft orchid pink, lime green and gray center pull balls of DMC Woolly yarn
Aren't these perfect center pull skeins enticing??

I just opened a package of gorgeous fingering weight yarn for a shawl I am designing (more on that in another post), and I wound it from the hanks right away. I was so tempted to start the shawl from the center of the neat balls I had made— I love when form and function meld, but older now and wiser, I had a flashback to a shawl fiasco, and I wanted to share it !

Many years ago, on a trip to New Hampshire, I purchased the lace weight Jaggerspun Zephyr that I was using for my Queen Silvia’s wrap., from the amazing book Knitted Lace of Estonia: Techniques, Patterns, and Traditions by Nancy Bush. I was captivated by the perfectly put up professionally wound skeins from The Elegant Ewe. I knew the white yarn would stay cleaner because there was no risk of it rolling around. I also find that intricate patterns are easier to work with a center pull skein, because the yarn comes out so evenly.

INTERWEAVE KNITS 2008 Copyright Interweave Press

Delighted with my purchase, I quickly went to Ravelry to read all about my new yarn. ( Do you do that? I learn so much...) Good thing I did. Ravelry is such a font of information. I stumbled onto a thread which was discussing something I now call the “ball collapse” syndrome. A center pull skein in very fine yarn unwinds beautifully at the beginning of your knitting or crochet project, but can deflate and tangle almost irretrievably once the center yarn is used up. That sparked the memory from a few years ago of another fragile merino lace weight yarn that became so hopelessly tangled that I finally had to snip the yarn and purchase more. The merino fibers literally stuck together, and could not be separated with out damaging the yarn. I did not have the time or patience to use any tried and true separating methods!

Tangled up aqua overdyed laceweight wool yarn
You would think that I should have remembered, especially because I clearly kept this as a warning!

Needless to say, this time I tucked the center end of yarn back in the middle and started working this shawl with the yarn end from the outside of the skein. I keep it in a bag so it is protected as it rolls around. It is working out pretty well.

But, I have to admit, every time the yarn tightens up a little bit as I am working one of the countless nupps (bobbles)in the pattern and I have to unwind the ball to keep the yarn slack, I have to restrain myself from giving into the temptation of using the yarn from the center of the skein. Have you ever had a pull skein of fine yarn collapse?

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1 Comment

Yes, a collapsed ball in thread or fine yarn is a dismal experience. I too enjoy winding a ball on my thumb—and can produce a tidy cake that sits well. But I roll the skein label or equivalent around a knitting needle and insert it into the center, then mount the cake on a spindle. As I knit the yarn smoothly unwinds, with the bonus of no added or subtracted twist 😉

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