Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Ball winders, part 2: avoiding yarn twist

In the immediately previous post, TECHknitting blog showed many uses for a ball winder. "Sometimes," said I, "it is necessary to wind and re-wind yarn three and even four times to get long-color repeat yarns to lay as they should." (Said not so succinctly, but that was the gist.)

Several alert and knowledgeable readers wrote in to comment that I had better watch out--all that winding and re-winding would impart a twist to my yarn, a twist I might live to regret.  "Perhaps you should not wind and re-wind quite so freely" was the consensus.

My education has included lab classes to learn firsthand the value of experimentation, yes sir, so I determined to get to the bottom of this scientifically. Here's my lab report.
_______________________________________________
LAB REPORT on TWIST in YARN 
due to WINDING YARN 
on a BALL WINDER
by TECHknitter
January 18, 2011

QUESTION TO BE ANSWERED
Does winding on a ball winder cause yarn to twist?

ANSWER
It is possible to avoid imparting twist when winding and re-winding yarn on a ball winder.

TOOLS EMPLOYED
  • scotch tape (taken from where it usually lives, thus upsetting everyone here at chezTECH)
  • four tape measures, each with an inch side and a centimeter side
  • my trusty umbrella swift
  • the ball winder at the root of the matter
    EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN
    Step 1: The tape measures were scotch-taped together into a flat 4-yard long snake, all the inch marks on one face, all the cm marks on the other

    Step 2: The 4-yard long tape was wound onto the umbrella swift, laying smoothly.

    Step 3: the tape measure-snake was wound from the umbrella swift onto the ball winder.

    RESULT
    If the tape measure was smooth on the umbrella swift, it wound smoothly onto the ball winder.  If the ball winder handle was turned one way, the inch side faced outward, if the handle was turned the other way, the cm side faced outward, but in neither case was any twist imparted to the "cake" of tape-measure on the ball winder. NO TWIST.

    I'll say it again: If the yarn lay smooth on the umbrella swift, it didn't matter which way the handle was turned.  There was NO TWIST in the flat tape.

    However, now it gets interesting.  As soon as the tape-measure was attempted to be CENTER-PULLED out of the cake into which the ball-winder had deposited it, there appeared the TWIST the commenters prophesized.  In other words, there was twist, yes, the alert commenters were 100% correct.

    However, lucky for me and my ball-winding ways, it wasn't the winding which caused the twist--it was center-pulling the resulting cake which twisted the tape. 

    "it is center pulling ... which twisted the tape."


    But now it gets even MORE interesting. Pulling from the outside of the tape-measure cake also produced a twist UNLESS I took the trouble to turn the cake as I tried to "knit" the tape. Fastening the tape-measure (more scotch tape, yes) on a lazy susan (stolen from the kitchen) then pulling the tape-end resulted the lazy susan spinning around, and the tape coming off with a smooth un-spooling and NO TWIST.

     CONCLUSION
    There are two important consequences:  first, when using the ball-winder to wind FROM a skein, the yarn being re-wound must not be center-pulled from the skein to the ball-winder, for that would twist the yarn.  (This is a corollary of the fact that center-pulling from a cake twists yarn: the same would happen from a skein!) Instead, the yarn skein being re-wound must be unwound from the skein's outside.

    Luckily for me, this I have almost always done, putting the skein into a deep basket from which it cannot jump when pulled.  I might preen and say I unwound skeins from the outside on purpose, but that'd be lying:  rewinding from the outside rather than center-pulling resulted from mere lazy disinclination to battle tangled skein innards (known, in strictly technical terms, as "yarn barf.")

    The second important consequence is that yarn from cakes which is to be unwound for either knitting-up or further re-winding must be smoothly unspooled from the outside.  Once again alert and clever commenters have come to the rescue, and two different solutions have been proposed:

    • a lazy-susan-type device with a spindle onto which the yarn cake is impaled, and which, smoothly spinning, unspools yarn from outside the cake when the outer yarn end is pulled  OR
    • a toilet-paper holder or similar spindle onto which the cake--having first been wound onto a toilet-paper core--is placed to smoothly unspool the yarn from the outside of the cake

    SUMMARY
    IF you center-pull yarn from skeins or cakes, you will get twist.  IF, however, you always unwind cakes or skeins from the outside, AND smoothly unspool caked yarn via a lazy susan or core-and-spindle, then winding and rewinding will NOT TWIST THE YARN. 

    In this manner, it is possible to make full use of a ball-winder as shown in the previous post, and all without imparting twist.
    _______________________________________________
    Well, that's the end of the lab report, and all's well that ends well.

    Although now I come to think of it, "well" is a relative term. I still have to explain why the lazy-susan has migrated from the kitchen to sit by the ball-winder, and why the paper towel dispenser from the basement is upstairs wearing a yarn cake on a toilet-paper core.  However, at least the scotch tape is back where it belongs, so that's a start, right?


    * * *
    A big thank you to the commenters on the previous post: Honnay, who first flagged the problem and Mercuria and Jennigma who explained further.  (Talk about scary--they're all three engineers!) Many thanks also to GJabori who suggested the lazy susan, and June, who explained further, as well as suggesting the toilet paper core and spindle. Thanks for reading, thanks for commenting and good knitting!

    --TK
    You've been reading TECHknitting blog on: avoiding yarn twist when using a ball winder.

    57 Comments:

    Blogger Mercuria said...

    You can remove the "/techies" from your post, if you'd like. I actually come from an engineering background, but feel like my current title of "Software Engineer" doesn't exactly qualify me for the engineering *industry.*

    It's probably also worth noting that hand-winding also imparts twist (in the opposite fashion), so using a ball winder while actively fighting twist (either by spooling off the yarn or by winding in both directions) is actually better than not using a ball winder at all (unless you knit straight off the swift).

    Thanks for the credit, though I feel like you did all the work (beautifully, as always).

    January 18, 2011 at 4:11 PM  
    Blogger TECHknitter said...

    Hi Mercuria--"Techies" removed--3 for 3 on engineers. Wow. Thanks again for all your input! TK

    January 18, 2011 at 4:18 PM  
    Blogger Cheryl S. said...

    Thanks for your investigative reporting! I make liberal use of my ball-winder, and do generally knit from the outside of the yarn cake, but only to avoid yarn barf. I never really thought about the twist.

    Now I have another good use for the yarn cone holders my hubby made. They're just a chunk of 2x6 wood, with 1" copper pipes embedded in it. Dowels would probably be nicer, but he just used what he had on hand.

    January 18, 2011 at 4:34 PM  
    OpenID jennigma said...

    Thanks for the mention, and thanks for all of your work! I always look at and refer TechKnitting first when I'm trying to understand or explain something, because your posts are so clear!

    Do you hand draft all your illustrations? I want some of that mojo. :-)

    January 18, 2011 at 4:43 PM  
    Blogger Honnay said...

    Well done, TK!

    And much more clearly explained than my engineering background has prepared me to write.

    I use the spindle left over from a large size package of blank CD's as my yarn spike. This is also handy to minimize tangling when I want to use both ends of the same ball of yarn at once.

    January 18, 2011 at 5:30 PM  
    Blogger gayle said...

    If you pull from the center of a yarn cake to wind on the ball winder, you'll end up with a cake of yarn wound exactly like the one you started with, only with more twist.
    If you were rewinding the cake in order to reverse the direction of the cake, you'd have to wind from the outside of the cake, so inserting twist wouldn't be a problem.

    January 18, 2011 at 5:31 PM  
    Blogger TECHknitter said...

    Hi Gayle--that's true! Sometimes, though, with long color repeat yarns, the next repeat is on a different skein or even on two different skeins, so round and round you have to go to get all the colors, even though you are going the same way! But going off the outside is certainly where it's at to avoid twist! Thanks for writing.

    January 18, 2011 at 5:53 PM  
    Anonymous Carolyn said...

    What happens when I knit from the middle of a skein wound by the manufacturer?

    January 18, 2011 at 7:11 PM  
    Blogger TECHknitter said...

    Hi Jennigma-- Hi Honnay thanks again for your input! Jennigma--the illustrations are done with Adobe Illustrator. Honnay--the spindle from the cd case is brilliant.

    Hi Carolyn: I can't see why it wouldn't cause the same sort of twist as knitting from a cake--one twist for each travel around the inside of the skein, same as the illustration of the measuring tape in the post. Best to knit from the outside, I think, and from a spindle if you can manage.
    --TK

    January 18, 2011 at 7:17 PM  
    Blogger Charade said...

    Thanks so much for your clear analysis. I love that you set up your lab so quickly and were able to outfit it with everyday household items. Having been married to an engineer for a lifetime, I can attest that they're very good at spotting a problem, often "fixing" it in short order, but not always 'splaining it in such a way that a layman can avoid the same problem at a later date!

    January 18, 2011 at 7:26 PM  
    Blogger Jen said...

    Great conversation! I love this blog - thanks for imparting your knitting wisdom for the masses!

    January 18, 2011 at 7:40 PM  
    Blogger Beverly said...

    I loved the post on winding and this post was just a big bonus! The lab report was fabulous...makes me want to take it to my middle school students and say, "See? Your science teacher isn't crazy for making you write lab reports! They're useful." (I'm not the science teacher, but I like to be helpful.) However, they'd probably all think I was totally daffy. Actually, I think they already do, since I, you know, LIKE math.

    January 18, 2011 at 8:24 PM  
    Anonymous random Cindy said...

    Another facet to consider is that degree of twist seems to be a very arbitrary thing. I've used commercial yarns that seem undertwisted to me as well as ones that seem overtwisted. Could you use your results to fine tune the twist on a ball of yarn? Also, what should those of us do who have the opposite problem—the ability to instantly create yarn barf when unwinding from the outside of the skein or ball? The scientific part of my brain has apparently gone to bed early so I'll leave the drawing of conclusions to you. :)

    January 18, 2011 at 9:08 PM  
    Blogger CricketB said...

    This leads to a question: What's the correlation between techies and knitting?

    January 18, 2011 at 9:43 PM  
    Blogger Linda in TX said...

    OMG I'm still laughing! There's nothing like a good Lab Report on laundry day. Thanks for making my whole week!

    January 19, 2011 at 10:58 AM  
    Blogger Modern Girl Style said...

    I just discovered your blog and can't thank you enough! I'm a newbie knitter that is learning how to K1, K1 Below. Now I know it's easy, but without your blog I would have been lost! THANKS AGAIN!!

    January 19, 2011 at 12:00 PM  
    Blogger NMjewel said...

    Thanks for your work. I appreciate the knowledge but I don't like the outcome. I love my ballwinder BECAUSE I it neatens up the yarn and I can pull it from the middle. For most projects I'll continue to use yarn pulled from the middle but since I had a problem with my Løve Garn (mercerized cotton 8/4) twisting and racking I will be very careful with it. Now I want to try another project with the cotton just to see. (That's my sort of "lab".)

    January 19, 2011 at 12:09 PM  
    OpenID bpatricksullivan said...

    Great post, TK! I love your blog.
    There's actually an entire subfield of mathematics dedicated to this topic called "ribbon theory", which has applications to DNA research.
    (I study twisted magnetic fields in plasmas, myself, and these topics ("twist" and "writhe") come up in my work as well).

    January 19, 2011 at 12:49 PM  
    Blogger kmkat said...

    I love it when someone delves into a question and does the work to answer it. Those people are often referred to as geeks, and I say, Where would we be without them? In the dark and walking, I think. Thank you! k

    January 19, 2011 at 5:02 PM  
    Blogger 17th stitch said...

    I really enjoyed this pair of articles! Thank you for clearing this up.

    January 19, 2011 at 5:38 PM  
    Blogger TECHknitter said...

    Thanks all, for your nice comments!

    January 19, 2011 at 5:38 PM  
    Anonymous Rachel said...

    Woah... So *this* is why I often seem to have too much twist in my yarns as I knit? Because I am a die-hard center-pull puller. Huh. Might have to rethink that.

    I'd always assumed that it had to do with the ply direction of the yarn and using it one direction as opposed to the other was giving me more twist.

    January 19, 2011 at 6:58 PM  
    Blogger C said...

    This lab report definitely gets an A+! Thanks for doing all this research and getting to the bottom of all the twisting issue. I've historically been a "knit from center of skein" girl so now I'm re-evaluating. I have noticed untwisting issues with cotton using that method, which used to drive me crazy. (I would literally have to stop knitting or crocheting periodically and let the piece hang to let the yarn re-twist.) Maybe it's just less noticeable with animal fibers?

    January 20, 2011 at 12:05 PM  
    Anonymous Jessica said...

    "Yarn Barf"! I love it.

    January 20, 2011 at 8:11 PM  
    Blogger Laura Sue said...

    This is simply awesome. Glad I'm not the only one who now has to re-think my center-ball-pulling ways. I'm not a geek/techie, but I work for an entire college Physics department. Kind of like, "I'm not a physicist but I've played one on TV."

    January 21, 2011 at 11:54 AM  
    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Honnay beat me to it, but I also use a CD spindle. I started using it to control my crochet thread that comes on a cardboard roll, then I found out that if I made a slit in a toilet paper roll to hold the end and then re-rolled yarn ribbon up on that and knitted with it on a CD spindle, it didn't slip loose and knot up. (longest run on sentence award winner)

    I leave a bad or blank CD under the yarn. It seems to spin better. I slip the yarn from the yarn winder onto a slightly smaller plastic tube I got at the hardware store and then transfer it to the CD spindle. You can slide the yarn off the tube onto the spindle carefully and still use it as a center pull if you want to.

    January 22, 2011 at 2:37 AM  
    Blogger A. Warped, knitter said...

    As a weaver I take care not to add twist to yarn when warping a loom but as a knitter I've never thought much about it, just occasionally let my knitting dangle to untwist itself.
    Thanks the tips on how to avoid the twist and for the wonderful, imaginative experiment.
    My husband, who taught engineering for 40 years says that "engineers solve problems" you certainly qualify.

    January 22, 2011 at 5:04 PM  
    Blogger Janice said...

    I just discovered your blog a week ago- thanks so much for all of the really detailed info- the whys, wherefores, & hows besides the 'to do's.
    I would consider myself a beginner+ I've been knitting off and on for years but only in the last couple have challenged myself with socks, and sweaters & vests for my little grandbabies. I always pulled from the middle, even before I got the yarn winder & wound by hand. I was taught it was 'neater' and kept the yarn from rolling across the floor. I was just excited to have thought to stick my yarn in a plastic bag with a hole to pull the yarn through- to, once again keep it neat (although it didn't prevent 'yarn barf' problems- I love it!). I wondering about flying with the cd case/yarn holder. Has anyone had any adverse reactions from TSA? My projects are usually of the 'on the go' variety.

    January 23, 2011 at 12:52 PM  
    Blogger Betty said...

    Thanks for your clear and dfinitive analysis of the yarn twist problem! Your post came just when I was fed up with letting my wip dangle frequently to correct the twist. I thought of another mechanism -- very low-tech -- for facilitating the unspooling of a yarn cake. It's a pants hanger, the wire kind with a strong cardboard tube at the bottom. I unhook the wire from one end of the tube, instert it through the middle of the yarn cake(s), then insert the wire hook back into the tube. It is reasonably portable and I can hang it from whatever is handy (lamp, drawer pull, etc.) or pin it to any nearby upholstery.

    January 25, 2011 at 2:15 AM  
    Blogger MB said...

    Great post, thanks! There's one detail I don't understand yet - why does it matter if the yarn twists?

    January 27, 2011 at 6:52 AM  
    Blogger TECHknitter said...

    Hi MB--if the yarn twists, the fabric "biases." That is to say that a square or rectangle of knitting turns into a slanted parallelogram. The side seams then don't hang straight, but spiral around the wearer's body. This is actually amazingly common in knitting--commercial sweaters OFTEN have this flaw, and handknit ones more often than you would think. Best, TK

    January 27, 2011 at 9:02 AM  
    Blogger Lynda said...

    You know you can use this effect to deliberately add or remove twist to yarn. Some of us use it to add twist to multiple strands of yarn, though it may take several trips through the ball winder to get the right amount of twist. Also the outside of the ball will add a different amount of twist than the inside.

    January 28, 2011 at 12:21 PM  
    Anonymous Von said...

    Thank you, oh wise one! That was helpful and sensible :)

    January 29, 2011 at 10:09 AM  
    Blogger Alwen said...

    Tatters (people who tat, not scraps of fabric) are very familiar with the accidental adding of twist by pulling up from a ball, rather than letting the thread spool from the side.

    I can't tell you how many times I've given the demo where I have people see for themselves that S-twist does not turn into Z-twist by pulling from the other end of the thread!

    It's like the human brain is hard-wired to want to believe this.

    January 30, 2011 at 10:27 PM  
    OpenID natalief said...

    I hand-wind centr-pull cakes/balls using a method that I read in one of the Stitch & Botch books (and have since adapted to make my own variation) and I always knitt from the centre of the ball. I wonder if the hand-wind motions differ from the ball-winder because I rarely end up with extra twist being introduced. I wonder if people's methods vary so much that it is impossible to be totally scientific…

    January 31, 2011 at 8:35 AM  
    OpenID natalief said...

    P.S. I must go google "lazy-susan"…

    January 31, 2011 at 8:37 AM  
    OpenID natalief said...

    P.P.S. I never get yarn barf when I hand-wind. I dread my hands getting worse (MS and fibro) and so having to buy a ball winder. Winding yarn by hand is not only good physical- / physio- therapy, it is quite zen / meditational. Then again, the same can be said for knitting!

    Sorry for spamming you with comments! I keep remembering something else to say. D@mned MonSter-eaten brain/memory…

    January 31, 2011 at 10:23 AM  
    Blogger TECHknitter said...

    Alwen--you are right. It IS like a hard-wired issue. I was pretty surprised at the results of the little experiment, I thought for sure the twist came from the WINDING, not the PULLING. --TK

    January 31, 2011 at 10:45 AM  
    Blogger Sara said...

    An easy way to improvise a spindle for yarn that hasn't been wound onto a core: take a long wooden spoon, where the handle is nice and straight, and stick it through the center of the ball. Lay the spoon across a bowl that's big enough to contain the half of the ball that's below this axis, but small enough that the spoon handle can span it. The ball will rotate on this very nicely, and stay in place! I've got a mixing bowl that's got a built-in handle on one side and a spout on the other, and it's absolutely ideal for this, because those keep the spoon/spindle neatly in place even if I get a little enthusiastic with the pulling.

    February 4, 2011 at 10:15 PM  
    Blogger scifiknitter said...

    I woke up this morning thinking about this post in conjunction about an article some years ago in Knitter's Magazine. The author of the article talked about how he loves to rewind his yarn 3 or more times to get a very loose ball with no tension on the yarn. My question of the day: would it make a difference if you wound each ball twice - once clockwise, and once widdershins? Would that cancel out the twist added if you pull from the center?

    I am awed by your creativity in investigating the physics of knitting - yes, I do believe that is what you do.

    Also, you obviously write with power if I can wake up thinking about a blog post that I read days ago.

    February 12, 2011 at 1:22 PM  
    Blogger TECHknitter said...

    Hi Scifiknitter--What an honor to be in your dreams. wow.

    Right off the bat, I don't know the answer to your question--it would take another experiment, because, for some reason, this stuff is not intuitive to me. I guess I'm just a lowly knitter, and no kind of a spinner.

    The answer is evidently confused and confusing even for people who do spin, however, because comparing comments yields different results. On the TECHknitting post of January 27, a commenter date-stamped February 4th seemed to have some ideas about all this, including comments about s- and z-twist.

    Yet, that comment appears to be contradictory to a different comment date-stamped January 30,left by a different person to THIS post, which also talks about s-twist and z-twist.

    One day, I'll maybe "spin" some tape measures together, then run them through a ball winder and see about getting to the bottom of all this.

    In the meanwhile, however, If I wanted to wind and rewind balls until they were very loose and with no tension, I believe I would go about it by spooling each wind off the outside of the cake, via a yarn susan or a core-and-spindle: this would impart no additional twist at all, and so would avoid the whole issue!

    Another way of INSTANTLY loosening cakes of yarn is to pull the center part of each cake out and keep that separate. In other words, pulling out a hunk from the middle loosens the cake instantly. Of course, it gives you two cakes, a big one and a little one, but in the case of easy-to-splice yarn (such as Shetland) this is no disadvantage, while in a long-repeat easy-to-splice yarn (such as Kauni) this might be a positive ADvantage, especially if you want to "edit out" colors.

    Thanks for writing. TK

    February 12, 2011 at 8:33 PM  
    Anonymous Kiwi J9 said...

    Thank you so much for your blog! I have learnt so much, and there are so many things I can't wait to try.

    I have a question about using a ball winder to rewind a ball - what do you put the pre-wound ball onto? I am assuming you don't use a swift, but the only way I can think of is to hold it in one hand while you turn the ball winder with the other, which seems a bit awkward.

    Any ideas gratefully received!

    February 13, 2011 at 2:07 AM  
    Blogger TECHknitter said...

    Hi KiwiJ9: For a pre-wound ball, I put it in a basket with high sides, then pull the yarn loose vigorously, so that the ball twirls and jumps-this makes the yarn unspool from the outside. Pulling less vigorously makes the yarn simply spiral off the outside, which does create twist, so that's why I keep the ball jumping and twirling. It's pretty lively in action.

    February 13, 2011 at 7:09 AM  
    Anonymous Kiwi J9 said...

    Thanks Techknitter - that sounds like fun!

    February 13, 2011 at 1:44 PM  
    Blogger Ghost of a Rose said...

    About the CD spindle case:

    They're called "cake boxes", by the way, if you want to look for them to order online. FYI, an empty one with shipping expenses costs about the same as buying one with the CD's in it at a store. But then what would you put all those blank CD's in, if you bought a full one?

    I like the 100-CD one best, since it has such a tall spindle. The ball is less likely to "jump off" it if you get too enthusiastic with your knitting!

    And the cover (placed on loosely, not locked in) protects your yarn from getting dirty when not in use. If you take an Exacto knife or a strong pair of scissors and cut a little piece (about 1/4 inch square) out of the plastic cover along the bottom edge to let the yarn come out, you can even lock on the cover for transporting or storing the project inside your knitting tote. I wouldn't knit with the cover on, though, since the yarn would get some wear and tear scraping against the edge of the cut-out "window"; and the ball of yarn wouldn't be able to spin as freely.

    February 26, 2011 at 9:54 PM  
    Anonymous Lotta said...

    Great lab report!

    Notice how the tape measure curls/twists one way when you pull from the top of your tape-measure (yarn) cake, but it would twist the _other_ way, if you pulled from the bottom? So if one way (pulling from the center of your yarn cake on one side) adds twist to your yarn, the other way removes twist from it, which could also be a problem, but you can also use it to correct overtwisted yarn. And I bet with just a couple of experiments you could figure out which way you have to pull the yarn from the wound cake in order to "cancel out" twist, when you wind twice.

    Also, if you notice in the middle of your knitting project that you have too much twist (and you're pulling from the center), you can cut the yarn and pull it through the other end of the yarn cake.

    I would definitely not discourage anybody from winding and using center pull balls -you just need to figure out, if you're adding twist or taking it away, and what your yarn needs.

    Another point is that unlike the measuring tape, yarn is comparatively thin and has a lot of twist in it already. Each time the yarn goes around the yarn cake adds one twist, which in the center of the yarn cake is relatively more than in the outer parts, because the length of yarn that has to "absorb" that twist is much shorter. In a big yarn cake you can have close to a foot of yarn going around the ourter part once, and adding one twist to a foot is not a whole lot. That's why you see the twisting problem more right at the beginning of when you start using a center pull cake.

    March 8, 2011 at 11:08 PM  
    Blogger Grazina said...

    for the people who like the term "yarn barf"
    look what I found :o)
    http://www.thecrochetcafe.com/2009/07/yarn-barf.html

    June 26, 2011 at 8:42 AM  
    Anonymous Astrea said...

    "No more twist!" (think Tailor of Gloucester).

    and does it make any difference whether you hang your skein over the back of a chair and wind into a ball by hand (extremely low tech here - might even be Luddite)? does it make a difference if the hand-wound ball is or is not a center-pull ball? hanging a wip like a sock is no big deal, but anything larger has to damage the yarn by stretching, no?

    I LOVE YOUR ENTIRE BLOG! Thanks for it!

    January 19, 2012 at 5:45 PM  
    Blogger TECHknitter said...

    Hi Astrea--starting with the last Q first--hanging the project is probably not going to stretch the yarn--the hanging isn't for that long and most projects aren't that heavy, compared to the thickness of the yarn they are knit from. There are plenty of things to worry about in knitting, but unless the yarn is EXTREMELY fragile, this isn't one of them.

    Hanging a hank over the back of a chair is going to impart some twist, because the opened hank isn't rotating as it would on a yarn swift, but if you follow the hank around the chair (stand up and wind in such a manner that the yarn always comes up pretty near straight to your ball from the skein) you should be able to avoid the worst of it--I just did this the other day myself, when I was away from home and had to wind a hank into a knittable ball of yarn.

    As to hand winding a center pull ball, I wouldn't. I would knit the yarn off the outside of the ball, putting the hand-wound ball into a bowl or bucket or basket with sides too high for the ball to jump out when the yarn is tugged loose.

    As to no more twist, well, the buttonhole was finished the next day, wasn't it?

    Best regards, and thanks for writing. Best, TK

    January 19, 2012 at 8:23 PM  
    Anonymous Ellen M. said...

    Currently working on a crochet entrelac blanket using Mosaic, and the twisting is beyond belief. Yes, I'm pulling from the middle, but this skein is almost done and when it is, I'm going to purchase that gizmo you linked to, the Yarn Spindle or something. She lives in Lake Mills, very close to where I live (Madison, Wisconsin) so it shouldn't be difficult to get. Thanks a gazillion for posting that link. When I get that gadget, I vow to never ever pull from the center again. Never.

    April 30, 2012 at 11:04 PM  
    Blogger Kristina said...

    I've always been a center-puller but you may have a convert. It's always seemed to me that twist is unavoidable without a lot of thought and work, which slows down the knitting/crocheting process, and figured it was easier to occasionally dangle a center pull ball or skein to untwist than to carefully unwind from the outside. Being a tatter as well I understand how to do this without twisting but tatting threads are much easier to do this with than thick yarns. I'm excited to try some of the ideas for creating a spindle to hold the yarn, especially the CD case thing. Thanks to you and to all those who shared tips!

    May 5, 2012 at 1:18 PM  
    Blogger Unknown said...

    When I first read your post I was completely bummed. The thought of ecoli on toilet paper center, freaked me out but quickly learned that a DVD/CD spindle works great.

    Remember EZ saying something about there are no mistakes in knitting simply a useful technique?(parphrasing here) I have found a use for the twist. I'm knitting a Salish sweater & the closest I can come to for the yarn is not as tightly spun. Pulling from the center creates just the right amount of additional twist. The yarn at the needle end is about half the diameter of yarn on the outside of the ball. Based on my memory of the hand spun yarn, mine is very close but more uniform. Thanks!

    September 7, 2012 at 1:52 PM  
    Blogger Marie said...

    I like to knit striped socks and I usually buy 100 gm balls of yarn. I will put the ball on my winder and pulling from the inside wind and weigh the unwound one as I wind and stop when it weighs 50 gms, thinking that now I have two 50's but when I am done, the second one weighs more than the first. Why? Now that I have two,the stripes will be opposite so I must take one and rewind it which makes it very loose when I am done but they match. Now if I wind from the outside of the ball and stop and leave the other ball alone will they match stripes? Also if I wind both from the outside will it not twist when I re wind it.

    November 23, 2012 at 10:18 PM  
    Blogger TECHknitter said...

    Hi Marie--If you always unwind from the outside, in a manner that the ball can spin freely as you unwind, you will not get twist no matter how many times you re-wind. In other words, if the yarn is unspooling off the outside of the skein, and the skein spins freely as the yarn is unspooled, no twist will be introduced.

    As for getting matching stripes, it might be a little more complicated, because the stripe pattern might not replicate exactly from the middle of the skein. So, you might have to wind and rewind from different places to get complete repeats, and some splicing may be involved. In a worst case scenario, with a super-long color-repeat yarn, you might have to buy two 100 gram balls to get two complete repeats, because any one ball might not have two complete repeats in it--this is certainly true of a yarn like Kauni effektgarn, for example. However, in a shorter-repeat yarn (as most sock yarns are) this may not be as much of a problem.

    November 24, 2012 at 9:27 AM  
    Blogger Marie said...

    Thanks TECHknitter, for my skeins rolling freely, I rigged up the hanger suggestion someone made and it didn't spin freely for me. It's Opal yarn and it's wound an angles so it unwinds crookedly. I have let it loose on the floor before and that doesn't work because it rolls all over the place. I'm going to try your waste basket suggestion. I have a pretty deep one that should work. I know what you mean about the stripes not always matching up on the skeins, I have run into that a few times. On one skein they had a knot in the middle and the stripes were reversed from that point on. I will just rewind one ball again like I always do only this time I will do it from the outside instead of the inside as I used to do. I'm so glad to find out that winding from the outside is the best way to wind. Thank you for doing what you do. Your blog is so helpful. Marie

    November 26, 2012 at 1:03 AM  
    Blogger naomi paz greenberg said...

    First, thank you for your expertise, curiosity and creativity.

    However, I've got to say that I'm owning my 'disagree' here, mostly because I'm a subway knitter who always uses center-pull balls of yarn.

    While I agree that ribbon yarn should not be in a center pull ball, the construction of stranded, twisted yarn differs markedly from flat ribbon.

    To convince me I'd have to see something like ella rae lace merino marked on one side and then wound, and shown to twist while being used.

    In fact that's what led me to disagree since that's the kind of yarn I'm using right now and I'm trying to explain though I don't have the vocabulary.

    But I've knit and crocheted from center-pull balls that were as much as 1500 yards long and... no twist.

    The only thing that eventually happens is that the ball collapses as the center is used up and then has to be rewound by hand.

    But it just doesn't twist up on me, not even after re-winding a partially used ball that can't be reverse wound because it's still attached to the project.

    This may happen more with less elastic yarns like cotton which I don't usually use. When cotton yarn is stranded and twisted I don't know how it reacts.

    But a flat tape behaves differently from a multi-helical stranded yarn, at least that is my experience over a lifetime of crochet and knitting.

    Once again many thanks for your exploration and for this forum,

    naomipaz.

    June 11, 2014 at 11:50 AM  
    Blogger TECHknitter said...

    Naomi: thanks for writing and sharing your thoughts. A few things to consider:

    --Much yarn is designed to be used as a center pull ball. Sometimes balls of yarn are labled as such. This yarn would be slightly undertwisted, with the final twist being applied at the time of pulling.
    --The thinner the yarn--such as the lace yarn you are talking about (1500 yard per hank)--the less of a problem biasing and overtwist is, because the yarn itself has so little body. (However, getting started on center-pulling a very thin yarn risks serious tangling and losing substantial yardage to the "yarn barf" knot which forms if the center yarn isn't sticking right out, easily find-able.)
    --Some yarns are so well "balanced" (for example, a yarn spun from plies which are themselves plied-(needlepoint yarn is the ultimate for this sort of thing) that adding the slight amount of additional twist from center pulling makes no difference.
    --Yes, flat ribbon is substantially different than round yarn, the ribbon (tape measure, actually) was adopted for illustration purposes. However, the idea is the same, namely, that when you center-pull, you are adding twist.


    --BOTTOM LINE: the point of this post is that if you don't KNOW what kind of yarn you have, you are safest using it in such as manner that you are not adding additional twist, which means using it off the outside of the ball in conjunction with a yarn susan or a yarn bowl. This avoids all chance of the very real annoyances which can arise from overtwisted yarn (the problem of biased fabric, discussed in the very next post in this series.)

    Obviously, if you ARE having biased fabric and overspun yarn, then for sure, feed off the outside of the yarn.

    However, if you are center pulling your yarn, and that is working for you, keep right on. No need to fix what ain't broke!

    Best, TK

    June 21, 2014 at 12:22 PM  

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