Why would you re-wind yarn bought in the shop? Why waste the precious knitting or crochet time on something as mundane and as interesting as watching the grass grow?
There is a number of reasons. As I have knitted more and more through my life I came to appreciate the importance of a well wound ball or cake of yarn (I’ll explain the difference below).
First of all you might buy yarn in a hank or skein. It’s a long shape, loosely twisted like a pretzel. If you buy expensive commercial yarns, hand spun or hand dyed yarns from indie dyers, your yarn is likely to come in this shape. In some areas the pretzel shape is called hank, in some – skein, but regardless of the name, you need to wind it to start knitting. Knitting directly from the skein will inevitably lead to horrible tangled mess, possibly irreversible.
Examining the yarn for knots and imperfections
Before you start knitting it is worth examining the yarn for knots and imperfections such as thin or weak points and making decisions where in the project each skein, hank or ball of yarn should go. A skein with a knot may be easier to use in a sleeve of a sweater for instance rather than finding the knot in the middle of knitting in the centre of the front part.
Examining the yarn for colour changes
In some yarns colour changes are important – it may be sock yarns which you are trying to match to have an identical pair, slow change yarns like Noro, self striping yarns you are using for a jumper sleeves etc. Re-winding the yarn will help with making the decisions how and where to use the balls or hanks you have.
A well wound ball or hank will help with maintaining uniform tension throughout the knitting, whether you are starting your ball or have small amount left. A lot of commercially wound yarns are very loose, which is great for yarn storage but may not suit some knitters or crocheters.
Preventing rolling and centre pull cakes
If you have a yarn winder, it is very easy to wind yarns into cakes. A cake is a roll with two flat sides so it won’t roll. The tail left in the middle of the yarn cake means it’s very easy to pull it out from the middle, without the usual scrambling for it end inside the yarn ball and almost inevitable knot jumping out instead.
What is the difference between a ball and a cake then? A ball is round and usually wound by hand. A cake is wound using a winder, has tubular shape and two flat sides. A cake is created when winding yarn with a winder.
Winding yarn in the past used to be a slow and painful process, especially for husbands or other unfortunate relatives used for holding yarn in the air and being given out to for dropping arms too low and letting the yarn tangle. No more though.
There are many types of winders on the market – simple hand operated ones, beautiful wooden winders and electrical ones. My new winder is a manual Royal winder a certain thoughtful
hubby Santa got for me for Christmas. It came from Webs, a large American online yarn retailer, but both winder and swift can also be bought in several Irish and British online shops. The swift is a rotating device which holds skeins of yarn when you are winding, preventing yarn tangling and making the whole process easy. I loved winding two skeins of yarn I had dyed into two perfect cakes in 15 minutes, including the set up of both devices. In the past it would have taken me about an hour to wind two skeins.