All wound up

A lot of the yarn that we sell comes in hanks like this, and it sometimes makes people curious. So we thought we’d answer some frequently asked questions about the matter here.

Like most of us, yarn likes to be relaxed. Winding it up tight will stretch it. Then you crochet or knit with it, and it’s still stretched when you work it. The trouble starts when it relaxes, and most particularly when you wash the finished object: as the strands unstretch, your perfectly fitting object shrinks.

This is why yarn is sold either wound very loosely or not wound at all. Machine-wound balls like this Debbie Bliss Cashmerino DK are wound with a generous hole in the centre, allowing the yarn to relax into the gap.

But when you get a yarn like Debbie Bliss Paloma or Malabrigo Sock, both of which come in hanks to keep it in tiptop condition, it needs to be wound before you use it. It’s really, really not a good idea to try to work straight from the hank – you will end up in a horrid tangled mess and a foul humour.

When you buy one of these hanked yarns from us, winding is free and part of the service. It only takes a couple of minutes, because we have a ball winder and swift permanently set up upstairs.

The swift holds the hank open, and adjusts to accommodate smaller or larger hanks. This sort is called an umbrella swift because its adjustment mechanism is just like an umbrella’s.

As the handle of the ball winder turns, it pulls the strand of yarn from the swift, though things proceed much more smoothly if you guide the yarn through your hand.

The whole process is fast, and results in lovely squared-off centre-pull cakes of yarn like this:

If you’ve bought a lot of yarn we might ask you to drop back a little while later to pick up your wound-up goodies – the few minutes each hank takes will add up and you can probably use your time better elsewhere. Alternatively, you could wind it up yourself at home.

The time-honoured stratagem of getting a family member to hold the hank on outstretched arms will serve you well at home, or you can replace those arms with the back of an upright chair or two. If you regularly find yourself winding a lot of yarn, then your own swift and ball winder might be a worthwhile investment. If you’re working on a large project, it’s a good idea to wind up your yarn as it’s needed. This ensures that it all stays in perfect relaxed condition until just before you use it, and it also means that excess is in returnable condition, since we can’t take back yarn that’s been wound up.

When you’re winding up your own yarn by hand, make sure to wind it nice and loosely – you can substitute a cardboard kitchen roll holder as a nostepinne, which will give you the same relaxed centre as the squat little column of the ball winder.

In other words, relaxed yarn means relaxed crocheters and knitters, and that’s always a good thing.