Wednesday, 29 October 2014

How to convert yarn hanks into balls

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Winding Thread Like a Pro …
well almost !!!

A quick, easy, no-nonsense way to convert hanks to balls 

September, last year, I bought 2 hanks of crochet thread/yarn. I prefer branded, pre-wound balls since they are ready-to-use. No winding of thread/yarn is required before one starts a project. Saves time & effort. Yet, I succumbed to some very soft, thin ecru thread with lovely silken texture & purchased 2 hanks.

I don’t know what prompted me – perhaps the Anchor crochet cotton balls I had ….
I decided to roll a strip of cardstock for the centre & wind the thread over this, just as in the store-bought balls.
Well, surprisingly, I had fun winding up the hank ! And as I wound it, I got a bit more creative & turns out, it is extremely easy to wind thread like a pro !!! 
Okay, I didn’t get that good a finish, but if one is just a wee bit careful, the hand-wound ball will be no different than a store-bought/branded one. Unfortunately, I did not have a 3rd hank; I guarantee it would’ve been, um, exactly like the real thing ;-))

I made a pictorial with the 2nd hank.

Materials required :
Hank of thread/yarn
Strip of cardstock – less than 2" wide x 7-8" long.

Fig. 1 shows the only 2 things required !!!

Roll the cardboard strip into a hollow cylinder. The cross-sectional diameter of this hollow is about ¾". (Fig 2)

Start winding thread normally, around the center of the cylinder. The direction of movement is indicated by red arrow, if one is winding in clockwise direction. Keep the tension of winding yarn 'normal'; it should never be too taut or pulled/stretched!

About 20-25 rolls should suffice to give it some body & act as a ‘holding edge’ for subsequent rounds. (Fig 3)

From now on, it is important to space out the winding : each subsequent round should be adjacent to the previous round, not above it.

Now start winding the thread ‘diagonally’ instead of a simple circle, as indicated by red arrow. (Fig 4)

Continue is this diagonal motion. But after every few winds, turn the cylinder a bit so that the winding thread does not bunch up in one place. (Figs 5, 6)

I found it convenient to insert my left thumb into the hollow & rotating the cylinder as I wound the thread over it with my right hand. (Fig 7)

I have not been very neat. Each round could’ve been a bit closer to the previous one, instead of being so spaced out . But that is extra effort as per moi, especially if only I am going to use it.


As you continue winding, you will notice that the distance from the cardstock edge will keep decreasing until finally the cardboard is almost totally covered up. (Figs.  8, 9, 10)

Fig 11 shows both the hanks wound up, one ball per hank.

These next 2 images on the right show a comparison with branded balls.

Notes/Tips :

  • I used 2" wide cardstock. It should’ve been a bit less – 1½"- 1¾" is preferable. Then the edges would be completely hidden by the outer rounds of thread, as in the case of store-bought balls. I realized later, that I could've actually snipped away the extra lengths at the sides before I came to the end of the yarn !
  • Any old bookmark, cut to correct dimensions, would work as well !
  • When winding diagonally, move the thread from one edge to the other while rotating the hollow centre. The thread will remain in place due to the initial bunched-up rounds !
  • Never wind over the previous round. Always space it out just a tad; keep the winds adjacent.
  • The winding should not be too tight/taut; this will affect the quality & durability of the yarn/thread.
  • I wound the thread in clockwise direction. But whichever is comfortable ….
  • It is possible to achieve a much better finish.
Unwind as you wind – it’s that easy :-) 

Update : Another post on winding hanks into skeins & related ramblings on yarn & threads, here.


  1. Very neat! If I ever try making hand dyed thread, this would be very useful in keeping everything nice, compact, and tangle free.

    1. I should've gone with the HDT line in this post, right ?! Missed mentioning it.
      There are such gorgeous HDTs in tatland - this ball-winding can really be of tremendous help. Thanks Robin :-)))

  2. That always makes me nodes with tangles! Very useful!

    1. Thanks Lilas :-)) Now hopefully your threads will become tangle-free ;-)

  3. Great job!!! I do this with my HDTs. Not as good a job as you, I am in too much of a hurry to use them!! : )

    1. Actually, Sue, this was Surprisingly quick & easy for me. All it really required was that central cylinder. A few times I've had to wind wool into balls, & I used to start it over my hand ... but this is much easier & gives a market-bought ball shape instead of a circular ball.

      Having said that, we must each do what suits us best :-) As long as the thread/yarn is tangle-free, hassle-free, & easy to work with - That is all that matters !

  4. People can do the same thing with a nostepinde.... a wooden stick which you wind yarn or wool round. If you're knitting, you can then pull the yarn from the middle and it sits where you put it instead of rolling around the floor in the paws of a cat!!! LOL

    Love the tut tho!!!

    1. Thanks for that info, Pigmini :-) I'd never heard of a nostepinne, so rushed to Google Images. It really Is a nice tool to have, if one is working with large quantities of yarn! It (the shape) kinda reminded me of a pepper mill, though ;-))
      And while looking at these, I also found another tutorial for winding threads into balls ! ... and altho' she uses a toilet roll, the basic techniques is the same.
      Someone has even used a ballpoint pen - basically any cylinder will do. And one can choose the cross-section depending on the size of thread/yarn to be wound !

      Learned something new today, Pigmini. Thanks a heap :-)

    2. I had to google it when I first came across one too !!

  5. I really like this tip I had just purchased some thread that was loose and I got it hanging up staring at it wondering what I am going to do next :) I am so glad you had this post this will be a great activity for me! Thanks!

    1. Dear Carollyn, I'm glad this post was timely & hopefully helpful :-)
      I hope you share photos of your winding, too. And any feedback will be valuable.
      I really wanted just one more hank to improve, but that's not going to happen soon ;-/

  6. Love the tute..Muskaan. Now I am wondering how to convert a hank to small skeins, as in embroidery threads.There must be some way to wind them in that manner as anchor or DMC does.

    By the way, thank you for the lovely tips on my blog!! :)

    1. Hello Deepa :-)
      In answer to your query, I have put up a couple of quick ideas (with some simple, quick pics) on how to wind hanks into Anchor-style skeins. Here is the link :
      Hope it is of some help , otherwise, please do let me know .

      As regards the tips on your blog .... ugh, I later saw what havoc the predictive typing in my tablet has wrought ! Including your name ! Must be much more careful in future ;-))