Sunday, November 29, 2009

Spooling Yarns

I've posted a pic or two of my Yarn Booty, and as can be seen, much of it is spooled into what look like multi-colored bales of hay. When I first got my yarn winder, I immediately wound every bit of yarn I had that was in non-usable twists, etc. I wondered, however, whether it was really worth the time and effort to re-wind skeins of yarn that are allegedly wound by the manufacturer for use directly from the skein, such as those from RedHeart, Patton's, or Lion Brand.

I have since come to believe that re-winding them is well worth the time. I don't recall any skein of yarn ever that didn't have at least a few tangles within (Homespun, in particular, loves to cling to itself). Sometimes, as a special treat, the end of the yarn you're supposed to use is simply not to be found without pulling a large wad out from the center, making the skein appear to have given birth to a smaller skein. Unless you knit a lot more quickly than I do, something has to be done with the "baby" skein, which can not be simply shoved back into the mother skein without causing even more tangling and possibly some mental scarring as well.

Yarn wound into balls, while incapable of plopping out a baby skein, don't store efficiently and can become indented with lines from the crisscrossed layers, especially if stored for long periods. Bales stack far more neatly than balls or skeins, and are far less likely to go rolling off the shelf or table unless you put one on the side and send it off with a push. In that case, of course, you're on your own. You can also use either the center strand or the outer strand of the bales, or both at once: an option not available using skeins or balls. Local yarn stores will generally wind yarn for you that you purchase there, especially twists of yarn, but if you have a large stash at home (and who doesn't), I think the money spent on a good winder is well worth it.

Be warned, however, that consistency in tension is important while spooling yarn with a winder. Occasionally, I let my children help with the winding, and they have a tendency to wind it rather loosely. Thus, when one of them gave up halfway through winding a ball of yellow worsted weight, I began winding the rest, rather more tightly, and rather more quickly. You can imagine the laughter when the whole thing came shooting up off the winder and onto the floor below like a big wad of spaghetti.

On a side note, I use index cards folded over and curled into an expandable circle to keep the center of the bales from collapsing between knitting sessions; it's also a good place to stash the yarn label for future reference. Naturally, you can also make notes on the cards regarding the particular yarn, but I don't generally do that because I re-use the cards. Using two index cards partially overlapping each other makes the core even more expandable, so as the yarn is used up from the center, again, the bale won't collapse between knitting sessions. Obviously, the core has to be removed while knitting from the center, though not when knitting from the outside strand. I've considered purchasing some of the cardboard spools I've seen online, but they only allow you to use the outer strand, and are designed to be hung from a holder, thus also reducing portability. I might consider that option one day for yarn to be used with Vera, as it might make maneuvering yarn a bit easier while machine-knitting. For hand-knitting, though, I think I'll stick with using the index cards as spools.

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