You might think that rolling a ball of yarn is the most basic of knitting techniques and needs no explanation. Nothing is free from the opportunity for mistakes. Understanding some simple knitting instructions for rolling a yarn ball can help save you from terrible snarls and tangles in the future.
Some knitting folks say that yarn should not be rolled into balls. They feel that yarn rolled into a ball is in constant tension, much like a piece of elastic pulled to its maximum length. Like that piece of elastic, yarn will lose its springiness if held taut and make inferior knitted objects (which will hang limply). Do not fret with these worries! Yarn can be rolled into a ball without harming its integrity, with just a modicum of care.
When to Roll a Ball of Yarn
Not all yarn needs to be rolled into a ball. A lot of yarn can live happily in its current state of skein even whilst being knit. If you have yarn from a major producer, it has been wound on a machine and is designed to feed snarl-free from the center. This machine-wound yarn is referred to as a skein (though technically skein just refers to a length of yarn). You can usually stick your finger into the end of the skein and easily locate the end of the yarn, pull it out and start knitting.
Some yarn comes in a shape that looks like a squashed ball (flat on top and bottom). This is a center pull ball. Again, you simply find the loose end in the middle and start knitting. The only reasons you would choose to roll a ball of yarn from either a skein or center pull ball is if the yarn has been mauled (by a cat or small child) and you are concerned that it will tangle or if you just want to feel the yarn go through your fingers one more time.
When you have yarn that comes in a hank, it must be rolled before you can knit it. Do not try to knit from a hank. It will snarl and take you a long time to untangle. Yarn that comes from small production spinners or dyers often comes in a hank. It looks like a coil of rope. When you untuck the end of the coil, it will untwist and you will find a large circle of yarn.
How to Roll a Ball of Yarn
The large circle of yarn must be placed over an object so that it does not become tangled while you are rolling. You can recruit friends or family to place their hands at the proper distance apart to hold it. You might find the back of a chair works well. Or you could slip it over your knees while sitting and watching TV. It will help if the yarn is slightly taut, but not tight.
Snip or untie the little bits of yarn holding the circle together. Starting the ball might be a bit tricky. It can help to wrap it around a piece of paper to serve as the ball's center. The yarn wrapper is convenient for this purpose, but make sure to make a note of yarn care instructions if you will need them before you finish the ball.
Remember as you are rolling that you do not want to roll tightly. Let the yarn flow loosely through your fingers to avoid stretching it. Simply keep wrapping the yarn until you run out of room to wrap more without going back over what you just wrapped. Then turn to a different angle and wrap some more.
Tools of the Trade
There are special tools available to make ball rolling easier. There is the swift, a contraption that looks like a cross between a drying rack and an umbrella. It is adjustable to hold your hank of yarn just right while you are winding. You can purchase ball rollers, which allow you to turn the crank and end up with a lovely center pull ball.
A hand tool that assists in rolling a ball is the nostepinne. This contraption can create beautiful center pull balls by hand. Swifts, ball rollers and nostepinnes can all be found at your local craft or art supply store or online at websites like Paradise Fibers in the spinning tools section.
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Even though you might think knitting is a complicated craft to learn, you need to master only a few basic types of knitting stitches. With a pair of knitting needles, an inexpensive ball of yarn and a little patience you'll be on your way to knitting scarves and sweaters.