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How to Use a Yarn Swift + Why It’s a Good Investment

Using a yarn swift isn’t reserved for your local yarn store. You, too, can turn hanks into beautiful, easy-to-use balls of yarn.

My friend Stephanie of Blackberg Creative Studios gave me a yarn swift for Christmas, and in the short time since the holidays, I’ve found myself using it a lot. Now that I’ve figured out how to use a yarn swift, no need to use my dining room chair or my boyfriend to wind hanks of yarn!

I have to admit that figuring out how to use a yarn swift is much simpler than it looks in the yarn store. I was intimidated by the crazy spinning thing for a long time, but now that I’m using a yarn swift at home, I don’t know how I ever lived without it.

Here’s a little tutorial for setting up and using a yarn swift. If you wind balls of yarn at home like I do, I think you’ll agree that learning how to use a yarn swift will make your life a lot easier.

How to use a yarn swift

Yarn swift vs. winding by hand

Before my friend gifted me the yarn swift, I had been either having the yarn wound at the yarn store or winding it by hand. When I discovered that winding hanks into balls and letting them sit for long periods of time could cause them to stretch out, I only had the yarn store wind my yarn if I planned to use it immediately. (Read more on how to store yarn here, and whether you should wait to wind.)

A yarn swift makes winding by hand so much easier. Instead of having a friend hold it or wrapping it around a dining room chair, the yarn swift holds the yarn nice and taut, spinning around as you pull the yarn. If you need to take a break from winding, you simply put down the ball you’ve wound so far and return to it later. The swift holds everything right where it should be.

Pair that yarn swift with a ball winder like I did, and you’ll really be in heaven.

Setting up a yarn swift

Setting up a yarn swift is simple. Your swift probably has a mount, and you can attach it to anything from a counter top edge to a dining room table. I also like to wind yarn outside on the porch, because there’s a certain cat in my house who likes to mess with the swift as it spins.

Mounting a yarn swift

Mounting the swift

The swift I’m using is the yarn swift from KnitPicks, To mount it, I simply place it on the edge, then twist the metal screw until the swift feels secure.

Using a yarn swift to wind yarn

Unwrap the hank of yarn and remove the label, if it has one. The yarn should form one big circle. Don’t untie it just yet!

Opening a yarn swift

Open the swift like an umbrella

Place the circle of yarn around the yarn swift and hold it as you open the swift like an umbrella. Push up on the center of the swift until the hank is taut. You don’t want a loose yarn swift, otherwise the yarn could fall right off.

Securing a yarn swift

Securing the swift 

Secure the swift by tightening the screw on the side.

Untying yarn on a yarn swift

Untying the yarn

You’ll notice that the hank of yarn is held together by small bits of yarn. Some hanks have only one, while others might have three or even four. Remove these bits of yarn.

The rest is easy. Grab one end of the yarn and start winding it either onto a ball winder or onto your fingers. As you pull, the yarn swift will turn, all the while holding the yarn in place.

One note here: Be sure the end you’re pulling from is on the outside of the swift. Pulling from the end of the yarn that’s laying on the inside of the swift will interrupt the flow of the swift and make pulling the yarn much more difficult.

Keep winding until there’s no more yarn on the swift.

Storing a yarn swift in produce bag

Storing a yarn swift

One thing that stopped me from buying a yarn swift in the past was the storage. Where on earth would I put such a huge tool? If I had checked into it more, I would’ve realized that yarn swifts are collapsible! My yarn swift even came with a neat little produce bag so that I could slide it inside. It’s small enough to fit in any closet, bag, or even in under-the-bed storage.

Don’t want to spend a lot of money on a yarn swift? Try to find a used one or try winding your yarn by hand with the help of a friend!

Bluprint Guilt Free Binge Watching



i am always knitting or crochet an just got a knitting machine so I need to wind my wool an this would come in handy


I just got a couple of used swifts, and it seems like they need some TLC. Do you have any resources on how to do that?
Thank you


Just realised that for years as a child I was my mother’s yarn swift. I loved it actually, it would sit on a little stool in front of her chair and we would talk and wind wool. But in the absence of a cooperative small child, I can see this would be really useful.


Haha, you should’ve received extra allowance money for that job! Glad you and your mom could spend quality time together doing that.

Paul Jordan

We shared very similar mothers Alex. My mother used to knit, crochet, sew, you name it. I can remember her sitting in her chair, taking a nap and her hands would be moving like she had a pair of crochet needles clicking away. Then every now and then, you’d see her stop and mouth the word “Shoot!” and then her hands would look like they were unwinding what she had just done because she made a mistake somewhere.

I was indeed her yarn swift although I never knew what it was called.

The last few years of her life she would make bears and use the nightgowns of whoever it belonged to and make clothes for the bears, never taking a penny for her work on those bears.

When my mother passed, my sister made one with my mothers nightgown for the clothing. I smelled it as soon as I opened the box it came in and I swear my mother was right there telling me to hold my hands farther apart while she made another yarn ball.


I found a swift that is about 150 years old. It works beautifully. It is so lovely, I just leave it on my fireplace mantel all the time. Then, it is handy whenever I need it.


Hi, Myke!

I also have a yarn swift that’s about the same age. I’m curious to see what yours looks like compared to mine. Can you post a picture?



Barbara Smith

On a recent trip i visited a beautiful yarn store where i noticed a small metal swift costs only $40 comes in a plastic cycinder for storage. I bought one for my daughter and one for me. The adjoining pieces are plastic tubing instead of string on my big swift that ive already had to repair. Love my new toy


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