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How To Wind a Center Pull Ball of Yarn in 4 Easy Steps

Center Pull Ball of Yarn Tutorial Graphic

Winding yarn is a part of crochet and knitting. Whether it is a hank of hand dyed from your favorite indie dyer or left over bits and bobs from past projects, sooner or later you will need to wrangle your yarn into a workable form. Before you get started, check out our article on How to Store Yarn for great tips on when to wind your yarn (it is more important than you may think!).

Now that you know when to wind, you need to pick a technique. Of course there are several ways to get the job done. You can make (not bake!) your own cake at home, but will need a yarn swift and a ball winder. Don’t have either of these? No worries. You can easily wind it into a ball that pulls from the outside (we show you how in this post).

But it is always good to have options! Today I will show you how to wind a center pull ball in just four steps. No special equipment required! When I was starting out, a woman at my LYS taught me how to do this. I consider it one of the most useful skills I possess.

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Are you wondering if one method is better than the other? I don’t think so. This is about personal preference. My choice is nearly always the center pull. Here is why: I don’t have a yarn store near me (anymore); I don’t have my own swift and winder (someday, but alas not today); and balls that pull from the outside have a tendency to roll around. That’s it!

Setting up your work area.

Since we have established that I don’t have a yarn swift, and neither my husband nor my son are interested holding my yarn while I wind it, my dining room chair successfully does the job without complaint!

Hank on Chair for a Center Pull Ball

I use the captain’s chair (with arms) to hold the hank and sit in front of it in another chair. If I’m in for a good long wind I set it in front of the recliner, pop on a movie and get busy.

A tip for making two balls from one hank.

Usually I will wind the entire hank into one ball. But, if I am making socks I need two that are (about) the same size. Once the yarn is on the chair, I count how many loops or rounds are in the hank. I take the total number of rounds and divide it by two. When I pull the yarn off the hank I count each round. By pulling (or unwinding) ten rounds at a time it is easy to keep count as I wind the ball. When I reach the right number of rounds (the halfway point) I end the first ball and begin the second.

Lets wind some yarn!

Center Pull Ball of Yarn Tutorial Center Pull Ball of Yarn Tutorial Center Pull Ball of Yarn Tutorial Center Pull Ball of Yarn Tutorial Center Pull Ball of Yarn Tutorial Center Pull Ball of Yarn

Voila. A handy-dandy center pull ball. Gently tug on the tail and and you are ready to get started on your project. No more run away yarn, and no fancy winder needed! If you want inspiration on ways to use your newly wound yarn, visit the pattern page. You will find all kinds of way to put your yarn to good use!

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Deborah Hale

I learned a trick while watching Vickie Howell on Knitty Gritty and I do it to this day: First, get an empty pill bottle – if you have a whole skein to wind find the largest bottle you can. Now, here’s the BIGGEST thing, not losing that end: take off the top of your pill bottle and tuck a couple of inches of yarn inside, then close the lid. Bring the yarn down to the center of the bottle and hold that yarn taut while you wrap the yarn around the middle of the bottle a few times. Now, just wind until you’re holding a full cake of yarn! I take a crochet hook and reach through the last few wraps with it, grab the very end, and pull it through to secure it. You can now pull the cap off the bottle, free that beginning end that did NOT get lost in the ball while winding, and pull the bottle up and out of the yarn cake. I’ve been doing this for many years and it’s the easiest way I’ve ever seen – I even converted a long-time knitter who always used the figure-eight method until he saw my version.


Deborah this is a fantastic way to wind yarn. I have 3 electric ball winders and 1 hand one that I love but if they all happened to break down at the same this tip would work good. Thanks for sharing it.


Even easier. Start winding around your thumb- leave the tail dangling. It will look like a giant pineapple on your thumb- it works!


Just did my first one with pill bottle.. great idea… thank you

Polly B

My Mom taught me how to wind a ball 50 years ago and she also told me WHY: winding the ball too tight, without an extra finger, stretches the wool, which will greatly affect the finished tension in the garment. She also taught me how to wash wool from an unpicked old sweater, so that it would spring back for a new project.

Susan reineck

I seem to remember it as quite novelty to buy wool redy-wound!
To get a good tension on the hank so it’s much easier to wind my mum always put two dining chairs together at an angle and put the hank around both backs, moving them until the wool was nice and tight. No need for a partner then to hold the wool. strange that these old tricks that mother taught daughters have been lost in just a few years!


I have used a toilet paper tube (paper towel tube works as well). Pull one end of your yarn though the center of the tube then wrap the rest of the yarn around the outside tube in a crisis-cross manner while occasionally rotating the tube. Once all the yarn is wrapped just pull out the tube.

Brenda Brewington

I also always keep in mind what I might use to hold the yarn while I am knitting. Especially if I think that i will be carrying my project on a trip or with me for doctor visits or to work, I like to put my working yarn in something to help protect it and to know that I can sit down the yarn out of my bag as I work. If I plan on using a clean plastic fruit container, I wrap the yarn so the cake/ball is basically the shape of the container. That way I can sit the working yarn on a table or floor and it is protected from dirt and dust


I hold the start of my ball in my Palm and wrap around my thumb. Done!


I do too. So easy. the yarn looks like pineapple on your thumb.

Mary Beth Loup

When I must wind by hand, I drape the hank of yarn around a lampshade, place the lamp on the floor in front of me, and loosen the screw so that the shade turns around as I wind. It requires smaller arm movements than unwinding yarn from around a chair.


Oh I love that idea! Totally trying it!

Elisabeth Price

Now that’s brilliant. I see no prospect of affording a swift and a winder (why are they SO expensive?), but the lampshade plus an empty toilet roll will do fine for me. Thanks so much for the tip.

Kathleen Jones

Years ago, 2-litre plastic soda bottles were made with a separate, reinforcing black bottom which could be coaxed to come off with a short soak in hot water. Then cut the bottom off the clear soda bottle, insert the commercial wound skein, thread the center pull yarn through the neck of the bottle, replace the black bottom piece and you have a yarn dispenser that keeps the yarn clean and easy to transport.
I’ve used many and still have yarn in some bottles, ha,ha. Nowadays, the bottles do not have the extra bottom piece. I suppose one could find something to fit.

price starts

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Great reading. I’ve been using a large knitting needle to wrap the wool and then when finished remove the needle and you have the end of wool but these methods appear to be better. I will try them , thanks

Barbara Winter

I basically start my ball like shown but when wrapping I use my pointer finger to keep a hole and keep the tail free. A older Dutch lady showed me how to knit and ball yarn. Will try some of the recommendations from above.

Jane Mitchell

I use a kitchen towel cardboard tube. Cut a slit in one end and feed the wool down through the tube and in between the slit to hold fast. Then at the other end of the tube I wind about 20 rounds around the tube and then start winding in a 45 degree angle, rotating every 12 rounds or so. The first few are a little tricky, but once you get going it’s easy peasy. I also put my skein around the back of two dining chairs at an angle to make taut. It’s quite therapeutic, but time consuming. Each hank of Mad Tosh Light takes me about 40minutes to wind.

Joni Gaida

I put my larger skeins of yarn in an empty oatmeal box. The size is perfect and I cut a hole in the plastic lid to feed the yarn thru. I put my small balls of cotton yarn in an empty tissue box. I just push the yarn thru the opening in the top. The ball stays put while I pull the yarn as I crochet or knit.

Winne Peterson

Has anyone tried a nostepinne? I plan to buy one (about $12) and try it.

Sylvia Mayfield

I use a “sawed off” wooden garden rake handle. The rake had broken so I sawed off the top 8 inches of the handle. (Don’t tell my husband I used his tools. LOL) After smoothing off the rough end, I have my own nostepinne. 🙂 SUPER easy to wind a center pull ball while I watch TV.


I use a paper roll that aluminum foil was on. Sturdy and the length of the tube makes it easier on my hands. Tape the pull string to the inside of the tube to keep it out of the way and safe.


Thank you for placing these instructions! I just completed my first transformation of a hank into a ball of yarn!


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