A boring post about how to cheat at wool winding.

The bothersome thing about dyeing, well, one of the bothersome things, is the amount of time one spends winding the wool into a suitable skein. The slow way is to use the comically named niddy noddy…


And the faster way is to use a specially made skein winder…


( not my images, btw, stock ones nicked from the internets, there’s no real creative content there so no apology )

Both of which involve more equipment, more expense, even more stuff to store in limited space.

Instead I cheat and use my swift.


The swift is the thing on the right, an expandable thingummybob designed to save your friends and family from tedious hours of arm aching whinging. As you can see, it’s actually designed for UNwinding wool, rather than winding it, and if you try to wind a skein onto a swift clamped vertically to a table it gets pretty tangly pretty quickly.

But, if you clamp it horizontally to a chair, you change it into a winder.


However, you still have the problem of wearing yourself out swinging your arm round in huge circles as you wind. Which is where the bead comes in…

You need a sturdy cord tied to one of the expanding corners of the swift, and knotted onto the other end is a bead. The bead needs to have a large enough hole that you can hold the bead whilst the cord spins inside the bead. You also need six or so inches of play on the cord, this allows you to hold the bead and spin the swift with the merest flick of the wrist. You can go really fast and get skeins wound in minutes and it’s easy to count as you flick.


Obviously your other hand needs to hold the incoming thread to control tension and position.

Mark the shaft of the swift with a pencil to ensure each skein gets wound to the same length.

And yes, I’m winding four threads at once. This because I don’t unwind my embroidery threads, I simply cut my skeins for the ideal working length, so if I have four cone of wool I do them all at once because it speeds the job up considerably if you’ve got two kilos of fine wool to skein.

And here concludes today’s episode of the lazy cows guide to wool winding.

~ by opusanglicanum on June 14, 2014.

10 Responses to “A boring post about how to cheat at wool winding.”

  1. Brilliant!

  2. This is fascinating! I might have to look at investing in a swift (anything which can be collapsed is a good thing to have in a tiny house!). My skein-winding (from the spinning wheel) tends to be around the laundry basket if I’m feeling energetic, or elbow-to-hand when I can’t be bothered. And I think I just figured out recently (after creating 2 skeins) why you’re meant to have larger lengths – when I wash this lot, it’s going to take ages to dry!

    • You can spend a lot of money on a swift, but to be honest mine was thirty quid off ebay, brand new Chinese import. I’ve had it years and it’s just as robust as the expensive ones I’ve seen elsewhere. Definitely worth having and once collapsed it takes up no more space than an umbrella ( worth tying a bit of string round when not in use to stop it slipping open)

  3. The Needlewoman Shop used to have a beautiful winding machine for making small skeins of gold thread. One turn of the crank handle of big wheel put one yard from the spool onto the two prongs of the fast-spinning skein holder. Attach end of thread. 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-stop. Tie off with soft yellow cotton. Cut thread. Remove from prongs. Next skein…. A lovely piece of Victorian or Edwardian engineering. I wonder what happened to it when they closed down? Thanks for bringing it back to my memory.

  4. I don’t think it’s lazy to seek to make a time consuming task less so, and I’m impressed with your ingenuity!

  5. Brilliant! I’ll have to give that a try myself.

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