Lion Brand Notebook

News, Ideas and Information for Crafting with Yarn

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Tips for Using a Yarn Swift

June 21st, 2011

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Last month, I visited Hancock Shaker Village, a living museum in western Massachusetts, portraying the daily happenings of a Shaker community. As a yarncrafter, it was particularly interesting because the Shakers valued crafts and had a strong affinity for the world of yarns–from raising sheep (I saw newborn baby lambs!) to spinning their own yarn, knitting, crocheting, and weaving. At the museum I got to see a demonstration of how linen yarn is made, as well as seeing many historical and reproduction yarncrafting tools.

One of the tools they had on display was a table swift, which the Shakers produced in great numbers in the 1800s. If you’ve never used a table swift (also called an umbrella swift), it may look like a strange contraption, but what it allows you to do is to hold a hank (one of those long, loose circles of yarn) open while you turn it into a ball, either by hand or with a ball winder. Some yarns that come in hanks include our LB Collection Organic Wool and LB Collection Pure Wool, but hanks are also how you dye yarns, so if you’ve been thinking about dyeing your own yarns, a swift can be an important tool for turning those hanks into beautiful yarn balls or yarn cakes!

Here are a few tips for using a yarn swift:

  • When using a yarn swift, you’ll want to make sure the yarn isn’t twisted so that it feeds easily.
  • Make sure the yarn swift is securely attached to the table and that the knob that holds up the “umbrella” part of the swift is securely screwed in.
  • If using a ball winder, leave yourself some distance between the swift and ball winder so that the yarn can feed smoothly and at an even tension.
  • When not in use, store your ball winder in a bag so that it doesn’t get caught on anything. Our friends at Slipped Stitch Studios have some cute ones in fun fabrics.

Thinking about buying a swift for yourself? Click here to see our classic wooden swift or click here to see our lightweight metal swift.

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  • Armida Baker

    Thank you, for showing the image.  Was having trouble keeping it on the umbrella, it would slide off.

  • http://twitter.com/CrochetBlogger CrochetConcupiscence

    Helpful post. I bought a yarn swift thinking that it was a ball winder (found out after that it requires a separate attachment) and I haven’t quite known how to use it so this is a good post for me!

  • http://twitter.com/artlikebread Art,LikeBread (Cami)

    Hey! How did you like Hancock Shaker Village? I grew up really close by. :)

    • Anonymous

      Hey Cami, it was great! I really enjoyed all the animals, the antique weaving looms and spinning wheels, and the gardens. Even lunch there was very good! I would definitely visit again and recommend it to others!

  • http://twitter.com/Vicden Vicden

    this is most likely a dumb question, but if you had a ball of yarn that you needed as a hank say for dying or something, can you use it in reverse?

    • Heather

      You can!  I’ve done it before.

  • Heather

    The picture accompanying the article reminds me of one thing – most ball winders are not strong enough to handle a strong “yarn grip.”  Some yarncrafters like to let the yarn slide through their fingers as they wind to help guide it or to check for knots.  That’s fine and won’t hurt anything, but if they are gripping the yarn, the added stress from the force of the pull on the yarn will wear on the gears of the ball winder and it won’t last as long.  

  • Pingback: How to Wind a Ball of Yarn | Lion Brand Notebook

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