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Spin-Off into Winter!

Nov 30, 2009


A note from Kathleen: After hearing so many stories of the fun everyone had at this year's SOAR (Spin-Off Autumn Retreat), I looked at my Winter 2009 issue of Spin-Off with renewed interest. Spin-Off always provides lots of interesting items for knitters, but I actually read through some of the spinning articles this time. I've been keeping myself from spinning because I can't imagine maintaining another hobby, but maybe...

And since I love a how-to, I've included an article about making a center-pull ball (see the end of this blog post). These little tips are just what we knitters can expect in each issue of

Now here's Stefanie Berganini, Spin-Off Assistant Editor, to share a little bit about the Winter issue, including a lovely trio of quick-knit patterns.

Feather & Fan CowlSpin In the New Year!

Winter might be my favorite season—snowmen, cuddling up with a book and some hot chocolate, lots of time with family and friends, and of course holiday gift making! The Winter 2009 issue of Spin-Off is on its way to mailboxes and newsstands right now, and I think it's a pretty exciting one.  

Polwarth SocksIf you're looking for some quick holiday gift ideas to knit, the Winter Spin-Off has you covered with a great trio of small projects. Robin Russo's Polwarth Sock pattern is a lovely Fair Isle design that's fulled slightly to add warmth, durability, and softness. Debbie Grale's Feather and Fan Cowl makes a beautiful gift. And Jill Smith-Mott's Tahoe Caps are a great use of leftover yarn (or small quantities of handspun!).  

If you're in the mood for a bigger project, try Amy King's Oatmeal Cardigan—I'm a fairly beginning knitter, but I like this sweater so much I'm thinking about challenging myself and casting this one on.

Oatmeal CardiganThorough information about the handspun yarn used in each project makes it easy to substitute millspun yarn if you aren't ready to try your hand at spinning.

If you've ever considered learning to spin, this is a great issue to get you started. While every issue of Spin-Off is educational, this one really has a lot to teach. There's an article by Jeannine Bakriges that explains seven drafting techniques to get you started on the right foot.

Once you've got the basics down, Jacey Boggs' fabulous tutorial on creating coiled yarns will inspire you to try your hand at making unique and beautiful art yarn.

If you'd rather get your spinning feet wet on the spindle, a preview from Abby Franquemont's new book Respect the Spindle will teach you how to chain-ply and Andean-ply.All in all it's a great issue of Spin-Off, and I'm glad I was given the opportunity to take the helm while editor Amy Clarke Moore was on maternity leave (welcome, little Sarah Moore!).

I hope you like it as much as I do, and that it keeps you company as the weather turns cold.


Making a Center-Pull Ball
from an article by Carol Huebscher Rhoades in the Winter 2009 Spin-Off

Step 1: With left hand palm up, grasp yarn tail between thumb and index finger; let tail (about 9" long) hang across palm at base of fingers.

Step 2: Bring working yarn to back of hand behind index and other fingers and then back to palm around middle finger. Continue wrapping circularly around fingers 12 to 15 times, making sure long tail stays free.

Step 3: Remove wraps from hand, hold bundle horizontal, and wrap center around from bottom to top 4 to 5 times with working end of yarn.

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Step 4: Now turn bundle so that the center wrap is horizontal, bundle is vertical, and working yarn comes rightward from back of bundle.

Step 5: Make sure that tail hangs down freely from bundle. Next wrap an egg-shaped ball around bundle, starting at center wraps. Bring yarn from bottom right side diagonally up to left side and around. Every 4 to 5 wraps, shift bundle a quarter turn clockwise so that wraps will be evenly distributed around.

Step 6: Continue until all yarn is used up for ball. Pull on tail to release yarn from center of ball.

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The perfect how-to book for any spinner with a growing collection of spindles or even just a dowel, with step-by-step photography with detailed illustrations, making the spindle spinning techniques clear to even the novice spinner.


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Jane@52 wrote
on Dec 5, 2009 11:05 AM

Just read your thing on center pull balls.  I do mine so that they are a cake shape and will sit still whiloe you use them.  Start by making a butterfly - a figure * over the thumb and forefinger - about 20 wraps...then grap that butterfly in the middle and pull it off the fingers so that it folds in on itself with the tail coming out of the middle, Begin wrapping, turning the "ball" every 20 wraps or so and you have a very neat "ball" that it flat on the top and bottom and stays put!

CharleneM@2 wrote
on Dec 1, 2009 5:28 AM

An even easier way to make a center pull ball is to use a larger size (a 1 inch or more) dowel. an wrap it around that. Remembering to rotate the dowel once in a while to make an even ball. And remember to wrap the yarn "not to tight" so the yarn is not streached or distorted.   Charlene Martin

on Dec 1, 2009 2:59 AM

I was taught (many years ago!) to wind a centre pull ball by starting by winding the yarn around my thumb (keeping hold of the tail)s and then various direction until the ball was secure, when it could be removed from the thumb and the rest of the skein wound. But remember to keep the strand of yarn from the centre free! You end up with a nice clear hole in the centre. I usually just keep the whole thing on my thumb, much like Little Jack Horner! mj England

on Nov 30, 2009 9:04 PM

I need HELP!!  I just purchased a pattern that uses the Short-Row method of knitting and I am confused!!  Can anyone out there help me get some sense out of short-row knitting?  I know I have done this before but can't get this particular pattern figured out.  Thanks for any help you can give me.  Love your articles Kathleen and all the instructions you give.  Keep up the good work.

Alice C.

KathleenM@2 wrote
on Nov 30, 2009 6:50 PM

Thank you for the center pull ball instructions.  As others have already mentioned, I wind mine on my thumb.  I hold a long tail in the palm of my hand and VERY loosely wrap straight around my thumb until I have about 2-3 inches built up.  Then I begin to wrap diagonally, turning every twist or two.  Wrap tightly the last couple of yards straight around the middle and tuck the end under.  The balls look just like they were wound on the ball winder at my LYS.   Neat, flat bottoms that stay put.  I plan to try the mini M&M version soon.  (I guess I will just have to eat some M&M's in the next few days!)  It's always nice to know several ways to do the same thing.  I think your way will work particularly well with thicker yarns.

govinsx wrote
on Nov 30, 2009 5:22 PM

Another way to make a center-pull ball of yarn:

Thumb up. Hold end of yarn in palm of your hand with fingers, yarn end pointing down toward your wrist. Now take yarn at the base of your thumb and start wrapping it around your thumb, until you get to the other end of the skein. Tuck the outside end into the ball.  Remove large ball of yarn from thumb, Easy and fun.

knittnrose wrote
on Nov 30, 2009 4:02 PM

Kathleen, you are the most charming host of this site. It is the one email I enjoy getting. You are so enthusiastic and informative. Thank you ever so much.


on Nov 30, 2009 3:43 PM

Making a center pull ball:   I do much the same, but I just wrap around my thumb, (holding the beginning thread in my Left hand that I am wrapping around) and keep shifting to have the yarn space itself out around the ball.   It is quite simple to do, with your thumb holding it open for the thread to pull off later when you start working with the yarn.  Ellen Duffy

SandraA wrote
on Nov 30, 2009 3:23 PM

The Oatmeal Cardigan is lovely!  I hope it's added to the Pattern Store at some point.

GillianV wrote
on Nov 30, 2009 1:45 PM

My centre pull ball is quite like Katio's.  However if I have a thick yarn, I start over all four fingers and keep my windings very even.  (I could definitely explain much better with photos.)  I thien go down to three fingers, and two.  Then I go to the thumb and, like Katio, turn the ball on my thumb until the yarn is gone.

Katio wrote
on Nov 30, 2009 10:40 AM

Great directions for making a center pull ball of yarn. However, I would add one more thing to step 5. Hold the ball with non-dominant hand and wrap over your thumb, slipping it out now and then as you wind. This makes a soft ball, keeping the yarn from stretching out and losing it's resilience.  

MaxineG wrote
on Nov 30, 2009 10:30 AM

Just wanted to say that I wind center pull balls around a mini-M&Ms case.  I tuck the end of the yarn down into the case and snap the lid. Then I wind a couple of inches around the case almost like I was going to count wraps-per-inch. Then I hold the case bottom in my left hand and the yarn in my right. Turning the case constantly, I wind the yarn with my right hand. As I work, the ball gets a sort of "shoulder" that helps keep the ball a really nice shape. When the yarn is all wound, I open the case, remove the starting tail, and slide the ball off.  t's a "beggar's" nostepinne, I guess, but the bonus is that I can also use the cases for my sock DPNs (I prefer them for fine yarn to all the magic loop or two-circular techniques.)

DianaB wrote
on Nov 30, 2009 10:05 AM

I love when you include easy little how-to things both in the magazines and Knitting Daily.  However, I'm left handed and often these directions are written as though every knitter is right handed.  Could you consider for the future writing directions like this without the specific instruction about which hand to use?  The pictures may guide even a lefty to do it the same way as they see, but without the hand to use written out, we will be free to decide which hand works better.  Often times it doesn't matter which hand you use and it would make us lefty knitters very happy not to be systematically excluded or made to think extra hard.  Thank you!