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Discovering New Tools

Dec 26, 2012

One of my favorite things to do when visiting local yarn shops is looking through all of the notions and tools. I'm a sucker for a new tool or a new color of stitch marker, or, as I recently discovered, temporary tattoos with a knitting theme!

A ball-winding tool called a Nøstepinde
A while ago I discovered a new-to-me tool for winding center pull balls. It's called a nøstepinde, and it's a beautiful, simple tool. As I mentioned, you use it to wind center pull balls, which are my preferred yarn balls to knit from. After winding a ball with a nøstepinde, the center end of the yarn comes out easily without pulling along that big mess of a tangle that I always seem to get. After winding a yarn with a nøstepinde, you get a lovely ball that closely resembles a commercial ball of yarn, but it's better.

I came across an article about nøstepindes in an old issue of Interweave Knits (fall 1997!), which is though you would find as interesting as I did.

A What? A Nøstepinde. A What?

So what is a nøstepinde? In Scandinavian languages, anøste, ornösta, is a ball of string or yarn. Pinde, pinna, or pinne, (all pronounced like "pinafore") mean little stick. Nøstepinde = a yarn-winding stick.

In past centuries, young men whittled nøstepinder for their sweethearts. On farms in Jutland, mountains of yarn skeins were changed to balls by hired girls winding busily on nøstepinder in the dark edges of light from the fire.

Today, most nøstepindes are turned on lathes and associated with twined knitting. Twined knitting's Swedish name, tvåändssticking, or "two-ends' knitting," refers to the two ends of any ball of yarn; the ends are knit alternately with a half-twist between stitches.

Two ends? How? The end on the inside of the ball is pretty inaccessible. We've all stuck an index finger into a machine-wound ball and pulled out a twenty-foot tangle which sometimes includes an end. The nøstepinde solves this problem. It's a tool for winding a ball with an easily accessible inside end.

While you can substitute the handle of a wooden spoon, a dowel, or even a mechanical yarn winder, there's something special about a handmade tool smoothed to silky perfection. There's pleasure in the winding, in watching each turn of yarn lay up against the turn before, over and over again, ending with a handsome ball of yarn.

I saw my first nøstepinde in Fredericia, Jutland, while visiting Danish knitting historian Ann Moller Nielsen. I bought a brand new nøstepinde the next morning, and on the way back to my in-laws' home in Copenhagen, I rewound all the yarn I had with me. Twice.

At first I wound slowly, laboriously copying the instructions Ann had given me. Then I realized the tool was like a thumb that I could rotate 360-plus degrees. The yarn flew, the ball began to form as if by magic into something wonderful, each turn laid perfectly beside the one before it.

When I got home to Maine, I rewound all my yarn scraps. I fell in love with winding yarn! I finally remembered that children can't wear balls of yarn and began knitting again. Eight years later, I too have a well-used, lovely oak nøstepinde polished by lanolin and years of use.

Nøstepinder are now standard equipment and regularly sell out at knitting fairs. Simple tools are, after all, the best. And if they're handmade by someone who cares, so much the better.

—Robin Hansen, from Interweave Knits, Fall 1997

There are so many oldies but goodies in these early issues of Interweave Knits. Lots of the patterns remain fashionable (ignore the hairstyles, though!), and the how-to-knit and knitting-technique articles are top-notch. Check them out in the Interweave Knits 1996–1997 Collection download from the Knitting Daily Shop.


P.S. Do you have a favorite knitting tool? Share it with us in the comments!

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Interweave Knits 1996-1997 Collection (Digital Download)

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LollyAlex wrote
on Jan 22, 2013 12:06 PM

This sounds fabulous! Anybody know where to find one of these?

on Jan 7, 2013 7:54 AM

Have you seen the new knitting tool the Yarn Susan?

visit to watch the short video on this new knitting tool.

4rosemary wrote
on Jan 5, 2013 8:34 AM

I loved the Knitting Needles Guide from Eunny.  I am a slippery needle knitter and have been happy with Prym Express circulars.  However, they are hard to find, the local shop that did carry them has closed. Eunny didn't include this brand in her comparisons, but I'd love to know how the point, taper and join compares to the others.

As for the Nostepinde, I've got to try it!

karegl01 wrote
on Jan 3, 2013 2:25 PM

Here's a good video in English for how to use the Nostepinde.

on Jan 1, 2013 5:34 PM

Interesting article about the simple Scandinavian tool and I am impressed with those readers that got to work to make their own!

My favourite knitting tool is a skein holder that my son designed and constructed when he was six (he is now 19) having persuaded my husband/his father to take him to the lumber store for supplies. He did himself out of the job of holding his hands out to keep the skein from becoming tangled while I wound it.  I love it not only for sentimental reasons but because I can leave the skein on the holder if interrupted before the ball is complete. Incidentally, he became a competent knitter.

JoniZim wrote
on Dec 29, 2012 11:08 AM
karegl01 wrote
on Dec 29, 2012 10:28 AM

And here's a link for  a video showing how to do it.

karegl01 wrote
on Dec 29, 2012 10:28 AM

And here's a link for  a video showing how to do it.

karegl01 wrote
on Dec 29, 2012 10:18 AM

You can wind most any shape of ball that you'd like.  I did a square shouldered one then  a very short and wide  ball, with the last few layers wound close to the hole, rounding and enclosing the other layers.  This last one looks pretty and will stack nicely.  If you like them egg shaped or cone shaped just watch where you wind.  Also, since there doesn't seem to be a standard size for a nostepinde, you might want a longer one if you want a taller ball or a shorter one if you only want a hole on the top of the ball.  Below is a link with good instructions on how to wind using one.

IslandLady76 wrote
on Dec 29, 2012 9:15 AM

Wish you'd do a video

Ena Sabro wrote
on Dec 28, 2012 12:56 PM

a note on grammar of above: the singular of nøstepind does not take an e, and the plural tense takes an e in Danish. In Norwegian, it is spelled nøstepinne in singular and nøstepinner in plural and no 'd' anywhere. It seems like a bit of meltingpotting took place. Source: good knowledge of Scandinavian languages and customs and of course Wikipedia.

granmommy3 wrote
on Dec 28, 2012 12:42 PM

My husband went to his workshop this afternoon and turned one for me.  Wound a skein of yarn this evening.  It's great!

Thanks for the article.

on Dec 27, 2012 4:11 PM

Hi Edna,

My wife and I make nostepindes out of Cherry and sell them in our shop located here if you are interested. They have been a very popular item for us. Hope this helps.

Tony & Kathy

jofrogger wrote
on Dec 27, 2012 10:46 AM

The tiny illustration of the nøstepinde isn't much help.  How about a video?  TIA -- Jo Frogger

ergoni wrote
on Dec 27, 2012 9:05 AM


That sounds interesting.  How does your "egg" technique differ from the one described here?

CarolynP@28 wrote
on Dec 26, 2012 11:23 PM

I, too, use a nostepinde, one that I bought back in 1994 at SOAR.   However, the technique I learned was somewhat different, and I end up with lovely egg shaped, center pull balls.   My problem with the square shouldered balls is that about halfway through the skein, the "guts" will sometimes pull out in a tangle. I have never had this happen with my yarn eggs.  Also, like eggs,  my yarn may roll around but never away from me.           Yarnspinner

County Knits wrote
on Dec 26, 2012 6:35 PM

Thanks for the article on the nostepinde.  Wondering where in Maine you

live, and what/where such festivals might be held, that I might check them

out and purchase a tool, also.  And, of course, add to my stash.

 Thanks so much.

everman wrote
on Dec 26, 2012 4:35 PM

I use an empty pop can, winding the tail around the poptab before starting with a few winds in the center of the can.  Once started, wind just a bit diagonally while slowly turning the can.  When done, tuck the outside end under the last few turns, unwind the inner end from the poptab and pull the can out head first.  While it looks like a lot of hole, knead the ball gently and the yarn folds in nicely to produce a ball that pulls easily without stretching the yarn.

karegl01 wrote
on Dec 26, 2012 4:30 PM

I've been winding on my thumb too, but this sounded like such a good idea I wanted to buy one immediately with my Christmas money. I didn't see any for sale on the internet, so....  I dug out my old lathe and some canary wood blanks that I had been using for teapot handles and made myself one!  It was pretty easy (it would have to be, my lathe skills are rudimentary at best). I sanded it and polished it with high friction wax and within an hour of reading your e-mail I was ready to wind wool..

With wood chips still on my sweatshirt,  I pulled out a 100 g hank of washable wool and wound a quite presentable, square shouldered, center pull ball.  I'm in heaven.  I wish I could post a photo, it worked so well. This is easier and neater than winding on my thumb and I didn't lose the starter end like I always do on my thumb.

Thanks a zillion for the Discovering New Tools newsletter.  Can't wait to wind all the rest of my loose wool.

Jacklou wrote
on Dec 26, 2012 4:10 PM

I received a nostepenne for Christmas a year go and love it.  Any little bit of leftover yarn gets rolled into a ball.  I enjoy winding yarn on it and making a nice ball.

shan1944 wrote
on Dec 26, 2012 1:25 PM

Considering the cost of any kind of yarn winder, my mother taught me to wind yard on my thumb; it's free and always with me.  I just hang on to the loose end and occasionally turn the forming yarn ball.  I can make perfectly round balls with a center that always pulls out easily.

on Dec 26, 2012 10:48 AM

If you have a big stash of yarn and you are not sure about the weight of the yarns I love a tool called a WPI tool (wraps per inch) which helps you determine the weight.

Frankenyutz wrote
on Dec 26, 2012 9:44 AM

You don't need a fancy stick to wind a perfect center-pull ball. The cardboard core from a roll of toilet paper or paper towels works just as well; just cut a notch on one end to anchor the yarn.

trinity2014 wrote
on Dec 26, 2012 9:33 AM


I recently worked a couple of skeins of alpaca bulky yarn on my "knuckle whacker" (that's what I like to call it!) and no, you do not have to change directions once you get it going and get the hang of winding by hand. Just be careful when you work your skein, it can/will tangle on you! I suggest hanging it from a horizontal position if you can or have someone hold it between their hands like in the old days of winding yarn completely by hand.

trinity2014 wrote
on Dec 26, 2012 9:28 AM

I have a Nøstepinde I purchased a couple of years ago at a fiber arts festival. I love it! Comes in really handy when I need to wind up a skein or two.

However, for Christmas this year my husband surprised me with an electric ball winder and yarn swift! So now I have two great ways to wind my yarn! :)

ergoni wrote
on Dec 26, 2012 8:59 AM

This sounds great, but I have one question about how to use it:  Do you sometimes need to reverse the "direction" of the diagonal as you turn?  That is, if you have been winding from lower right to upper left like this \ , do you sometimes have to change to this /  so things criss-cross?

MarjorieD@4 wrote
on Dec 26, 2012 8:41 AM

Three years ago my nephew made me a nostepinde that I absolutely love using.  The finish is silky smooth, and it makes the best balls with any size yarn!  The ball winding process is truly fun now.

JudyW wrote
on Dec 26, 2012 8:14 AM

Look on Etsy for nostepindes.  I have a beautiful one and am delighted with the beautiful balls wound on it.

mrslowry wrote
on Dec 26, 2012 8:06 AM

My favorite knitting tool is a toilet paper stand. Freaky, right? But it's fabulous! You wind your yarn onto the core of a depleted TP roll, then pop it onto the stand and knit away. It feeds the yarn beautifully! Added benefit: I bought a pretty one at Walmart (for all of about 10 bucks). It was just so much fun setting it up in the living room and having my husband exclaim, "Just WHAT is THAT doing in HERE?!"

ednafrench wrote
on Dec 26, 2012 7:45 AM

Does anyone know where I can get a nøstepinde? It sounds like such a fun and practical way to wind the yarn leftover from projects. Usually I just wind it in a ball, which serves the additional purpose of giving the cat a new toy whenever it escapes and rolls across the floor.

Edna French

zooshane wrote
on Dec 26, 2012 7:27 AM

I couldn't live without my Wanda set of little tools that Morgaine Wilder sells at Carolina Homespun. These are three tiny knitting needles with crochet hooks on one end--invaluable for picking up stitches or making corrections in knitting. Mine are ebony and one of my most loved tools.