Learn How to Use a Yarn Swift

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Article by Emma Lane

Using a yarn swift at a glance:

  • Once you learn how to use a yarn swift, it’s quick and easy to turn hanks and skeins into balls of yarn.
  • You’ll save hours of time winding lace weight yarn.
  • You’ll no longer need to trap restless kids, friends, or loved ones for ages while you wind yarn.

Looking to learn how to use a specific style of yarn swift? Click below to jump to it:

Why You Need to Learn How to Use a Yarn Swift

You’ve seen yarn swifts at your local yarn store. With each purchase, you’ve probably been asked if you want them to wind your yarn for you. It sounds like a great offer, but…

…you shouldn’t have them wind your yarn unless you’re ready to use it right away – even if they’ll do it for free!

Why?

Because storing wound yarn can cause the yarn to stretch, damaging the fibers and harming your finished project.

If you plan to use the yarn quickly, then this shouldn’t be a problem – if the yarn was wound correctly.

I’ve actually only allowed a yarn store to wind my yarn twice. The first time, the clerk did a great job winding the yarn, keeping the tension even throughout.

But the second time the clerk was more interested in chatting with another clerk. She didn’t pay attention to her work and stretched the yarn too tightly. I didn’t worry about it because I thought I could rewind it once I got home, and everything would be fine.

Wrong! The yarn was wound far too tightly, and stretched beyond recovery.

I’ve wound all of my yarn since – even 1,000+ yard skeins of cobweb lace yarn.

Imagine how happy you are to have your own yarn swift when winding that much cobweb yarn!

But the problems don’t end there…

…With so many styles of swifts on the market, no two work alike.

Sometimes it’s easy to figure out how to use a yarn swift. Sometimes you need instructions.

Let’s go over what you need to know about using the different types of yarn swifts.

how to use a wooden yarn swift

How to Use a Japanese or Goko yarn swift

Japanese or “Goko” style yarn swifts have a metal wheel that turns vertically between the wooden supports. The metal spokes of the wheel have a crimped horizontal bar that holds the yarn in place.

Remember that this swift holds yarn hanks from 57-64 inches.

  1. Untwist the hank of yarn, remove labels and open the hank into a circle on the table or floor.
  2. Lift the metal wheel from the slots in the tops of the assembled upright wooden base pieces.
  3. While holding the metal wheel in one hand, place the circle of yarn around the wheel being careful to not twist the yarn (inside strands becoming outside strands).
  4. To make the yarn hank snug around the metal wheel, loosen or tighten the plastic knobs on the side of the metal drum in the center of the spokes, and then, turn outside of the metal drum to expand or shrink the spokes.
  5. Once the yarn is tight around the spokes, tighten the knob to hold the spokes in place.
  6. Place extending screws on the metal wheel back into the slots in the tops of the upright wooden base pieces.
  7. Carefully unknot or cut the ties holding the hank of yarn.
  8. Look for an end of the yarn close to the outside diameter of the hank. This will be the start of your ball of yarn.
  9. Place the Goko swift with the yarn hank on a table or the floor to pull on the end of the yarn or turn the wheel to begin your ball or yarn cake.

how to use a tabletop yarn swift

Instructions for Using an Amish or Tabletop Swift

Amish swifts handle yarn hanks up to 72 inches in circumference. To keep this swift from moving across the table or floor while it is spinning, sit it on a plastic or rubber mat.

  1. Untwist the hank of yarn, remove labels and open the hank into a circle on the table or floor.
  2. Place the assembled Amish swift flat on a table or the floor.
  3. Insert the pegs of the Amish swift into the holes closest to the center of the swift.*
  4. Place the circle of yarn around the outside of the pegs draping it over the arms of the swift being sure not to twist the yarn.
  5. Move each peg out to the next available hole on each arm while keeping the yarn on the outside of the peg.
  6. Continue to move the pegs out to the next available hole until the yarn is snug around the outside of the pegs.
  7. Carefully unknot or cut the ties holding the hank of yarn.
  8. Look for an end of the yarn close to the outside diameter of the hank. This will be the start of your ball of yarn.
  9. Pull on the yarn end or begin moving the arms around to start the swift spinning and the yarn pulling from the hank.

* If you know the circumference of the yarn hank, you can move the pegs further out on the arms and drape the yarn around them. Then skip to step 7.

why use a yarn swift

How to Use a Schacht or Top Down Umbrella Swift

The spokes or ribs of the Schacht umbrella swift push downward to expand. As this swift works both horizontally and vertically, it may be easier to load the hank of yarn with the swift in the vertical position. If you choose to keep this top down swift in the horizontal position, pushing the ribs downward to expand them makes it easy and quick to get to the right tension.

  1. Untwist the hank of yarn, remove labels and open the hank into a circle on the table or floor.
  2. Clamp the Schacht umbrella swift onto a solid surface, such as a table or wooden railing.
  3. Keep the spokes folded together.
  4. Place the yarn hank centrally around the outside of the umbrella spokes and hold in place by pulling one side up against the spokes.
  5. Unscrew the knob on the top of the swift and push down on the hub to expand the spokes out until the hank is tight around the spokes.
  6. Lock the spokes in place by tightening the knob on top of the spokes once they expand to the desired position.
  7. Carefully unknot or cut the ties holding the hank of yarn together.
  8. Look for an end of the yarn close to the outside diameter of the hank. This will be the start of your ball of yarn.
  9. Pull on the yarn end, move a spoke with your hand or turn the handle at the top of the center shaft to start the swift spinning and the yarn pulling from the hank.

how to use a stanwood umbrella yarn swift

Instructions for Using Bottom Up Umbrella Yarn Swifts

Bottom up umbrella yarn swifts typically come in two sizes: medium for hanks up to 60 inches in circumference, and larger for hanks greater than 60 inches in circumference.

  1. Untwist the hank of yarn, remove labels and open the hank into a circle on the table or floor.
  2. Clamp the umbrella swift onto a solid surface, such as a table or wooden railing.
  3. Keep the spokes folded together.
  4. Place the yarn hank centrally around the outside of the umbrella spokes and hold in place by pulling one side up against the spokes.
  5. Loosen the screw underneath the spokes and push up on the hub to expand the spokes out until the hank is tight around the spokes.
  6. Lock the shafts in place by tightening the screw under the spokes once they expand to the desired position.
  7. Carefully unknot or cut the ties holding the hank of yarn together.
  8. Look for an end of the yarn close to the outside diameter of the hank. This will be the start of your ball of yarn.
  9. Pull on the yarn end or move a spoke with your hand to start the swift spinning and the yarn pulling from the hank.

how to use a beka yarn swift

Guide to Using Beka or Top Down Loading Swifts

Once assembled, the Beka yarn swift makes it fast and easy to create a yarn ball or cake. With no pegs to move or spokes to expand, the slope of the wooden dowels creates a natural position for the circumference of the yarn hank. Use hanks from 28 inches to 80 inches on this swift.

  1. Untwist the hank of yarn, remove labels and open the hank into a circle on the table or floor.
  2. Place the assembled Beka swift flat onto a table or the floor.
  3. Hold the circle of yarn open and place it over the top and around the outside of the dowels.
  4. As the yarn falls into a natural position around the dowels, check that no twisting of the hank occurred.
  5. Carefully unknot or cut the ties holding the hank of yarn together.
  6. Look for an end of the yarn close to the outside diameter of the hank. This will be the start of your ball of yarn.
  7. Pull on the yarn end or move a dowel with your hand to start the swift spinning and the yarn pulling from the hank.

Now It’s Your Turn

There you have it:

My instructions for how to use a yarn swift – covering the 5 styles of swifts.

Now it’s your turn…

Which swift are you ready to try first?

Are you going to try the Japanese Goko or the Amish tabletop style?

Or maybe you want to try a wooden umbrella yarn swift.

Either way, let me know by leaving a comment below.

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