A swift way to wind yarn

Dundaga 6/1 yarnI wound the first of my five new skeins of Dundaga yarn the other day, with it draped around my knees. Funnily enough, I couldn’t persuade anyone to hold their hands out for the eternity that it took to wind a ball. The slightly hairy, singles yarn wanted to twist and kept doing its best to stick to itself and knot because my knees did a poor job of keeping the skein taut. After that experience I decided my time would be better spent making a swift than struggling with the remaining skeins.

I’m supposed to be making a ball winder, but a swift to deliver the yarn smoothly is an altogether easier prospect.  There are two principal designs: the umbrella type which expands (like an umbrella) to accommodate different skein sizes, and the simpler Amish style with movable pegs. Making an umbrella-like frame seemed far too complicated, but I didn’t really like the idea of pegs either, they’d only get lost in this household. I had a look online to see how people had made their own swifts, and a solution based on a pair of expanding coat racks and a lazy Susan looked promising. I’d rather make something from scratch though, especially when I found I could buy a cheap umbrella swift on Amazon for less than the cost of the coat racks and turntable needed for the DIY option.

The reason that two coat racks are needed is essentially because the ones available tend to be based on three diamonds and consequently don’t have a central joint around which they can rotate. Sticking two of them side by side, on top of a turntable, solves the problem. I wondered whether I could achieve the necessary size range for both big and small skeins by making a coat rack- (or pantograph-) like structure composed of an even number of diamonds. It would still fold up small for storage like an Amish swift, but could be quickly expanded like an umbrella swift to suit the hank circumference without the need for adjustment by placing pegs in the right holes.

I found an offcut of plywood and set about cutting it into six strips, rounding the corners and drilling holes in each end and the centre of every strip. When I bolted them together I was pleasantly surprised to find that this “coat rack” closes up neatly and feels reasonably stiff and sturdy when extended, as long as I don’t stretch it out too far.

Expanding swiftThe next job was making wooden pegs for each of the eight points around the outside, to hold the yarn. I cut up a length of hardwood dowel …

Using a mitre saw to cut dowel… and then drilled one end of each peg so I can just screw them onto the bolts that are holding theSwift pegs with a bolt plywood strips to each other.  I had doubts about whether the dowelling would take a bolt, but it seems to be OK.

If I ever want to wind a skein with a particularly small circumference, unscrewing the four corner pegs should work.

Now I need to make a base and attach the expanding rotor to it. I’ve started with a thicker offcut of plywood and sunk a hole in the centre to take a small fidget spinner bearing.

Drilling the baseActually, I’m not convinced the bearing is necessary, because when I assembled the swift roughly, with the centre of the rotor bolted into a short length of dowel that was pushed into the middle of the bearing, it span sweetly about the bolt with the dowel and bearing remaining stationary.

I’ll decide what to do about the bearing before rounding the corners and edges of the base. I’m hoping that the whole swift is heavy enough to stay put on a table without the need for an arm that can be clamped, although I may have to stick something grippy onto the underside. I’ll apply a finish to smarten it up and make it super-smooth so that yarn won’t catch on it, then it should be ready for use.

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About yorkshirecrafter

I live and work in West Yorkshire.  I've always enjoyed crafts of all types, from woodwork to lace-making.  I also enjoy anything mathematical, which makes knitting a favourite pastime, especially complicated designs.  I've been advising businesses and industry on environmental matters for 30 years and also have an interest in green living, especially where it saves me money. I live with my husband and our Maine Coon in a 100-year-old cottage that constantly needs something doing to it.  Fortunately, I enjoy DIY too.
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2 Responses to A swift way to wind yarn

  1. welshtenor says:

    This is awesome! I have a swift and winder from a popular online shop and it’s just the best fun to use!

  2. I’m really looking forward to using this swift, it should make winding a ball a much quicker and less tedious task.

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