A toothpick does not belong in a lock! [aka. Yarn balling is cheaper than therapy]

My yarn balling station. Not pictured is the huge additional sack of yarns waiting to be balled. 

I arrived home Friday evening to find that my kid had shoved a toothpick into our front door lock, which then broke off inside. My husband attempted to remove it using a small piece of metal but that just pushed it in deeper, effectively ruining the lock and locking us out of our house. Why they didn’t just go out and get a pair of tweezers to pick the wood out, I’ll never know. Worse yet, had they just waited until I got home I could have gotten it out because I had a pair of tweezers in my purse. To say I was irritated would be a gross understatement. Faced with either breaking a window, a vastly overpriced after-hours visit from a locksmith, or attempting to break the door down, my husband opted for breaking the door down. Scarily it wasn’t that hard to break down, but the damage was significant as you can see in this picture.

This was how my weekend began. Not awesome. Not awesome at all.

While my husband and kid went out to get some supplies to fix the door (new lock set, replacement wood for the door jam, a chisel, etc) I stayed home in part just to guard our now wholly unprotected house but mostly because I found this situation so hugely irritating that I just wanted some quiet alone time to process it all. I was in no mental state for knitting, my agitation and frustration would likely only lead to mistakes in my knitting which would just make me even more frustrated, so instead I put on some jammies, put on some stampylongnose youtube videos, curled up on the couch under a blanket and got to work balling my sock yarns. Earlier in the week I had received a couple of packages from some fellow Ravellers who donated some of their scrap sockyarn to my sockyarn blanket, so I frankly have a huge amount of yarns that needs proper balling.

The fruits of my labours. Lots of pretty little center pull balls of sock yarn!

One package I received has all the yarns done up in mini-skeins, and the other two were mostly balled up and still needed to be converted to center pull balls. On top of the packages I got in the mail, I also want to clean up and properly ball the rest of my sock yarn stash into center pull balls, so truly there is a lot of nostepinning (?) that needs doing.

Balling yarn is an undeniably tedious task. It isn’t thrilling or terribly interesting, but the tediousness and repetitiveness of it works like therapy for me. I find I have to focus on it quite a bit to do it properly and end up with nice, tidy, non-football shaped center pull balls. I am sure lots of people can mindlessly work up center pull balls using a nostepinne, and maybe with practice it’ll become a mindless thing for me too, but right now it requires focus. This is a good thing. The more focus and concentration required, the more distracted from the insanity of my life I get, the better I feel. And having something to show for it (ie. a box of nicely balled yarn) helps too.

It was about two hours before my husband and son arrived back at home, supplies in tow, and by that time the yarn had worked its magic. I was feeling better. The situation is still irritating, but it no longer felt like a disaster and I could even see some positives to the situation. The door is mostly fixed now, and honestly a lot more secure and safe than it had been before all this went down. I also finally got the new non-brass-coloured doorknob I had been wanting for a long time now. I’m also getting pretty good at using my nostepinne which is a skill that will likely serve me well over time.

Yarn therapy. Wool meditation. Zen balls. (Ha!) Call it whatever you want, but I felt better, thanks to the magic of yarn balling.

Nostepinne: the low-tech way to wind your own center pull balls 2

For a long time I was a big supporter of balling any yarn I purchase, regardless of how they were when I purchased them. I even balled some nicely wound center pull cakes, believing that a ball is much easier to use, tidier, and less likely to tangle. 017

Yarn Barf

noun, slang

1. A big tangled mess of yarn that comes out of a center pull ball when trying to retrieve the end.

The origins of this belief that center pull balls are terrible is due to the commercially wound center pull balls. Not the cakes, but the center pull balls, like the Kroy Sock Yarn balls in the adjacent picture. Those types of balls can be center pull and are supposed to be, but holy hannah they are very often a pain in the butt. Yarn barf, tangles, the ball collapsing as you go, etc. So because  I had such a miserable time with those kind of center pull balls I assumed ALL center pull balls (including cakes) were awful, and therefore balled every bit of yarn I got my hands on.

This was a mistake.

Balls DO have their benefits (they are pretty good at not tangling, and it is easier and faster to ball up yarn than it is to make a center-pull ball/cake by hand) but there is a bucket load of downsides, the biggest being that they are BALLS, and therefore roll all over the place, including under the couch to collect dirt and dust and the various flotsam and jetsam of life that resides under couches. There also is the problem that the ball needs to move around and roll to unwind, which means the yarn doesn’t always smoothly and easily unwind as you knit. I find I have to pull out slack from the ball, knit, then pull out more slack, knit, etc. It is a pain.

When I finally left a center pull cake as it was and just used it as a center pull cake I was converted. What a magical experience it was! No tangles, no collapsing, no rolling under the couch. Just smooth, easy, happy knitting. Once I discovered the wonders of center pull cakes I looked dejectedly at my stash and all the balls and got pretty sad. So many balls of yarn that used to be center pull…

I resolved to convert my balled stash into a center pull stash.

My spoon nostepinne

Now, the obvious answer for making center pull cakes is a ball winder. I have a pretty fantastic swift (courtesy of my mother-in-law and father-in-law) and have been eyeing a ball winder for a time to complete the set, but I’m cheap. It is going to take me a while to work up the will to spend money on a ball winder. I then looked to other options, including DIY ball winders, and came across a device called a nostepinne. Weird word for what is a pretty simple tool. Basically, its a stick. It is a smooth stick, usually made of wood, that you use to wind center pull balls. You can get fancy dancy ones that are carved, you can get them in various widths, some have notches or grooves to hold the yarn, but seriously… its a stick.

I dug through my kitchen drawers and found a nice fat, smooth wooden spoon and decided to give it a try as a nostepinne. 2015-03-27 11.27.29The basic technique isn’t complicated and there are a lot of tutorials and explanations online for how to wind a ball using a nostepinne (I linked to a few at the bottom of this page), but the broad strokes steps are the following:

  1. Wind a starter section an inch or so wide. Just wind it around as you would normally until you have a good core to use for the “real” winding.
  2. Begin winding the yarn in a diagonal fashion (bottom right to top left is how I usually do it). Either use your fingers to hold it or catch the loops on the edge of previous loops in order to keep the diagonal loops from just slipping down the side.
  3. Continue to wind in a diagonal fashion while slowly rotating the nostepinne.

That’s it.  Well, sort of. Obviously this is the simple way of doing it and there are other fancier and perhaps nicer ways of doing it. There is a criss-cross method that results in a nicer looking ball and that probably has more stability and that looks a lot more like the cakes you get from a proper ball winder, but I haven’t quite figured it out yet, and doing it this basic diagonal way gets the job done. Once you’ve wound all the yarn you just side it off your nostepinne and you’re done!

I must confess that my first nosepinne-wound ball was a bit of a disaster. I accidentally wound my end (the end I would be pulling from the center to knit with) into the ball without noticing. The next time I tacked my end to the spoon nostepinne using a little hair elastic so that I wouldn’t lose it and then wound away. Lo and behold, it worked! It wasn’t beautiful or perfect, but it was definitely a center pull ball! Huzzah!

I have done a few since I have have some tips, or things I have found helpful:

  1. Be sure to secure the tail end to the nostepinne so that you don’t lose it later. Some nostepinnes have little notches or grooves for this. I just use a little elastic band. Do whatever works for you, but do secure it. It is very easy to accidentally wind that end in.
  2. Make sure your starter wrapped core (step 1) is substantial enough. You want some yarn accumulated so that when you start going diagonal there is something for the yarn to grip against. Otherwise the diagonal yarn will just slip and become a weird loopy mess.
  3. Don’t wind too tight, that isn’t good for your yarn AND your diagonal loops are more likely to slide down your ball.
  4. If you are having trouble keeping your diagonal loops from slipping try using a finger and a thumb as guides. Each wrap will hold the previous wrap in place, so your fingers just need to sort of prop the wraps up long enough to get wrapped over again.
  5. A tiny nosepinne-made center pull ball! Hurray!

    When a ball is done you need to secure the wrapping end somehow. You can’t just leave it loose because it will unwrap and make one hell of a mess. What I have found works is to make the last few wraps around the center of the ball snugly, and then tucking the end into one of those last wraps. It doesn’t need to be perfect or fancy, you just need it to not unravel on its own.

  6. After you slide your finished ball off your nostepinne, it helps to give it a bit of a squish. This helps it to collapse (in a good way) inside.
  7. If you’re going to use a spoon or some other random household thing as a nostepinne, try to find something a little wider than you think you need. If the thing you’re using as a nostepinne is too thin/narrow it can be hard to wind. I’d say thumb thickness is best.
  8. The more you do it, the easier it gets, the tidier your balls will be, so just keep trying!


Here are some additional resources on using a nostepinne:

Goals for 2015

I started knitting in March of 2014 and in less than a year I feel like I accomplished a lot. There was never any sort of set plan when I decided to take up knitting, it was just for fun and to get comfortable in the art of knitting. Mission accomplished I’d say!

This year, though, is different. There are some specific things I’d like to accomplish in my knitting before this year is out, and I thought that keeping a record here of what they are and maybe crossing them off as I accomplished them would be useful. I may also add additional things to the list as the year goes on.

2015 Knitting Goals

1. Knit a sweater

2. Dye my own yarn and use it for… something. Anything. Bonus points if the yarn ends up being colour gradient yarn. (Success!!)

3. Try my hand at spinning my own yarn using a drop spindle.

4. Knee-high socks for myself. Bonus points if they are stranded. Extra super big gold star sticker if they are Harry Potter related.

5. Attempt Illusion Knitting

6. Create at least 5 more patterns to make available to the public. (1)

7. Try steeking for the first time. It seriously strikes the fear of god in me, but I suspect I need not be so terrified.

8. Keep up with this blog. Maybe that isn’t a knitting goal exactly, but it is related to knitting, and I really do hope I succeed.



Running list of other cool things I did/learned in 2015

1. Attempted Felting (DONE!)







Why don’t I own a proper yarn bowl?

A mixing bowl works as a yarn bowl... kinda...

A mixing bowl works as a yarn bowl… kinda…

I, an avid knitter, do not own a yarn bowl. Sometimes I use one of our mixing bowls to hold the yarn while I work but in general I just have the yarn on the couch beside me which is not ideal for many reasons. I decided today that a yarn bowl is really something I want. There are some decisions to be made though, or so it seems. Size, handle or no handle, lid thingy… The major one is apparently whether I want the yarn to come through a slot or through a hole. Personally I have no idea why you would ever choose the hole variety. What if you want to bring your project with you?? Because you flossed your yarn through the hole in your yarn bowl your entire project is essentially tethered to it. The only way you can separate your project from the bowl at that point would be to either finish the project or to cut the yarn. So a big fat “No” to the yarn bowls where the yarn is trapped in a hole. I also need to decide how big of a bowl I want since apparently they come in different sizes.

So now I’m actually looking for one to buy I am overwhelmed by the amazing options out there! A lot are just the standard bowls which can be nice and timeless, and then of course there are the ones that look like a cat and the yarn coming out of its mouth like some weird wooly vomit… but then I found this one….



Look at this! Just look at it! Tell me this isn’t gorgeous! The creator (by CHPottery on Etsy) has other similarly gorgeous yarn bowls using the same Raku technique, which gives it the amazing colours. I just can’t handle how gorgeous this yarn bowl is. Plus, I really like how loopy the slot is. I feel like it would do a good job keeping the yarn and not having it slip out of the slot.

You know what I really want? I want a tiered yarn bowl. I do enough colourwork that more often than not I have multiple balls of yarn on the go in each project. Having a series of stacked yarn bowls would be an absolute dream and so far I haven’t found one online that would serve that purpose.