With all the fancy yarn winders available these days, why would you want to wind a centre-pull yarn ball by hand?
Well, the simple answer is that in my experience hand-wound balls work much better. I don’t mind working from a cake of yarn made with a winder if I’m working from the outside-in. But I find that working from the centre of a yarn cake is ok until enough of the centre has gone for the cake to lose its structural integrity, and collapse in a heap of unruly yarn.
When I make socks, I make them two-at-a-time from one ball of yarn. I work one sock from the centre of the yarn ball, and one from the outside. The yarn starts as a rugby ball shape, and as the centre yarn is removed it becomes a discus shape, retaining its integrity and function right to the last inch.
The tool used for this is called a nostepinne. There are many beautiful, hand-turned wooden nostepinnes available. But it really is the simplest of tools and any smooth cylinder with a diameter of 2-3 cm will work. My favourite ‘nostepinne’ is an old vanilla pod tube. I like it because I can secure the centre-pull end of the yarn underneath the screwtop whilst I’m winding:
Secure the yarn around the centre of the cylinder with a few turns. Once secure, start wrapping the yarn such that it goes from one edge of the nosteppine, diagonally across the ball that is being wound, down to the opposite edge of the nosteppine, like this:
Turn the nostepinne regularly so that the diagonal stripes created by wrapping in this way are distributed around the ball evenly.
You will end up with a beautiful, olive-shaped ball:
Slide the yarn ball off the nostepinne. Release the centre-pull yarn-end first, if necessary. You will have a cylindrical hole through the cente of the ball:
To increase the stability of the ball, and ensure it doesn’t collapse when it’s used, gently squash the ball evenly in all directions to close up that hole:
Ta dah! A hand-wound, perfectly functioning centre-pull ball.
Edit: 28th April
Here’s what happened to my rugby-ball shaped yarn after I had used two thirds of it (half of the yarn taken from the outside and half from the inside). It has flattened to a discus and is still well wound and doing its job of keeping my yarn in order: