If your yarn did not come wound into a center-pull skein or ball from the manufacturer, you will have bought it as a hank that looks like this:
When the hank is untwisted, you'll find that all your yarn has been neatly wound into a large loop, like this:
And now it becomes quite obvious why you would want to wind it into a center-pull ball before crocheting it. But how do you keep the yarn from tangling while you're winding it? You could do the tried-and-true methods of draping it over a chair back or the hands of a loved one with nothing better to do, or you could use a yarn swift.
A yarn swift is yet another old-fashioned device designed to make fiber crafting easier. This is what it looks like:
And this is how you use it. You'll see that it opens up like an umbrella to securely hold the loop of yarn.
1. Start by finding a table or counter with enough room around it to accomodate the swift when fully open. There will be a clamp on the bottom of the swift that will tighten onto the counter and hold it firmly in place.
2. With the swift still closed, drape the loop of yarn around it, letting it fall to the center of the swift.
3. Open the swift like an umbrella, until the loop of yarn is held tightly around it.
4. Tighten the screw that holds the swift open.
5. Your yarn is likely held together in the loop shape by a knot or two. Locate these knots and snip the ends.
6. Find the outer end of the yarn. Attach it to whatever device you are using to wind your yarn, be it a nostepinne, paper towel tube, or mechanical yarn ball winder.
And with that, you are ready to wind! The swift will spin as you wind, gracefully releasing the yarn as you go and keeping the yarn tidy so you don't have to worry about tangles.