It's called a nostepinne, and it's an old-fashioned Scandinavian tool used to wind balls of yarn. The Animator's Wife yarn ball winder broke a couple of years ago after mere weeks of use, and she's been too bitter about it to buy another similar model. Her dream yarn ball winder is a bit out of her price range right now, so leave it to The Animator to find an inexpensive yet elegant alternative.
The best part, the nostepinne won't break, unless you accidentally drop an ax on it. And it's much more portable than typical yarn ball winders for the traveling crocheter.
Why wind yarn into center pull balls? To be honest, it's not necessary for the center-pull skeins you find at the big-name craft stores. But the yarn found at boutique yarn shops and hand-spun/dyed yarns are usually sold in hanks. Fun for kitties to play with, not so much to crochet from. You'll end up with a knotted disaster. So it is necessary to wind these hanks into center pull ball before crocheting.
The Animator's Wife broke it her new nostepinne today with the yarn she bought from the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival earlier this month. We're going to use it to show you how to wind a center pull ball, but if you don't have a nostepinne (you can find them on Etsy), you can use an empty paper towel tube instead.
1. Start with a slip knot (this step is not necessary if using a paper towel tube).
2. Tighten the slip knot around the groove at the top of the nostepinne. If you are using a paper towel tube, cut a slit in the top of the tube and slide the end of the yarn through it to hold it in place.
3. Spiral the yarn down to the center of the nostepinne or tube.
4. Wrap the yarn evenly around the nostepinne or tube for about 1 to 1 1/2 inches. For learning purposes, we're going to instruct you to wrap the yarn toward you, but you can wrap in either direction.
5. Once you have 1 to 1 1/2 inches covered, wrap your next round at a 45 degree angle over the previous wrappings.
6. Before your next wrap, turn the nostepinne or tube away from you slightly.
7. Make your next wrap at a 45 degree angle, again bringing the yarn toward you.
8. Repeat steps 6 and 7, turning the nostepinne slightly away from you and wrapping the yarn at a 45 degree angle toward you.
9. As your yarn ball becomes bigger, you can do a couple to several wraps at a time before turning the nostepinne.
10. Continue until all the yarn is wound on the nostepinne.
11. Remove the slip stitch from the top (or remove the yarn from the notch in the paper towel tube).
12. Carefully slide the entire ball off the nostepinne. Tuck in the outside end to keep the ball from unraveling.
13. Squeeze the ball several times to relieve the tension from winding.
14. You now have a perfect center-pull ball ready for crocheting. The end that was attached to the nostepinne or paper towel tube at the beginning is the end you will use to start your project. And if you started with a slip stitch, look at that! You even have a slip stitch ready to slip onto your hook.