Since I’ve gotten into dyeing yarn, I’ve needed a way to wind previously wound yarn balls into skein hanks in order to dye them. I don’t own a yarn swift (one of those wooden accordion-like, horizontally-placed ferris wheel things) that you typically use to wrap skein hanks around as a first step in winding yarn into balls. This used to be done (frequently, at my house) by borrowing a child and her hands to serve as the skein holder while the mom wound the yarn into a neat ball. Then the yarn manufacturers came out with center pull skeins and this pretty much did away with using children as swifts. That is, unless you worked with for example, boutique yarns that were sold twisted up into pretty skeins that then needed to be wound into a ball. Or if you are like me and decide that you want to play with all types of yarn and dye at the same time, then you need a skein winder so you can leave your family members alone and play independently.

Back to the yarn swift. I’ve searched for one online for cheap but couldn’t find one that was even reasonable. I thought about it for a long while and decided that rather than buy a swift, I’d really do better with an upright skein winder. Well, those are pricey as well. So I sought out the internet for photo examples of skein winders in a Google image search to get ideas on how to make one. Then I found a photo of a skein winder made out of PVC piping. It looked a little more hokey than the wooden one but actually it is likely a more practical material choice because I could even handpaint the skeins right on the apparatus without worrying about ruining the wood or worrying about the expense paid for the wooden version. Plus, I have loads of PVC pipes and fittings leftover from numerous projects that I had overbought for. This ended up being ‘free’ because it came from supplies on hand. To buy the materials, it would probably cost no more than $20. The inspiration for the project, and essentially the basic pattern for it is here: There is a basic list of supplies and general comments on assembly. Here’s a list of what we used:

1. PVC pipe 3/4″

2. End caps 3/4″ (4)

3. Tee joints 3/4″ (3)

4. PVC pipe 1/2″

5. End caps 1/2″ (4)

6. Elbow joints 1/2″ (4)

7. Cross joint 1/2″ (1)

8. Wood for lever

9. Wooden spools for handle (2)

10. Large bolt

11. Metal washers (4)

12. Metal nuts (4)

13. Metal spacer that fits over bolt, long enough to gain desired spacing between post and winder assembly

14. Metal spacer that goes over the bolt and through the hole drilled in the 3/4″ pipe in stand to allow free spinning

15. End cap for top of stand pipe 3/4″

16. PVC cleaner and glue for securing all parts

17. Bolt 2 1/2″ long to go through the wooden spools and lever, needs to be threaded on just the end of it.

18. Nuts (2) to secure the handle bolt to the lever.

PVC Skeinwinder - Side View

With the crank handle, yarn can be wound onto this device to create hanks/skeins of yarn. Then the same yarn skein can be wound directly from it to a separate yarn ball winder that creates center pull yarn balls. It freely unwinds without using the handle of the skein winder…good thing, because your hand would be busy turning the handle of the yarn ball winder. I haven’t glued any of the fittings yet so you may notice that it is a little crooked here and there. I may decide to spray paint it later on. This works wonderfully. If I were to make another one, I’d design it with something different with the feet of the stand because the whole unit is rather lightweight and moves around quite a bit while cranking. I used a couple of rubber placemats under the feet to grip it to the table while using it. Also, I think that the lever crank handle could afford to be a little shorter so that it isn’t so much movement on the arm.