by Vicky R. Peterson
I've been trying to think of a way to make a yarn winder out of an electric mixer for a little more than a year. My mind kept on seeing how the beater would go round and round, and I kept wishing someone would figure out how to make those beaters work to wind yarn. It wasn't until I was faced with the daunting task of rolling two 8 ounce hanks of fingering weight yarn into balls, that I thought of the solution. I had started rolling one of the hanks, (and dreading it -- rolling yarn into balls in my #1 hated task), that the answer just popped into my head. I could put an empty toilet paper tube over one of my bread dough hooks.
When I told Barbara of my idea, she was intrigued, and mentioned that she wished that it would work for her handheld mixer with her normal beaters. It wasn't long before I thought of a way to make that work too. I took some pictures, and this "unvention" is what became of my idea. These instructions may be freely copied for personal and nonprofit use as long as the full copyright notice at the end is included.
1. Electric mixer -- a stand mixer is easiest, but this will also work with a portable mixer. If you use a portable mixer, you will need a friend to hold it steady (upside down) while it is winding your yarn (Fig-b);
2. Bread dough hook or beater -- I used a bread dough hook (Fig-03) hook to make my skeins, but you can use a regular hook (Fig-b & Fig-d). You will only need one hook or beater;
3. Something to go over your mixing hook -- I tried a large roll of duct tape (Fig-a), a foam insulating cup cover (Fig-c); and an empty toilet paper tube (Fig-03). You could also use an empty tube from plastic wrap or wax paper, (cut short enough to fit on your beater), or you could even cut a piece of cardboard and tape it around your beater;
4. Something to fit in between the beater (or hook) to keep it from slipping while it's rotating -- I used plastic grocery bags, folded to fit the beater, and then wrapped around it (Fig-b & Fig-03). I didn't need anything for the foam cup cover because it was snug enough to fit the beater without slipping (Fig-d). You could also use a sheet of foam rubber;
5. Something to hold your hank of yarn while it's winding onto the hook or beater -- a yarn swift would work best (and would spin, automatically unwinding your yarn for you while your mixer winds it). I didn't have a swift, so I put my hank over two chairs (Fig-01), and my wonderful teenage son unwound it for me while my beater was winding it into skeins. I also tried unwinding it myself -- it was doable, but definitely slower because I had to keep stopping my mixer to unwind yarn from the hank;
6. A hank of yarn that needs winding.
Put your hank of yarn on a swift or over the backs of enough chairs to hold it firmly (Fig-01). Cut a small 1/2" slit in the item you have chosen for Item #3 -- in my case, the empty toilet paper tube (Fig-02).
Wrap your hook with the item you've chosen for Item #4 -- in my case a grocery bag (Fig-b & Fig-03) and stuff the hook into the item you have chosen for Item #3 (Fig-d & Fig-04).
If it's not snug enough, you can add as many grocery bags as you need to make it snug enough that it won't slip (Fig-b shows that I needed three grocery bags to make the roll of duct tape snug enough for the beater). Insert your hook or beater into your mixer Fig-d & Fig-04). If there is more than one hole in your mixer, use the one that's furthest away from the stand (making it possible to wind more yarn).
Slip the yarn end into the slit that you have cut in Item #3 (Fig-05). Start the mixer on the slowest speed, (Fig-06) and gradually increase the speed until you're comfortable with the speed of your new "winder." I eventually used Speed 5 (of 10).
At the same time, allow the yarn to glide through the fingers of your right hand (Fig-08). -- the trick is to use your fingers only as a guide for the yarn, giving you a nice even tension without stretching your yarn. Guide the yarn alternately to the top (Fig-09) and bottom (Fig-08) of the beater/hook, moving your hand up and down as your yarn winds around the cardboard tube. You can move your hand up and down as fast or as slow as you want -- I experimented with the speed of my hand movement, and it didn't seem to change how evenly the yarn wound around the tube. After I had a small amount of yarn on the tube, I was able to "feel" where my hand needed to go by letting it glide to the top of the tube, and then letting it "hit" the bottom of my mixer.
I worked the mixer speed controls (Fig-08), while my son unwound the yarn from the hank for me (slowly enough so the yarn wouldn't tangle on the floor, yet fast enough to keep the tension on the mixer loose). It took awhile for us to get in sync, but after we got our rhythm together, I was able to speed up the mixer a bit (only slowing it down or stopping it when the yarn got tangled or when we found knots).
I was able to wind 8 ounces of fingering yarn on one cardboard tube. (Fig-11 & Fig-12) show my skein at various stages in the winding.
When the skein got full enough that the yarn would slip under the hook when my hand was at the bottom position, I found it necessary to add the spinning "bowl holder" (Fig-13).
If you're using a handheld mixer, you may be able to wind only 4-5 ounces per skein, but feel free to experiment. After the entire hank was wound (Fig-12), I removed the hook from the mixer, and then the skein from the hook (Fig-14 & Fig-15).