Yarn Swift – How to Use and Best Yarn Swifts of 2021

Learn how to use a yarn swift to untangle a hank or skein of yarn. There’s also a guide to find the best swift for your needs.

holding a hank of pink yarn and placing it onto a blue plastic yarn swift with the title "how to use a yarn swift"
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If you knit, crochet, spin your own yarn (or really do any kind of fiber craft), then chances are you may be interested in a yarn swift.

Using it allows you to untangle a skein or hank of yarn to be used for something else. Once untangled you can wind it into a ball, count the yardage, or even knit directly from it.

You can also use it with a yarn winder to create a center pull ball.

Note: Some links in this post may contain affiliate links, which means at no cost to you, I may earn a commission.

Table of Contents

What is a Yarn Swift?

A yarn swift is a device that you can place a skein or hank of yarn onto to help untangle the yarn.

By placing the yarn on a swift, you can pull on one end and untangle the yarn. From there, you can use a niddy noddy to measure the yardage, you could wind it into a ball with a yarn winder, or you could even knit or crochet directly from it.

Which is the Best Yarn Swift?

There are two different styles: tabletop and umbrella. I personally have an umbrella because it takes up less space and I find them easier to use. Then between the two styles, you can choose the material – typically they’re made of wood or plastic.

Here are my recommendations for the best yarn swift:

Best Budget Yarn Swift

This is the one I have and can confirm it does the job. It’s incredibly compact, which I love and it comes with a case to keep it all contained. It’s lightweight so it’s easy to expand and use.

The only drawback is the yarn can sometimes get caught in the metal rings at the bottom corners of the swift. For the price though, it’s worth the occasional adjustment.

Shop it on Amazon

Best Wooden Swift

Wooden swifts are what most people picture when they think of a swift. The wood is beautiful and durable and the yarn is less likely to get caught in any metal pieces.

The only real drawbacks are they are slightly heavier and larger than plastic ones.

Best Tabletop Yarn Swift

Tabletop yarn swifts are just as they’re named – for the tabletop. Unlike umbrella swifts, tabletop swifts don’t use a lever for adjusting. Instead, you move pegs to fit your skein or hank.

This one in particular can be broken down for portability so there is an added advantage there.

Shop it on Amazon

three photos showing the process to place a hank of yarn onto a yarn swift and yarn winder with the title "how to use a yarn swift"

How to Use a Yarn Swift

Each swift is slightly different, but most have similar parts as the second image. There’s a part that fits under the table and over the table. Then there will be some kind of wheel or nob to tighten it.

Identify the lever to raise and lower the swift. Pull up and down on the lever to raise and lower it. Depending on the length of the skein or hank, you’ll want to make it bigger or smaller.

Start by making it slightly bigger so the skein has something to sit on, but isn’t too big so you can easily slide the skein over.

pulling on the lever to expand a plastic yarn swift

Place the skein of yarn over the swift to the middle.

Then pull the skein to one side while lifting the lever to fit the skein.

placing a hank of pink yarn onto a blue plastic yarn swift while pulling on the handle to expand the yarn swift

Typically the skein or hank will come with ties around it so now would be a good time to cut them off.

cutting ties off of a hank of yarn that's on a blue plastic yarn swift

The yarn is now ready to use, nicely untangled!

Find one of the ends of the yarn. You can attach it to a yarn winder to wind it into a ball, knit directly from it, use a niddy noddy to measure the skein, or whatever else you would like.

As you pull the yarn away, the swift will turn, unwinding the yarn from the hank.

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turning the handle of a yarn ball winder to begin winding pink yarn off a yarn swift

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do You Use a Yarn Winder and Swift Together?

Using a yarn winder and swift together allows you to take a hank or skein of yarn and wind it into a ball or cake of yarn in just a minute.

Typically the process of turning a hank or skein of yarn into a ball can be annoying, but by using both items together, the process is quick and easy.

Simply pull the yarn from the swift and attach it to the yarn winder using these instructions.

top photo shows pink yarn on a yarn swift and pulled onto a yarn winder and the bottom shows a ball of yarn next to the yarn winder with the title "how to use a yarn swift and ball winder"

What Can You Use Instead of a Yarn Swift?

When I first started spinning my own yarn, I actually used the back of a chair. I placed the skein over the back and pulled the yarn upwards.

The challenge with this is the yarn can still get tangled because there isn’t tension.

You can improve this by using two chairs spaced apart and shaking the yarn a bit when it gets caught. 

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three photos showing the process to place a hank of yarn onto a yarn swift and yarn winder with the title "how to use a yarn swift"

How to Use a Yarn Swift

Learn how to use a yarn swift to untangle a hank or skein of yarn.
Yield 1 Untangled Skein of Yarn
Project Time 1 min
Total Time 1 min

Materials
  

  • 1 Hank of Yarn

Equipment

  • Yarn Swift

Instructions
 

Add the Hank of Yarn to the Swift

  • Attach the swift to the table.
    Identify the lever to raise and lower the swift. Pull up on the lever to make the swift slightly bigger so the skein has something to sit on, but isn’t too big so you can easily slide the skein over.
    pulling on the lever to expand a plastic yarn swift
  • Place the skein of yarn over the swift to the middle.
    Then pull the skein to one side while lifting the lever to fit the skein.
    1 Hank of Yarn
    placing a hank of pink yarn onto a blue plastic yarn swift while pulling on the handle to expand the yarn swift
  • If the yarn came with ties around it, remove them.
    cutting ties off of a hank of yarn that's on a blue plastic yarn swift

Use a Yarn Winder and Swift

  • The yarn is now ready to use, nicely untangled!
    Find one of the ends of the yarn. You can attach it to a yarn winder to wind it into a ball, knit directly from it, use a niddy noddy to measure the skein, or whatever else you would like.
    turning the handle of a yarn ball winder to begin winding pink yarn off a yarn swift
Keyword Yarn

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