Tuesday, January 5, 2010


Posted by Peg in South Carolina

For a long time I thought that the direction the skein unwound from the skein winder made a difference.  Was I ever wrong!


I also assumed that commercial producers wound skeins the same way I did.  I wind skeins one section at a time.  After winding a section of say 200 yards, I loop a contrasting yarn around it.  Then I wind another section and, making a figure-of-eight, I loop the contrast yarn around it. And I continue in this fashion until the skein is complete.  As a result, the beginning of the skein is at one side of the skein;  the end of it is at the other side of the skein.

The commercial producers of silk yarn I deal with* do not wind skeins in this way.  They make skeins by winding the yarn back and forth across the width of the skein.  As a result, the beginning of the skein is at the bottom of the skein;  and the end of the skein is at the top. 


I am now sure that a main key to smooth unwinding of commercial silk yarns is to make sure I start with the right end.  The right end is the one that unwinds from the top of the skein as it sits on top of the skein winder.  The wrong end is the one that, as I pull on it, comes from the underside of the skein.

So, what I did after I had put the skein on the skein winder was to cut the skein at the knot where the beginning and the end were joined together with a knot, and then to attach a small bit of contrast color yarn to each end.  Then I tried to unwind with one of the ends.  It was difficult to get it started because it kind of interweaved with the rest of the warp ends.  But by the time I had unwound it one whole round, it was clear that this yarn was going to be drawing from the underside.  That was not going to work.

I took the other end and did the same thing.  It too was difficult going for the first round, but then it became clear it was going to unwind from the top of the skein.  So that is the end I chose to use.  And that is the end that worked.



As I was winding the first cone, an end very nicely broke.  Thank you.  I could not find it anywhere in the skein.  Thank you again.  Sigh.

If I started with the other end, it was going to unwind from the bottom of the skein.  As I full well knew, doing that would give me nothing but grief.

The solution?  Remove the skein from the winder.  Flip it inside out so that the inside of the skein is now on the outside.  Voila!  the other end unwound from the top.

I would probably advise anyone removing and flipping the skein to make a few figure-of-eights around the skein before removing and flipping.  This will make sure that the skein is as it should be.  Brazen soul that I can be, I did not do this.  It worked.  Thank you.


The only other trick that I need to remember when I deal with these skeins is to put the tension block between the skein winder and the cone winder.  Doing that keeps the tension even as it enters the cone winder with less likelihood of incorrect cone winding. Doing that also means I do not have to watch the yarn as it leaves the skein winder.  That leaves me free to focus on the yarn as it goes around the cone, which means that I catch immediately any slipping of the yarn and can easily make the necessary correction.


It is all about patience in getting started.  Patience is not one of my strong suits!

Related Posts: 
Silk Yarns 
Coning the Warp Yarn
Tension Box: Another Good Use
More on Winding Fine Silk onto Cones
Winding the Dyed Silk onto Cones

*My silk yarns come from Treenway Silks.  I cannot speak for skeined silk yarns that come from other sources.


Winding Commercial Silk Skeins onto Cones” was written by Margaret Carpenter for Talking about Weaving and was originally posted on January 5, 2010. ©2009 Margaret Carpenter aka Peg in South Carolina.


Dave Daniels said...

I feel your pain. I've had my share of winding silk from skeins, and the static was the worst part of it. Then, I've tried winding my own handspun silk singles. I will NEVER do that one again!

Susan said...

I use silk from skeins quite a bit. A tip: rather then take the entire skein off the swift and flip over, using both hands manually turn the skein over in section while on the swift and work your way around. This gets the job done and minimizes any further entanglements! (especially with super fine silks!)

Silk is especially sensitive to humidity ( or lack thereof!) When doing large amounts, I will run a humidfier nearby to reduce static charge.


Peg in South Carolina said...

Dave (and Susan), I don't have trouble with static electricity because we keep four humidifiers running, winter with heating and summer with air conditioning.
Susan, that is a good tip for turning the skein over. Thank you!