How to make a center pull ball

When I am buying yarn, I am always happiest when it comes in ball or skein format. And if I can locate the end that’s stuffed in the middle so that I can pull the yarn out from there, all the better. I prefer a center-pull ball to a ball where the working end is on the outside, because it sits still nicely and doesn’t flop around in my project bag, or roll around the floor (as is often more likely).

Still, it’s not always practical to shop for yarn based on the format it comes in, and I quite often end up with a pile of hanks that need to be turned into balls. I don’t have easy access to a ball-winder, so I usually just start the ball winding on my fingertips like my grandmother taught me. The result? A ball with one end hidden inside and the working end on the outside. Β In other words, a ball that flops around in my project bag or rolls around on the floor as I use it.

Last year sometime, I found instructions for using a toilet paper roll to make a center pull ball. I liked the theory, but in practice it was clunkier than I liked. Yesterday I had a little brainstorm, and this is the result.


  • Pencil, stick pen, or small dowel
  • Masking tape
  • Yarn


Tape one end of the yarn to the tip of the pencil, leaving a few inches for a tail.

Begin winding the yarn around the pencil, near the opposite end of it.


After you have wound about half of the yarn, push down on the pencil, so that the end is flush with the yarn ball. Continue wrapping the ball until you have run out of yarn.

Remove the tape from the pencil, and gently pull the pencil out of the ball.

Make something pretty, and enjoy your well-behaved yarn ball πŸ™‚

Full disclosure: When I pulled the pencil out of this ball, the eraser didn’t come with it. I now have a pencil eraser somewhere in the middle of my yarn ball. I don’t know yet what kind of problems that will cause, but I recommend using a pencil that has no eraser, a small dowel, a stick pen, or the business-end of an unsharpened pencil. All of those options should work just fine.

This entry was posted in crochet, knitting, tutorials by Lisa. Bookmark the permalink.

About Lisa

I am a polymer clay artist turned fiber addict. I can often be found here at Polka Dot Cottage, writing about my adventures in polymer, fabric, yarn, photography, and everyday life. I live in New Jersey with my husband, two sons, and entirely too many craft supplies.

19 thoughts on “How to make a center pull ball

  1. Lisa, I hold one end of thre yarn in my left hand and start wrapping the yarn around my left thumb. When I’m finished wrapping I just tuck the end under a few strands of yarn. the end you were holding in your hand comes from inside the ball same as your pencil trick.

    • I tried something similar in the past, but was just never coordinated enough to keep the initial end out of the way. I like this method because the end is taped out of the way and can’t escape πŸ™‚ Thanks for sharing your method – I’m sure it will be helpful to anyone with more coordination than me, LOL!

  2. Thank you!! I’ve always hated how the ball of yarn basically ends up dust mopping the floor. I wound a couple of balls this morning and worked like a charm.

  3. I have a pretty wood dowel thingy called a Nostepinne that is basically a fancier version of your pencil. I too am a lover of the center-pull ball; so much so that I sometimes rewind my BFF’s outside-wound balls, just for fun. πŸ˜‰ I love the pencil idea, too; this way I don’t have to travel with the nostepinne, just find a pencil…

  4. It’s funny – my granny showed me how to wind yarn like your pencil in yarn trick… but using a thick knitting needle.

    That one I remembered. The knitting I never did click with!

  5. Good idea, Lisa. Like Helena, I’ve been winding center-pull balls around my left thumb (for which I made a cover-up of sorts out of stiff paper that I slide over my thumb to make it easier to remove the yarn ball when finished) but sometimes crochet thread knots up in the beginning of using the newly center-pull ball. I’ll try your trick next. In addition to usually working with finicky crochet thread, I also dare to crochet in a household with 5 cats. The problem of stray hairs is nearly solved by keeping yarn balls in individual small baggies with just the yarn tail sticking out of the zip-top opening. Keeps the yarns & threads clean, especially when throwing together a project totebag. Then I use a clothespin to clip the baggie to my skirt or the furniture to keep it from sliding around while I’m working.

    • The baggie sounds like a good idea with cats around. I don’t have any pets, but I can’t begin to tell you how much of my own hair I seem to be knitting into this new sweater I’m working on. I shed like crazy!

What do you think about that?