Posted on 23 Comments

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.  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 🙂

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.


Sign up for occasional Polka Dot Cottage news and get a coupon for 10% off your next order!

Don't worry, we won't bother you more than once or twice a month!

Posted on 23 Comments

23 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.

    1. 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 🙂 Thanks for sharing your method – I’m sure it will be helpful to anyone with more coordination than me, LOL!

  2. Clever idea for those who haven’t invested in a ball winder!

  3. I tried the toilet paper-roll method, but this looks so much easier. Can’t wait to try it out! 🙂

  4. 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.

    1. Glad to hear it worked for you!

  5. Ha ha, that made me chuckle!

  6. Lisa Clarke, you are a genius!

  7. Hello Lisa! I’d like to post this little piece of genius on my website homepage Can I have permission to use your photo?

    1. Sure, be my guest! And thanks for sharing 🙂

  8. 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. 😉 I love the pencil idea, too; this way I don’t have to travel with the nostepinne, just find a pencil…

    1. I’ve heard of nostepinnes but I never knew the name of them! Maybe I should try making one in polymer 🙂

  9. Fabulous!!! I love it! Thanks for posting, I will try this out soon!

  10. Awesome idea!! Thanks so much for sharing. Will definitely be giving this a try.

  11. 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!

    1. It occurred to me after I posted, that a thick knitting needle makes even more sense than a pencil 🙂

  12. Ooooh! That would be great… 🙂

  13. 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.

    1. 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!

  14. […] skein that flops around in your bag of unfinished projects? This genius knitting tip from Lisa of Polka Dot Cottage will teach you how to make a center-pull ball of yarn by winding it around a pencil. From now on, […]

  15. A wooden spoon might also work

    1. Great idea! That would definitely work.

      I stopped using pencils not long after I posted this. Now I use the non-business end of a crochet hook.

Leave a comment!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.