Wednesday, September 16, 2009

What do Tinkertoys have to do with knitting?

Remember Tinkertoys? I'm not sure I ever owned any actually, I was more of a Lincoln Log/Lego builder. But I recently read about a crazy and useful purpose for these classic toys.

Let me just back up and say that one thing that surprised me when I started knitting was finding out that a lot of yarn isn't sold to you ready to use! Some yarn is sold in balls and those are fine but others are sold in hanks. A hank is basically just a huge loop of yarn and you CAN NOT knit with it. You'd get a giant tangled knot in no time so you first have to wind it into a ball. If you buy from your local yarn store they will wind it for you but if you buy online you're generally on your own. Doing this by hand can take a LOT of time. Especially the finer(thinner) the yarn you are using. Hanks of laceweight are 400-1200 yards! Can you imagine winding 1000+ yards by hand? Me neither.

So yes they sell tools to deal with this. The first is a ball winder. They are pretty cheap, small, and actually fun to use. I do own one. The other piece is a yarn swift and they aren't cheap or fun. Really all they have to do is hold the giant loop of yarn and spin and I couln't justify the expense. But now we get to the Tinkertoys... I came across directions to turn a simple Junior set of Tinkertoys into a yarn swift. Ingenious!

It worked wonderfully and in no time at all I had turned my 655 yards of Sea Silk into this beautiful yarn cake ready to go. And of course, the Tinkertoys break down and can go back to just being toys when you're done. I'm sure with 2 boys in the house this won't be a regretted purchase.

It's even a snap to adjust for all the different sizes those hanks come in. My Knitpicks Shimmer lace needed three orange spokes an one green.

Yummy yarn :)


  1. beautiful blog! I'm going to try the sock monkey.
    Sara Mascho

  2. brilliant! Thanks so much for sharing that!

  3. Sara, let me know if you need any help with the monkey. I made a tiny skirt for one (with sock monkey fabric of course) that made it over-the-top cute. :)

  4. I just found your're amazing! You haven't been knitting long, but you've knit a Swallowtail? I'm impressed! And this idea for Tinkertoys...fabulous! Time to dig through the attic to find the Tinkertoys. I don't have a ball winder, but like you said, those are inexpensive. Yarn swifts...not so much. Thanks!