fine industrial coned yarn
general,  machine knitting,  wicked

Machine Knitting with Fine Yarn (winders & home-made hats)

Fine yarn is usually considered a thin yarn such as 1 ply (cobweb or lace-weight yarns). For fine gauge machines you can knit with 1 ply if you use a fine knit bar. For standard gauge machine, 2 ply is the finest yarn you can knit with if you use a fine knit bar (close knit bar). You may also find that you do not have enough needles to create a large garment on a standard gauge machine (the fine gauge machine has 250 needles so it is easier to knit a large 3 ply garment). So to knit with fine yarn, knitters need to knit with two or three strands together. This gives a resultant thicker yarn which is more like a 3 ply or 4 ply yarn.

However, fine yarn can also be considered a relative term. For instance, 4 ply is too thick for fine gauge machines but is too fine for mid-gauge or chunky knitting machines. Fortunately you can knit two strands of 4 ply yarn together as an Aran weight yarn on a a mid-gauge or chunky machine.

You can also use wool winders to help rewind onto a new cone (or plastic hat)when you unravel any knitted items. They also are good for winding balls or skeins of yarns onto a cone or plastic hat.

Suitable Yarn Thickness

The following table gives the thicknesses or yarn most suitable for each gauge of knitting machine.

Machine GaugeYarn Thickness
Fine gauge1 ply, 2 ply, 3 ply
Standard gauge2 ply, 3 ply, 4 ply
Mid-gauge4 ply, DK (light worsted), Aran (worsted)
ChunkyDK, Aran, Chunky
suitable yarn thickness for different machines

You can read more about knitting machine yarn in my yarn post here.

Yarn Counts

To knit with fine yarn you need to use 2 or more strands together. The following table gives yarn counts for each thickness of yarn to help you decide what you need.

yarn counts
yarn counts

You can try and work out how many of strands of yarn you need from the table above. For example, high bulk industrial yarn from BSK, which tends to be 2/28 (a thick 1 ply) 2 strands would be 4/28 or 2/14, which equals a fine 3 ply. 3 strands of would be 6/28 or , for about 2/9 which is a fine 4 ply.

First you need 2 or more strands of yarn. For this, you can either buy two cones of yarn to knit together, or you can buy one large cone of yarn and wind off yarn to create a second cone. You will need a yarn winder to do this.

Yarn Winders
too small for machine knitting
too small for machine knitters

The above picture shows a typical standard sized wool winder that you can find online. This can wind up to 125 g of yarn onto a plastic cone called a ‘hat’. This would have to be a ‘heavy’ yarn as I can manage about 80 g of acrylic before I get problems. This type of winder is best for hand knitters or for manual mid-gauge or chunky machine knitters who want to rewind a ball of hand knitting yarn into a ‘cake’. They would then remove the cake of yarn from the hat and use the yarn from the middle of the cake. I have a small winder and sometimes I wind a small amount of yarn to use for sewing up a garment.

jumbo wool winder
a jumbo wool winder

For serious machine knitters who are creating garments, using 2 or 3 strands of fine yarn, on a fine or standard gauge knitting machine, I would recommend getting a large, jumbo sized wool winder like the one above.

I would do an online search for a ‘large’, ‘jumbo’ or ‘L2’ wool winder to find a good one. This larger type of wool winder may indicate 250g capacity or 7-8 oz. There is also a heavy duty 10 oz yarn winder.

Again, these weights must be for heavy wool and cotton yarns as I can not wind off this amount using an lighter acrylic yarn. I can make a whole small jumper or cardigan from one hat though.

This jumbo type of wool winder usually has two arms for stabilisation. You can easily purchase one from Hague, Andee Knits or Sunny Choi. I can also find similar winders at cheaper prices on eBay and Amazon every now and then, if you are on a tight budget. I will give links to my winders in my post on my wool winder review.

Hague electric winder
Hague electric winder

If you find the thought of all that manual winding too exhausting or difficult, then you will be pleased to know that you can purchase a 250g electric winder from Hague for about £150.

sunny choi cone winder
sunny choi cone winder

And if you are feeling flush with money, you may wish to opt for a more professional cone winding machine like this one from Sunny Choi.

Yarn Winder ‘Hats’
spare hat from sunny choi
spare winder hat

Yarn winders usually come with plastic cone called a hats as shown in the above image. You wind your yarn onto the hat and then remove the hat to knit from. Ideally you should buy some extra hats if you can. These may be expensive to buy or difficult to find. I buy my favourite winder hats from Sunny Choi who is available on eBay and ecrater. You can get standard or jumbo hats from Sunny, although I only buy the jumbo ones. These have a smooth tube and ribs around the rim.

Home-made Hats

Many machine knitters have managed to use the inside tube of a toilet roll as a spare hat. I have not managed to find one that fits any of my winders. I also do not think this is suitable for a large wool winder. Buying extra jumbo hats can be expensive, so you will be pleased to know that it is possible to make your own with some thin card and tape.

making cardboard winder hat
making card winder hat

I cut an A4 sheet of thin card in half (width-ways) and then cut a fringe in the longer side. This helps to curve the ‘hat’ and also helps to secure the card hat when you push it onto the winder plastic hat.

home-made winder hat
home-made winder hat

You need to trim the top of the card hat so that it is not taller than the plastic cone or bend it in. This will give room for the yarn as it spins round.

You also need to be careful when winding, that the yarn does not go under the flaps at the bottom. if it does you can try and pull the flap out or unravel. Yarn getting caught under the little bottom flaps will cause problems when knitting as it will stop the yarn from unwinding and ruin your knitting. You can always cut the flaps shorter. I make sure that the flaps are not bend upwards too much or bend them back down as much as I can.

I can remove the home-made hat with the yarn to store on a shelf and replace when needed. This means that I only have to buy a few spare cones for knitting which saves me quite a bit of money.

home-made hat yarn cake
home-made hat yarn cake

Once you remove yarn ‘cakes’ from a hat, the yarn easily tangles when knitting and is difficult to get back on the hat so I would not advise you to do this.

Twisting Stacks

Yarn can be loosely twisted before you thread it through your machine by the use of a twisting yarn stack. You can buy one of these from Hague or BSK. Or you can try and make your own.

Hague twisting stack
twisting stacks with industrial yarn

In my next post I will go into more details about twisting yarn stacks.

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