A nostepinne is a great tool to have even if you already have a ball-winder to turn your hanks into cakes. Why? Well, nostepinnes are portable! So the next time you find yourself on holiday, stumble into a new yarn store, find something you absolutely must have and are compelled to knit with it immediately, you’ll be able to!

The simplest nostepinne is a dowel (actually, even simpler is a toilet paper roll, which I was using until I found this beauty). They are easy to use and will fit in any knitting bag. And just like a ball-winder, they create centre-pull balls (or cakes) that you can stack. I also love that you can find many hand-crafted nostepinnes, making them beautiful and functional (my favourite combination).

Here is a photo-tutorial on how to use one. I purchased this one from Ancient Arts Fibre along with a lovely and soft hank of 100% baby camel at this year’s FibresWest.

Hand-crafted nostepinne, made of mahogany and walnut, and 100% baby camel hank (about to be wound into a cake!)

Hand-crafted nostepinne, made of mahogany and walnut, and 100% baby camel hank (about to be wound into a cake!)

Make a slip-knot and place in the groove

Make a slip-knot and place in the groove

Build up a base

Build up a base

Once you have a thick base, start winding the yarn from top-to-bottom while turning the nostepinne

Once you have a thick base, start winding the yarn from top-to-bottom while turning the nostepinne

Here's a close-up of what you want it to look like. It may help to guide the bottom wrap with your thumb

Here’s a close-up of what you want it to look like. It may help to guide the wrap along the bottom using the thumb of the hand holding the nostepinne handle

The goal is to build a shelf at the top and bottom for that Cake Shape

The goal is to build a shelf at the top and bottom for that Cake Shape

Eventually it will start to look like something a fancy ball-winder would produce- well, not quite but this is only my third try.

Eventually it will start to look like something a fancy ball-winder would produce– at least eventually, with practice; this is only my third try.

As the cake grows, the wraps will be further from the nostepinne. Remember: building a shelf will give you the Cake Shape!

As the cake grows, the wraps will be further from the nostepinne. Remember: building a shelf will give you the Cake Shape!

When you're done, just undo the slip knot, slide the cake off and gaze through the lovely centre-pull hole!

When you’re done, just undo the slip knot, slide the cake off and gaze through the lovely centre-pull hole!

Then congratulate yourself on a job-well-done and enjoy some tea and yarn-cakes

Then congratulate yourself on a job-well-done and enjoy some tea and yarn-cakes

There are a two things I really like about winding centre-pull balls: the yarn gets to relax in the middle void after pulling it off the nostepinne and you can knit from both ends at the same time. Now that I have this soft, springy cake of camel, I think it’s time to swatch and dream up some wrist-warmers, I think this yarn would be perfect!