A nostepinne is a great tool for winding yarn by hand. It’s compact, easy to store and easy to use. But how to use a nostepinne may not be immediately obvious.
So, read on to discover how to use a nostepinne, how to pronounce the word and what it means, how to find one to buy and what to look for, as well as some ideas for re-purposing things you already own to work as a nostepinne.
You can read the post or listen to the blog here (note: the audio and translations are AI generated, so may not be perfect).
What is a nostepinne?
A nostepinne is basically a stick around which you can wind a centre pull ball or cake much like the ones you create on a mechanical ball winder.
I remember reading somewhere that nostepinne comes from the word egg. That didn’t seem right. So, I hunted down the real meaning. After quite a bit of research I discovered that nostepinne (or more correctly nøstepinne) translates to skein or yarn ball stick in Norwegian.
Other names for the nostepinne are: nøstepinne, nostepinde, yarn stick, yarn ball winder.
But doesn’t winding your yarn take a long time with a nostepinne?
Yes, it does take a while to wind your yarn using a nostepinne as opposed to using a ball winder. But the nostepinne allows you to just focus on your yarn and get to know it better, to understand the yarn before you start knitting with it. It is also a calming and relaxing activity, much like knitting itself.
Really, you could ask “But doesn’t knitting take a long time?”
Yes, it does. But that is at least part of the point.
Why use a nostepinne at all?
As I already mentioned, winding with a nostepinne takes a fairly long time. So why would you want to use a noste at all?
The nostepinne is super portable, relaxing, and easy to use.
I keep one beside my desk and often wind a ball of yarn on it when I just can’t be bothered to set up my swift and ball winder. Though, I usually only wind worsted or thicker yarns using the noste when I am at home. (for thinner yarns, the mechanical ball winder is certainly more efficient.
It is also super portable and perfect for winding yarn in places where you don’t have access to a mechanical ball winder: in the yarn, on your travels, at the movie theatre, at the park and anywhere else you might need to wind some yarn.
How is nostepinne pronounced?
In the original Norwegian, “nøstepinne” is pronounced
Nu (as in noogie)
Ste (as in stem)
Pin (as in pin)
Ne (as in nest)
In English, most people pronounce it
No (as in not)
Ste (as in stem)
Pin (as in pin)
The history of the nostepinne
In Norway, nøstepinne were often given as gifts. Young men would gift nøstepinne to young women to show their interest or for an engagement gift. Some of these were very elaborate because the more elaborate the carving, the more skilled the craftsman and (presumably) the more attractive the craftsman.
Some even had balls carved inside intricate carving in the handle, allowing them to be used as a baby rattle (or to show that someone was hard at work based on the sound).
For more about the history and examples of some beautiful antique nostepinne, see this article by Spin Artiste. It’s worth popping over to the article just to see those gorgeous examples.
How to use a nostepinne
You can wind two different ball shapes on a noste (with an infinite number of variations in between):
- the cake – a flattish ball similar to that made with a ball winder,
- the egg – an elongated round ball, similar in shape to an egg.
While there is a plethora of videos online showing how to use a nostepinne, many seem to be made by people who are trying a noste for the first time or who have not wound a lot of balls of yarn on a nostepinne.
After having wound many, many balls of yarn on a noste, I have found a few tips to make the winding go more smoothly, efficiently and pleasantly:
- Wind the yarn near the top of the noste, leaving enough space for the cake and just a bit extra. You want the centre of the yarn cake to start at about 8 cm or 3 inches from the tip.
- Hold your noste on the shaft (rather than the handle) especially if you have a nostepinne that is longer than about 20 to 23 cm (8 to 9 inches)
- Move both hands as you wind the yarn. Use your dominant hand to wind the yarn around the noste and your non-dominant hand to slowly turn the noste in the opposite direction. This allows you to create a neat, evenly wound yarn cake.
Watch this video for a demonstration of how I use a nostepinne.
Where to buy nostepinne
While you can buy commercially made nostepinne, I suggest searching on Etsy.com for nostepinne and purchasing a handmade one (unless you are handy with a lathe or know someone who is). These have traditionally been hand made. It seems appropriate to me that when using such a traditional tool, that you use one that is handmade.
That being said, KnitPro make a lovely wooden nostepinne and KnitPicks and other yarn stores carry plastic versions of the nostepinne (called a Yarn Valet Yarn Ball Winder) which have a handy storage compartment inside.
Things to consider when shopping for a bostepinne
There are some truly beautiful and unique nostepinne available on Etsy. But it is important to really take a good look at any noste you are considering purchasing and asking some of these questions:
- Ensure that the shaft of the nostepinne (the part that you will be wrapping the yarn around) is smooth, flat and (preferably) slightly tapered.
- Some nostepinne have lovely bulbous tips or are flared rather than tapered. I suspect you might have difficulty getting the finished ball off the noste.
- Some nostes taper too much which might make it difficult to keep the ball on the noste as you wind it and might make it difficult to make a ball that will fit a ball spinner easily
- Choosing a slightly thicker nostepinne (roughly 25 mm or 1″ diameter) will make it easier and faster to wind your yarn and easier to put the ball on a yarn spinner if you choose.
- Consider whether you want to have a groove for holding the yarn end at the end of your noste. I personally prefer to not have a groove at the tip and don’t find it useful.
- Consider the length of the nostepinne. Because you will be using only a small part of the noste to wind you ball, you probably don’t need a long shaft. If I were to get another nostepinne, I would choose a much shorter one as it is easier to wind the ball fairly close to the tip and I find it easier to hold the noste fairly close to where I am making the ball.
How a nostepinne is made
Modern nostepinne are made on a lathe which allows for beautiful, evenly round tools. This video shows a woodworker making a nostepinne from start to finish.
He talks about the process of turning the noste, but also about some of the practical considerations of a noste. The noste that he makes is a bit too thin for my preference, but I love the length of it.
There is an accompanying blog post to the video with more information.
I do not recommend winding your yarn as demonstrated by the person in the video. It is not very efficient, will not make a nice yarn cake and will not pull out from the centre very well. Even if you are aiming for an egg shaped yarn ball, I don’t recommend winding in parallel rounds for as long as in this demonstration.
MacGyvering a nostepinne
If you don’t want to purchase a nostepinne or just want to try out using a noste, there are many things you can adapt into a makeshift noste:
- a large size knitting needle – great alternative. Usually is a bit too long, so hold it by the shaft of the needle.
- a long thin pill bottle – great alternative for smaller balls of yarn. It is a bit short, but serviceable. Just be sure to hold the lid end and slide off the smooth end.
- a round mini M&M container – great alternative for smaller balls of yarn. It is a bit short, but serviceable. Just be sure to hold the lid end and slide off the smooth end.
- a smooth, thick marker (like a Sharpie) – great substitute, some are even tapered, generally they are a bit too thin but very serviceable. Just make sure you don’t get ink on the yarn.
- your thumb (yes, really) – always available, but you can’t set it down partway through winding. You can’t gradually turn your thumb as you wind.
- a toilet paper core – you can create a taper by cutting it and reshaping, but it doesn’t have a handle.
- an empty cone for yarn or thread – this is usually the right shape, but may be too large and doesn’t have a handle.
- a short piece of dowel
- a cylindrical spurtle (for stirring porridge) or muddler (for smushing cocktail ingredients), as long as the end is smooth or tapered and does not flare out. A flat spurtle would likely not work really well, but you can always try it.
- directly onto your yarn spinner.
- any cylindrical object that is about 1.5 to 3.5 cm (1/2 to 1 1/2″) in diameter and a reasonable length about 12.5 to 30 cm (5 to 12″).
Should you try a nostepinne?
Yes! I would absolutely suggest that you try winding yarn on a nostepinne, even a repurposed, makeshift one.
Try the tips I give above and follow along with my video.
Start off with small balls of heavier yarn to get the hang of using a nostepinne and then move on to larger balls or finer yarn.
There is definitely something awesome about using a mechanical ball winder that takes just a few minutes to create a yarn cake. But there is something comforting and mindful about using a nostepinne to wind your yarn into balls.
Slow winding seems to fit well with the slow process of knitting. And the beauty of many nostepinne add to the experience.
Let me know what you think in the comments below or hop into A Close Knit Community Free Facebook Group and tell us how it went and what you used for a nostepinne.