What’s the deal with Yarn Bowls?

Yarn bowl feature

Wheel Thrown Yarn Bowl by New Moon Studio

During a recent visit to my local yarn shop I stumbled across a a curious piece of knitting accoutrement which I didn’t know existed but now, of course, I must have; a Yarn Bowl.
If you are fairly new to knitting like I am, you may not have seen or heard of a yarn bowl, let alone see a need for one. I was curious so I decided to investigate!

What is a yarn bowl used for?
It’s a bowl in which to put your yarn while you’re knitting and solves the problem of the ball of yarn rolling and bouncing around the room during said knitting. Happens to me all the time and boy is it annoying.

How does it work?
Yarn bowls have a cutout which is used as a guide for your working yarn. The working yarn is placed through the cutout, and when the yarn is pulled, thanks to the weight of the bowl, the ball will roll in the bowl freely without getting tangled or rolling away.

Why not use a center pull ball instead?
Sometimes, especially with hand wound balls, knitting from the outside of the ball is the only option, BUT more importantly (depending on the project) center pulling a cake or ball of yarn can impart an over-twist in the yarn which can result in a bias knitted fabric or twisted garment. Read about it here.

So if a yarn bowl is sounding like a good idea, here are some tips to choosing a good one.

How to choose a good yarn bowl

  1. Choose one with a wide base so that it won’t tip over when a heavy ball of yarn is rolling around.
  2. It needs to have a opening where the yarn can slip thru from the top (as opposed to just a hole), so the project can be taken out of the bowl without any problem. The bowl can also then be used for more than one project at a time.
  3. The pottery (or wood) needs to be very smooth where the yarn comes out. Even the smallest rough edge will catch and fray the yarn.
  4. Collared or high-walled are best or the ball will spin right out!

Thanks to a quick search on Etsy, I’ve discovered that yarn bowls come in all shapes and sizes, with designs to suit every knitter. Here are some of my favourites (FYI these are affiliate links).

Ceramic Fox Yarn Bowl

Ceramic Fox Yarn Bowl by Barruntando

But if you aren’t quite ready to commit to the purchase of a yarn bowl, here are some DIY alternatives that serve the same function.

  • Use a zip lock bag, but don’t zip it all the way up. Thread your working yarn through the opening and it’s a cheap and transportable way to keep your yarn tangle free.
  • Use a large teapot and thread the yarn through the spout. The one downside is you can’t remove the ball without breaking off the yarn.
  • Pop a large binder clip (bulldog clip) on the edge of a heavy bowl and thread the yarn through the metal loop. You can see it in action here.

Do you use a yarn bowl? I’d love to hear about your yarn bowl experiences.

19 Comments

  • Jennifer Crewe says:

    Hi Cintia, Greetings from West Australia! I have recently discovered yarn bowls and my need of one. I have found a business called Wonky Pots near Albany and she is making one for me. I am not going looking around because I would probably find that I am over paying for this one and I would rather not know!!!! Isn’t amazing how we don’t know we need this must have items until we see them somewhere? Hope you are all settled back in at home after your trip. I am sure it was an amazing experience for your daughter. Thanks for your postcard, not sure if I ever managed to find a place to say thanks.

    • It’s custom made for you so that makes it special. I’d love to know how you find using it once you have it. You are welcome re the postcard, I love sending surprise mail, just glad it made you happy. The trip was lovely, a bit hard to settle back into our daily routine, I think it will be easier once school starts back.

  • terri says:

    Hi Cintia How awesome are these. I can think of lots of designs that I would like to see in these. When you said yarn bowls I thought you meant bowls that were made from yarn. I am making these types with a friend to show her how to crochet.

  • Libby from Libby's Lifestyle says:

    I have a vintage Bakelite yarn holder in the shape of a bee hive which I really love. It does work best if the yarn is taken from the centre of the ball which, as you say, can be a problem. I saw a red one last year in an antique shop and fell in love with it, but not the price. So when I found my green one at a far better price, I snapped it up. I like the yarn bowls too. They’re very cute.

  • connie b says:

    I found one of the plastic 1/2 gallon yarn containers, brand new, at a resale shop for $2.99 that works wonderful. It holds any size skein of yarn you could ever have. The ceramic yarn bowls are really cute, but I would rather spend the $40-50 on yarn.

  • Kirstie says:

    Hi! I just discovered you via Pinterest and also realised you are a Melbournian too!
    Great blog, great photos, great ideas!

  • MVincent says:

    I have been wanting a yarn bowl FOREVER!! well recently I found a local potter and low and behold in their clearance I found the perfect….pitcher!! Wouldn’t you know it I fell in love and it works just as good as a yarn bowl. Since it has a deep round bottom my yarn spins beautifully and I pull the yarn out through the handle to keep it under control. Works just as well as the bowl….I just can’t use HUGE balls of yarn. It fits most decent sized ones though. It’s helped me crochet a little faster and keep the balls from being chased and shredded by kitty claws!! Woo!! Love your website and ideas!! Thanks so much!!

  • Christine Burton says:

    I would love one of these lovely yarn bowls however until I can get one large enough to accommodate my 100 gram double knit balls I am currently using a large mixing bowl.

  • Heather H. says:

    This is a great detailed post, thank you Cintia! I just upgraded my plastic yarn bowl to a BEAUTIFUL wooden Yarn & Fiber brand bowl. I ordered it from Amazon and it was delivered right to my door for about $40. I was hesitant to spend that kind of money on a bowl but, wow, what a real difference it makes to use a high quality yarn bowl. I’m glad I found your article to introduce me to such a good idea!

    The only thing I will mention if you are looking for a yarn bowl for yourself is to make sure you get the right size. I’ve seen some that look good in the pictures but then are just way too small to hold any decent amount of yarn. I’m happy with the 7″x4″ bowl that I got. It holds enough yarn and is substantial enough to stay in place while I knit, but not too bulky – I can still throw it in my bag and knit on the go.

    Also, make sure that the guide is smooth on whichever bowl you get, you don’t want any yarn being snagged while you are pulling it through.

  • sara says:

    wow, these yarn bowl are so cute and lovely. I am gonna check it soon, i have one of wooden bowl but eager to try this ceramic kitty cat, love the idea and design. I love crocheting so, always playing with yarn and yes they roll over the room and get dirty. thanks to Yarn bowl,its a lifesaver piece for me because of my naughty cat and now no more mess. Thanks for your details info in yarn bowl and by the way love your DIY crafts.

  • Evee says:

    I used to put my yarn in a drawer and close it which actually worked perfectly since the drawer was just right next to me where I sit. I tried finding yarn holders/bowls on the internet and they looked very nice but I didn’t think it was worth the price.
    So today I stumbled upon a yarn bowl in a store called “Sostrene Grene” and I was soooo happy I found one! I immediately grabbed one, it was just 4 euro’s. Unbelievably cheap right?! The bowl is so cute and (I think) it’s made from ceramic. They have it in 3 pretty colors.
    Unfortunately the store is only around Europe.

  • Jo says:

    Hello from WA!!

    Just a quick question about yarn balls: does the yarn needs to be re winded into a ball or can I put a skein straight in ?

    Many thanks

    Jo

  • Johanna says:

    Thank you Cynthia, that’s what I thought 🙂

  • TrixieB says:

    Hello Cintia, such pretty examples of yarn bowls. Until now, I had only seen timber styles – rich colours some of them, however a little plain compared to those in the photos above.
    I like the idea of using an old teapot to hold my yarn. The ball of yarn is placed inside and threaded through the spout. It stays clean with the lid on and the weight of the ceramic pot keeps it from moving around while I crochet or knit.

  • Chris says:

    A plastic Tupperware type container works fine. It fits in my yarn bag, is light, may be exchanged for a larger bowl for a big skein, doesn’t break and was already in the cupboard. I don’t use a top or like to pass the yearn through a hole.

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