Friday, 3 May 2013

Yarn Bowling

Since I began researching and writing for this blog, I've been seeing and reading about yarn bowls, those little slotted ceramic bowls that are designed to hold and dispense your yarn while you knit. Many of those for sale are handmade, and very lovely, desirable objects in their own right, but I doubt I'll ever be buying one for myself. Granted, I haven't tried using one, and perhaps they have attributes I'm not aware of (they're supposed to prevent the ball from tangling and rolling), but I can't see how they'd be practical for me. Most of my knitting is done on the TTC or in bed during my evenings in while I watch TV (I watch TV as an excuse to knit), and in either of those scenarios there's no available surface on which I could safely place a yarn bowl. Yes, my yarn balls do tend to roll onto the floor, but I'd rather pick up a ball of yarn and dust it off than weep bitter tears at the sight of a shattered handmade stoneware bowl... and then pick up the ball of yarn and dust it off. Then there's the fact that those round bowls will only hold a ball of yarn, not an elongated skein, and I don't bother winding new skeins of yarn into balls unless there's some reason it's absolutely necessary.

Ultimately, they're just too frivolous for me, the kind of thing my grandmother, who kept a house and a farm, raised her five children (and a lot of poultry), and knitted many an item during the Depression, all with the aid of a wood-burning stove, oil lamps, an outdoor water pump, and an outhouse, would have called "a pack of silliness". But then let it be said that Grandma Swan never thought it mattered how things looked as long as one was clean, neat, and mended, and was always one to patch the seat of her decades-old housedresses until the end of her days in 1993, so I try not to let her rock-bottom brand of practicality influence me too much. Need is too nebulous a construct to base one's purchasing decision on; I decide whether to buy things based on how much I'll use and enjoy them. So I would buy a yarn bowl if I really thought it would enhance the way I knit, but since it probably won't, I'll have to subvert my handmade stoneware lust into buying some tableware or something.

If you think you're the type of knitter a yarn bowl will work for, let me indulge in a little vicarious stoneware fun by showing you some pretty ones. The whimsical birdie stoneware bowl pictured above is from Uncommon Goods.

It may just be my love of turquoise talking, but this yarn bowl from Etsy vendor OCPottery is a feast for the eyes.

The Mud Place offers yarn bowls with pertinent text incorporated into the design — they also have "Purl" and "Knit" bowls.

If the words in the yarn bowls above are too generic for you, you can have a yarn bowl custom made and ask to have your name incorporated into the design, as Little Wren Pottery does for its customers.

As the owner of a white cat with a yarn fetish, I find this cat yarn bowl from Etsy vendor Heidi very funny if slightly disturbing.


  1. I agree with you. They are pretty but unnecessary. Also, some of them, like the cat one above, do not have a slot, forcing you to (gasp) CUT the yarn in order to remove it!

    I like center pull balls, skeins and hanks. They usually do not roll around. A friend has a ball winder that I can use when needed, say for cone winded yarns. I have had yarns, usually ribbon yarn, that just unravel themselves. Those I put in a zip lock back with a small opening.

    I am on the fence about shawl pins. I have some seriously open knit shawls that I cannot find a shawl pin that works. (Bad english, but you get the idea.) I typically use regular brooch type pins, and secure them to my clothing. I do have a problem when I have something strapless or halter style. These dresses are fancy, and the shawls are too. Any suggestions?

    purplepenguin on Ravlery

    1. Google search for Celtic Shawl pins. They are unusual and I think would be lovely on open knit shawls.

  2. My husband tends to give me literal anniversary presents, so I asked today (anniversary is in two months) what are the "traditional" and "modern" items for our eighth anniversary. Bronze and pottery. Now, I have enough of everything else, but I don't own a yarn bowl.

    I agree about the practicality. I pull yarn from the center of the skein, or, if it was a hank to begin with, I wind it as a pull-out ball. (I like doing that enough that I don't bother with a ball-winder. I have a modern swift, and an antique one that doesn't work well enough, so it sits in the corner of my 200+ year old house, looking right at home!) Still, they are so pretty...and I don't want any other pottery...and he's going to be giving me I pointed him at the Etsy vendors, told him to avoid the creepy ones, and I'll hope for the best.)

  3. I like to wind my skeins of wool so that the yarn is pulled from the centre of the ball. I also have two places in the house where I like to knit, depending on my mood, and a yarn bowl would not be practical if I had to haul it and my knitting project through the house. They are pretty to look at and might suit certain people but they are not for me.

  4. I own two, both gifts. They are handmade pottery ones and very lovely. I have never used one as it has three holes and would have to cut yarn plus if I used more than one ball of yarn at once the yarn would tangle and it would be impossible to untangle it. The other one I have used a few times. Honestly, not necessary, but quite lovely to look at and display.

  5. Most seem too small for me. I have a large one which I use and enjoy. When I am not at home I use the stainless steel bowl from a long departed mixer. I do wind my yarn into balls, so maybe that's why they work for me. If I am using a center pull skein I don't use a bowl.

  6. I have one, which was a gift. It's pretty, as you point out, it's only functional with one ball of yarn. As a result, the bowl usually has Scout badges thst need sewing on and odds and ends.

  7. I just use center pull balls. Nothing rolls away, no bowl needed or wanted.

  8. Compared to pottery bowls, Yarn bowls made in sheesham wood are amazing. They do not broke, heavy enough to hold yarn and they look pretty beautiful. Has anyone tried ?
    Request the editor to add this link as well - as the editor has not mentioned anything related to handmade bowl

  9. I use a small mixing bowl from the kitchen. I do roll most of my yarn into balls anyway since I am not fond of skeins. I find they become temperamental as they get smaller. I haven’t figured out why they need slots or holes, I just put the ball in the bowl and the bowl on the floor. Nothing breaks, rolls away or gets dusty.