Tools Day: Umbrella Swift

The umbrella swift earns the “Cool Tool” award! I have sixteen skeins of 20/2 Mora wool (as seen in Skeins of Colors). Before making them into little butterflies of color for a woven transparency, I am winding the skeins into balls. This means I get to use one of my favorite tools–the umbrella swift. My Glimåkra swift is simple to use and gives flawless results every time.

How to Use an Umbrella Swift

  • Attach the clamp of the umbrella swift to the side of the loom, or other secure structure, like a table. The swift functions vertically or horizontally. I prefer to position the swift horizontally so the yarn rolls off vertically. Also, I find it easier to hang the yarn on a horizontal swift than to place the yarn on a vertical swift, holding the yarn while expanding the umbrella.

How to use an umbrella swift. Tutorial.

  • Position the yarn ball winder so that it is in line with the umbrella swift, a short distance away. I clamp the yarn ball winder to my loom bench, and sit on a small stool behind the bench.

Yarn ball winder in use with umbrella swift.

  • Remove the yarn skein’s label and put it aside. Carefully unfold and untwist the skein of yarn and open it out to a big circle. Place both arms through the center of the circle of yarn and snap your arms outward. Repeat the snapping action one or two more times, with the yarn repositioned about a quarter turn each time. This helps straighten out the yarn for placing it on the swift.
  • Lower the “umbrella” of the swift by loosing the screw and pulling the bottom screw-piece toward the clamp. Place the opened and prepared skein of yarn around the swift.

Placing the skein on an umbrella swift. How to.

  • Push open the “umbrella.” Spread it open just far enough to hold the yarn taut. Tighten the screw to keep the swift in that position.

How to use an umbrella swift for weaving yarn.

  • Find the place(s) on the skein where the skein has been tied, and untie the knot(s). Identify the end of the yarn that is on the outer side of the skein and connect that end to the yarn ball winder. For consistency among multiple skeins of yarn, I have the umbrella swift turn in the same direction for each one, with the yarn unwinding from the top of the swift.

Putting skein of yarn on umbrella swift.

  • Turn the yarn ball winder until all the yarn has been unwound from the swift.

Set up for using umbrella swift. Tips.

Winding ball of yarn from umbrella swift.

Winding ball of yarn from umbrella swift.

  • Remove the yarn ball from the yarn ball winder and wrap the skein’s label on the new yarn ball.

New ball of yarn thanks to umbrella swift.

  • Collect the new balls of yarn and play with the colors in your imagination.

Mora wool. Getting ready for woven transparency!

May you take pleasure in your work of preparation.

All the best,

16 thoughts on “Tools Day: Umbrella Swift

  1. Dear Karen,
    Good morning, I just had the luck of stumbling onto your lovely blog and I see you have accomplished what I am struggling with. I too have a glimakra and I recently “upgraded” it to 8 shafts. Very long story short, I don’t have any documentation and I suspect the reason I’m getting terrible sheds is because of cord lengths. Is there any chance we could talk for a few minutes?
    On a pretty morning by the Bay,

  2. Well, duh! I’ve never thought to use my swift horizontally! I’ll have to give it a try. It’s a little smaller than yours, but hopefully it will fit on the Standard upright.

    1. Hi Betsy, I hope it works for you! Horizontal seems logical to me, but I suppose if you think of it as an actual umbrella, it naturally would go in the vertical direction. The good thing is, it works either way!


  3. Thank you Karen for the explanation of use and excellent photos to accompany. I’d be lost without my swift. As we all know, skeins can bite you if you don’t treat them with respect!

  4. Rock Chalk, Jayhawk, KU. Love the KU foot stool(?)!
    Wonderful horizontal use of your skein winder. Never looked at using mine horizontally – must remember to keep an open mind and look at all possibilities in life.
    Happy weekend.

    1. Hi Ruth, You took the bait. I was hoping to draw out any KU alumns with that little stool. 😉
      Good point about seeing possibilities. We can do surprising things if we are not set in our ways.

      All the best,

  5. Karen, your photos and step by step instructions are clear and wonderful. As a former private investigator, I give you high marks for your ” evidentiary photography.” I am a wannabe weaver, awaiting retirement to spread my wings, attend Vavstuga, and weave away my retirement. In the meantime, I study, and gain inspiration and food for thought from your blog and the online weaving forums.
    If you only knew how much you nurture other people’s hearts and minds…
    You are a blessing to all of us!

    1. Dear tsw, I am touched by your thoughtful remarks. Your encouragement means so much to me!

      What a wonderful way to prepare for retirement! Keep dreaming, and seeing those dreams come to life. You have nurtured me today with your kindness.

      Happy weaving dreams,

  6. Hi Karen, I’m badly in need of a new swift! The one you posted above is by which company ? Price? Dimensions?
    I’ve been studying on line but the prices vary so much, AND dimensions! I just threw out two from Schacht but they were so old, 45 years, that most of the tying threads have dried out and broken…it’s impossible to fix! It’s time to bite the bullet and buy a new one!
    Please answer me!
    Leslie Alperin

    1. Hi Leslie, My umbrella swift is by Swedish company Glimakra. You can find them at suppliers who sell Glimakra looms and other weaving supplies, such as Eugene Textile Center,, and others. I have the “regular” size, which is about 72″ around. They also make a larger one, but I think it may be too large for the skeins that I use. The price may vary, but it looks like the 72″ size is around $99.00 at most places. I couldn’t do without mine!


  7. Hi Karen,

    I’m a knitter (although I’ve taken a weaving class and intend to do more with it) and I’m looking for a swift. The two that I’m torn between are the Beka and the Glimakra. I’m leaning towards the Beka, but since you’ve used both, would you recommend the Glimakra over the Beka for any particular reason?

    Thank you very much. I really enjoyed reading your blog–it’s helpful, beautiful, and inspiring!


    1. Hi Deborah, My first swift was a Beka, and the one I always use now is a Glimakra. I prefer the Glimakra swift hands down! The Glimakra swift is as easy to set up as opening an umbrella. My Beka swift had several parts to be assembled (I didn’t have room to leave it up all the time). I have better control with the Glimakra than I had with the Beka, possibly there’s a little more friction so it doesn’t “run away” from me like the Beka did. That being said, the Beka swift was much older (I bought it new in the ’80’s) and I have no idea what types of swifts Beka makes, and what improvements they’ve made since that time.
      It’s just so easy to lay out my skein of yarn over the Glimakra umbrella swift. I’d have a hard time giving that up for anything else.

      I don’t mean to make the decision more difficult for you. I’m sure either one will suit you just fine for years to come.

      I hope this helps. Thank you for your very kind thoughts!

      All the best,

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