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Anyone who’s ever worked intarsia will tell you that it’s chaos–hanging yarn tails and loose stitches everywhere, and bobbins tangling into a rat’s nest at every opportunity. Ugh!

Unfortunately, there isn’t much that can be done about most of the aforementioned problems, but I have come to love and appreciate yarn butterflies for their excellent ability to contain working yarn while remaining lightweight and less prone to entanglement than bobbins (I said less prone–I promise nothing). The key to making a good butterfly is to wind it firmly, as you’ll see in the following steps:

Step 1

Make a slingshot with your non-dominant hand. Grasp the tail with the three outer fingers, and take the working yarn over the thumb.

Step 2

Start winding the working yarn in a figure-eight around your thumb and forefinger.

Step 3

Fill your makeshift bobbin (your fingers) with as much yarn as you want or need. Leave a 12-18″ tail at the end. Remember–the bigger your butterfly, the less often you have to join in a new one on your knitting. Fewer bobbins = fewer tails to weave in later.

Step 4

With your free hand, pinch the spot where the figure-eight crosses.

Step 5


Hold the yarn firmly as you remove it from your thumb and forefinger.

Step 6

Still holding the crossed area firmly, wind the remaining 12-18″ tail tightly around it. This will secure the butterfly and keep it from falling apart as you’re knitting from it.

Step 7

To tie off, pass the tail under the last loop around and pull snug. Voila! Now you can pull on the beginning tail, and it will feed right out from the center of your butterfly.

How about you? Are you an intarsia fan? Have you ever used a yarn butterfly? Please share below!