Sunday, September 21, 2008

Fiber Tool Search

About 12 years ago, I started knitting again, this time it became an obsession. About that time, I wanted to try sock knitting. So, I went to a local yarn store, and purchased a sock kit. The yarn was in a hank, so the store owner wound it into a cake for me using a plastic Royal Ball Winder. This is the first time I had ever seen such a thing. Very cool, very fast.

So, I later purchased both a Royal Ball Winder, and a metal and plastic swift. This combination served me well until this year. My only complaint is that it was plastic, and felt - well - cheep.

This past year, I got into flat bed knitting machines - and started down the slippery slope of ball winders.

I have had and tried the following in addition to the Royal Ball Winder:

  • A Plastic & Metal Cone Winder - very nice, makes cones that are quite useful for knitting machines. Downside is that it is plastic and feels like a toy, also it can only handle small hanks of yarn (up to 4 oz).

  • A Large Ball Winder - this was similar to the Jumbo Ball Winder shown on the Halcyon Yarn page linked above - this made beautiful balls of yarn, still felt plastic. Also, when the tension was uneven, the gears felt like they were going to strip. This was also large and difficult to store.

  • A electric Silver Needles Cone Winder - WOW this was fantastic, made short work of hanks of yarn, winding them onto reusable cardboard cones. Beautiful for use with a knitting machine. The only real downside is the size to store and the fact that you have to plug it in to use. Oh, and the noise - it is a pretty noisy piece of equipment.

  • A Strauch Jumbo Ball Winder - nice, heavy duty, made of wood. The only issue was that the table I had to attach it to didn't have a deep enough overhang, therefore the ball winder would wobble. If you have a normal table - this winder is hard to beat for both the price and the quality.

  • A Heavy Duty Ball Winder by Nancys Knit Knacks - this is the one that captured my heart. Since it is made for yarn stores, and to essentially be abused - it is seriously over engineered. Smooth as silk, clamps to the very edge of a table - or in my case the corner of a desk. If you start the ball correctly as shown in the DVD that comes with the winder, the ball comes out as a nice cake. As a bonus they also sell cardboard yarn cores - because of this, I can replace the electric cone winder with this one - as the knitting machine works great using the yarn balls on the cores.

My other adventure was into Yarn swifts.

  • The first one was the Light Yarn Swift - very good, light, compact, works, smooth. Nothing really negative can be said about this. It is plastic and metal - so a bit cheep looking, but beautifully functional.

  • The second one I tried was Baby Bear Yarn Swift by the Oregon Woodworker. This is now discontinued, but is nice and smooth, all wood, and came with a nice bag to hold all the parts. The pins to hold a skein of yarn seemed cheap as they are only wooden dowels. But are quite functional.

  • The third one I tried was Will Taylor Clamp-on Skeinwinder/Swift in solid Cherry. Beautiful, smooth. The only complaint is that it is a bit tedious to take down and store, but if you want to just leave it clamped - its beautiful.

  • My current favorite is a Yarn Swift with Folding Arms by texasjeans. I purchased this over Etsy and couldn't be happier. Its a bit large in the fold up state, but is so well made and beautiful it becomes a nice piece of art, and does not take up much room (a 6" diameter circle of space) when it is not being used. The best part is the storage of the pins, so clever - they store in the center of the swift when not being used, and are available when putting a hank on the swift. Very smooth, well worth the cost.

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