Sunday, 19 May, 2024

By The Fibreside

Knitting and spinning on the Sunshine Coast of BC

single post


New toys

There’s just something about a new toy that can’t be beat.

Sometimes I think fibre arts is just as bad as, say, RC cars or computers or cooking as a hobby when it comes to gadgets. I know we don’t like to think it, because we’re making stuff, useful stuff, out of animal and plant fibres (okay, and the occasional fleece from the wild acryl too), and it’s a very down-to-earth, centring hobby that does not take up a lot of space. I’ll just wait a minute until you all stop laughing about that last bit (since, you know, I’m getting two rooms in the new house for all my fibre-stuff – it’s that space-intensive). And even though we like to think of knitting, crochet, spinning, and weaving as kind of old-school, there isn’t a fibre artist I know that isn’t excited about new toys. Interchangeable needles, a spindle, yarn management, yarn organization, pattern help, there are a lot of gadgets out there now for fibre artists,

I’ve been lucky enough to find myself with two recent acquisitions that I simply adore. One is the Ashford Knitter’s Loom that I’ve talked about on the podcast, and yes, I did say I was going to write a blog post about that, but that’s one of the posts in my head, and it’ll stay there for another few days. The other, well, that’s the one I want to talk about today.

For the longest time, I resisted winding gadgets. I wound my balls of yarn on my thumb or on a nostepinne, with the skein on my lap. I encountered all the problems you might expect with that method, so last year Mike “bought” me a swift for Christmas. It was a wise investment, and made skein management that much easier. I had also come into possession of a very old ball winder, so with the pair of them, I was ready and able to quickly wind anything that needed winding. But it didn’t really work that way. Me and that ball winder, we just didn’t click very well. Now, there was nothing wrong with the ball winder. It wound yarn well, but only up to a certain size of ball. After that point, well, good luck getting the ball off the winder, and that’s if the strand of yarn didn’t get caught in the mechanism. There was also something a little… soulless about the balls of yarn it produced. It sounds odd, but it was almost like the ball winder, which was part of a knitting machine set-up, knew I wasn’t winding yarn for the purpose it was designed for, or was just too tired and worn out to care. Anyway, after the first few months, I started using the swift with just a nostepinne instead of the ball winder. But I knew that, especially for large skeins of yarn, I would eventually have to invest in a new winding gadget to speed up the process.

This Christmas, I did a little research, and purchased one: the Stanwood Needlecraft Large Metal Yarn Ball Winder. I had found a review of it online as I was trying to decide which ball winder to get, and thought it sounded like it would serve my needs, and also any future needs I might have. And who doesn’t like to wind large balls of yarn? So in early February, I came home to a box.

Pretty decently sized box at that.
Pretty decently sized box at that.

I love getting packages. It’s like Christmas.

Upon opening, lots of bubblewrap!
Upon opening, lots of bubblewrap!

The first impression was that it was well packaged in the box to protect it in shipping. The second impression was, damn, that’s a really big ball.. winding… thingy (I’m seriously trying to come up with another word, but all I’m getting is shaft, and I know exactly how that sounds, but I’m just going to use it once and hope you’ll all forgive me). I knew that it was a large ball winder, but I didn’t quite get the scale from the photos in the listing, so it came as a surprise when I opened the box.

Assembled, set up, and ready to go.
Assembled, set up, and ready to go.

Of course, when you get a new gadget, the first thing you have to do is play with it, so I grabbed the next skein I needed wound for the Event Horizon shawl. It is a 400 yard skein of sock yarn, so that should give you a bit of context for how big this thing is.

Ready, set...
Ready, set…

When I was ready to start, it occurred to me that the pieces I expected to move in a certain way, that move in that way with every ball winder I’ve ever seen, didn’t. I wasn’t entirely sure how it was going to work, but I got it threaded and gave it a shot. And it was glorious.

Whirling arm, pirouetting centre, sturdy frame, excellent gearing… It was so smooth, so… everything that my old ball winder wasn’t. It wanted to wind 400 yards of fingering weight yarn. It wanted to wind more than 400 yards! And the ball itself, when all was said and done?


I had put off gadgets for a long time. What did I need a ball winder for? Well, I cannot regret this gadget. I need to wind the two skeins for the border of the Event Horizon shawl in the next day or so, and I can’t wait. I might even splice the two of them right away, just to see what this baby can do. 800 yards, he’ll say? Bring it on.

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