It’s a wind up

Suzie Blackman
Sunday, 23 November 2008

Freshly wound yarn. Mmm… yarn

I have often looked longingly at pictures of neatly wound yarn on Ravelry after spending hours standing over an upturned table, fending off two cats while hand-winding metre after metre. The thought of hand-winding 900m of Colinette Jitterbug was actually deterring me from using it, so it was time to invest in a ball winder.

I paid a visit to my handy LYS, the Handweavers Studio in Walthamstow. Having seen all kinds of strange equipment there, I knew they’d be able to resolve my predicament.

Ball winder

Health and Safety Officer inspects the new ball winding equipment

The ball winder they showed me was what I expected and looked straightforward enough. When I asked how it worked they advised me however that I’d need another piece of equipment called an ‘umbrella swift’. This is quite a hefty contraption, that does look quite like a wooden umbrella when closed, but when opened out it’s more like a kind of spinning clothes horse you’d use for drying your smalls. It concertinas outwards, keeping the yarn in a tight circle while you wind the yarn off it.

Umbrella swift

Umbrella swift expanded to hold yarn

The ball winder and the umbrella swift came to £60. This was considerably more than I was expecting to spend and I did feel somewhat foolish for parting with £60 in a yarn shop and not leaving with any yarn. However, after I’d set everything up at home and wound my first balls successfully, I realised that it was a great investment. Given my love of hand-dyed wool which always comes in unwound hanks, I will gain countless knitting hours that would have been spent winding.

A nicely wound ball

Quality Control Officer examines a newly wound ball

The first ball I wound wasn’t a total success, I stupidly had the swift vertically instead of horizontally, and at a different height to the winder, forgetting to tighten the nut to keep the nut which keeps the yarn taut, resulting in many many tangles. At the Handweavers Studio, they recommended clamping the umbrella swift to the back of a chair, but it was too heavy for my chairs. After the initial mishap, I clamped it to a door and clamped the ball winder to a table a few feet away, which worked perfectly.

The ball winder itself is a very clever device, creating neat and evenly-wrapped balls by way of a tilting bobbin. It tackled everything from lace-weight mohair to chunky bouclé with ease.

All in all I’m delighted my new set-up, it’s labour saving and fun. What’s not to love?

The author

Suzie Blackman

The dyer, designer, photographer, creative technologist and maker-of-things behind It's a Stitch Up. She lives in East London in a home filled with colour, fluff and house plants.

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