Well, we all know it takes balls to knit, but unfortunately yarn isn’t always sold in balls. When you have it in a hank or skein, it’s necessary to wind it into a ball before you start your knitting. If you have a swift and a ball winder, you don’t have a problem. If you have a swift, you can still wind it into a ball, but it can take some time. If you’re going to do a lot of winding you may want to invest in a ball winder. There are a few varieties of manual ones and now Boye makes an electric one for the end user like you or I. I recently acquired one and had the chance to test it out – here are my results and opinions.
The first impression is actually a good one. The packaging is good and about as minimal as it can get for this product. It is packed securely inside the box with foam end caps to prevent it from moving around and getting damaged. The power cord is tucked away neatly as well – you might even miss it at first glance. The winder is a compact one piece unit that has a convenient carry handle. It’s ready to go right out of the box, with no assembly required (except for plugging in the power cord).
The use of the winder is also very simple. Place the winder on a table or other smooth surface. It has a large suction cup on the bottom, so non-porous smooth surfaces are best. There is a button at the back that you simply push down which engages the suction cup. Once the cup has been engaged I found it virtually immovable. There is a diagram that comes with the winder showing you how to thread the yarn onto it. Once the yarn is threaded, simply turn the red rotary dial to start it up. After it is going you can adjust the speed as necessary. Once the yarn has been wound onto the winder, turn it off, and remove your ball. That really is all there is to it, but here’s a video demonstrating it as well.
Now that you’ve seen it in action, here’s my honest feedback on this device. If you have small balls, this could be a good investment for you. I have found it online for $54.99 at the Knitting Warehouse (a search for electric ball winder will get you the link) and it’s also available at Michael’s for $120. That’s a steep price, but if you get it with a 50% off coupon, that drops to $60. That’s about the limit I would pay for this though, as I found it to be insufficient when winding skeins larger than 100g. I have a lot of skeins in the 200g+ range and unfortunately the ball size is limited by the distance between the two arms. This means that unless your hanks are DK weight and lighter, you probably won’t be able to wind them on this machine. I also found that you need to have your yarn very loose as there is almost no torque from the machine itself. If you can help it along by spinning on your swift periodically it helps a lot.
If you have joint problems (arthritis or other inflammatory problems) this could be a true lifesaver. Or if you’re just tired of cranking on the manual winders. My overall rating for this product is a 6 out of 10. That is taking into consideration things like quality, price, ease of use, instructions, etc. Personally, I prefer my noisy manual one to this – mainly because I can wind the larger hanks that I have. An idea for this might be to buy it in a co-op type of setup. Three or four of you pitch in to get it and you rotate possession of it around. After all, it’s not everyday that you need to wind your yarn, right?