Saturday, October 5, 2013

Wound Up

You thought I was joking about the stress shopping.

The one thing I can say in my favour is that I tend to buy affordable things. I mean, I'm not buying a fur coat. (Um, scratch that. I'm not buying another fur coat.) In general, I keep it to things that I use for my crafts, that I've carefully considered for a while, but haven't yet made the leap to purchase. And I try to keep everything within the $10-50 dollar range, though what help is that when one's shopping in volume?

But while we're discussing it, here are my prime stress-shopping categories:
  • Potions: Etsy is great for these. I also love Sephora, truth be told. And the health food store.
  • Treats: I love Whole Foods Market and the zillions of fab independent bakeries in Toronto.
  • Patterns: Well, we've discussed these recently. I don't discriminate.
  • Yarn and Fabric: Need we say more?
  • Gizmos: That's what this post is about (see below)...
  • Books: Sure, these days I borrow as many titles as possible, but sometimes a book is so instructive that I need to have my own copy.
Let's just say it's good that I don't have a thing for jewelry. Or real estate.

A propos of this, I have a little story that I imagine many a knitter can relate to:

I buy a lot of yarn - ok, not a LOT of yarn, but I make a lot of stuff and I need yarn to make that stuff. I buy locally, often at EweKnit, for example, and I also buy online. Really, whatever gets me the yarn I need at the best price in the most environmentally sustainable way, is the option I choose. But often, when I buy, even at a TO shop, I don't wind the just-purchased hank. For one thing, I don't know if I'll use it - in which case I want the option to return for store credit. For another thing, I don't like to wind balls prematurely, leaving them to languish and, potentially, to overstretch. Sometimes the store doesn't offer the "we'll wind it for you" option - or they make you come back to get the wound ball the next day (totally inconvenient).

All this means that my husband has acted as a yarn swift on SO many occasions, it's not funny. And his urge to complain about this never gets old - for him.

For you non- or new-knitters. This is one version of a yarn swift:

Via Etsy...

It's used in tandem with a ball winder, one type of which looks like this:

Also via Etsy...
I won't get deeply into the mechanics, but these both clamp to a table (and are easy to collapse/store when not in use). The hank is positioned onto the opened swift (it collapses when not in use) and a yarn end is threaded into the winder. Using the right hand to wind the ball, the left hand gives some tension to the strand of yarn that goes between the swift and the winder. As the winder winds, the swift turns too. What takes Scott and me 15-plus minutes per ball, takes these machines under a minute to achieve. Which when you're winding 9 balls at a go is a meaningful time-save. Not to mention that no one complains.

Though I've been knitting for more than 2 years, and though I've gone through a couple hundred balls of yarn at this point, I've never bought a swift and ball winder for 2 reasons:
  • They can be quite pricey.
  • You have to store them and set them up.
I have also, somehow, convinced myself that "only serious knitters" need these gizmos. Um, when do I count in that category??

Anyway, I've seen - in stores and online - swifts that go for more than 200 bucks and ball winders (gorgeous, wooden ones) that cost upwards of $600.00. While I love them - and if I were going to keep them out all the time I'd consider them for their design, careful construction and longevity - I cannot justify them in my house with no room to display.

About Ball Winders

I've done quite a bit of research on this, and truly, a home-knitter doesn't need more than a good plastic ball winder. Even used consistently, it will last indefinitely. The best known brand is Royal. While I've linked to Knit Picks (which I've never shopped at because I can find what I need cheaper, given the shipping charges), it is a reputable online store. Etsy, Ebay, Amazon and local yarn stores also sell these. On sale, with free shipping, you can get these for under 30 bucks but they often cost more in the range of 50 or 60 after shipping.

It will not surprise you to learn that I have taken the plunge and purchased a winder - and a swift, (why not give the whole story away in one swoop?). The winder I purchased, photoed above / link to vendor is in the caption, is not a Royal brand, but has the same general structure. I suspect they're all manufactured in the same place, in China, and different companies brand them differently. Of course, I might be wrong about this... The one I got cost 28 bucks (reduced price) and then a mere 5 bucks for shipping. It was the most economic option - and I got to shop on Etsy, a preferred platform.

Note: An integral part of stress shopping is seeking out the best deal and the most desirable purchase scenario.

About Swifts:

There are many brands and shapes of swifts, produced in different materials. Dharma Trading Co. and Knit Picks both sell affordable options (the Knit Picks one hasn't been highly rated in the scheme of things). Many are made by independent vendors or by mystery corporations. A propos of this, often, one cannot determine the brand of a swift when purchasing on Etsy or Ebay (or even on Amazon or through online big-bulk knit stores). Most seem to be brand free, which is not something I love. I like to be able to research what I'm thinking of buying.

I finally decided on an unbranded one, purchased (again), via Etsy - photo/linked to above. I figured, since I wasn't going to know which brand I'd be getting under any circumstances (the branded ones were more money than I want to spend), I would opt for birch wood and a Canadian vendor. Including shipping, mine cost 50 bucks which is MUCH cheaper than I could have purchased it in a shop or online (once shipping was factored in). I thought I'd have to spend more like 100 bucks.

There are some spatial factors to consider when choosing a swift:
  • Height of swift (as space consideration)
  • Circumference of swift (to accommodate the circumference of the hanks you will wind)
  • Clamp height (the maximum span of the clamp which will determine which tables you can affix it to. This is a factor with the ball winder too, fyi.)
In the end, I went middle-of-the-road, by getting a mid-range, mid-sized swift. Mine will open to a max circumference of 72" (larger than any hank I've wound yet), and will clamp to something about 1.5 inches thick (I checked some tables to confirm I have viable options). Update: The Etsy listing mistakenly shows a 24" circumference. After communicating with the vendor I have confirmed that the swift actually opens to 72" circumference.

A duo that could have set me back almost a grand (if I'd gone high-style), or easily $150 - $200 (if I'd just purchased from any vendor without cost or delivery consideration), cost me 80 bucks, all in, for new merchandise (not that I would have been averse to "vintage") and it'll be delivered to my door.

Then there's the value of having occupied my mind for a few hours. And the fact that Scott is beside himself with happiness. Apparently, he's calling this an Xmas gift :-)

Today's questions: Do you own this combo - or a similar set up? If not, how do you wind your yarn? If yes, how much did you pay (sure, it's nosy but I want to know!)? Do you feel you got value? Let's talk.

28 comments:

  1. I'll be interested to know about the off-brand winder, as I am in the market for a replacement (wore out the gears!). That's a 24" diameter on the swift, right? Because I can think of lots of yarns in hanks with a circumference greater than 24"...

    I haven't found storage to be a problem. There's an island in my kitchen (misguided 80s remodel, anyone?) that's completely useless for anything except holding the swift, winder, and cat food supply.

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    1. Egad - I believe it is circumference and not diameter. This is on the small size of the circumferences I was considering, but it seemed far larger than any hanks I have lying around. Maybe I'm confused. Well, we're about to see if this is ridiculously small (despite indications that it's a "medium"). I'll keep you posted.

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  2. YES! I own a duo yarn winder and swift, both from knit picks. My husband bought me the swift for Christmas a few years back and I bought myself the winder shortly after. These were the best purchases ever!! Winding my own yarn makes me quite happy. I don't even have the yarn store wind my first hank to get started on a project... I prefer to come home and do it myself.

    I leave mine set up 24/7 on my desk. My swift is clamped to the left of me at the edge and the winder is to the right of me on the other edge of my desk. They're never really in the way...

    Congrats on your new purchase. You (and your husband) will be really happy you have the set! :D

    Oh... as for quality. They're as good today as the day I bought them. I can see my plastic ball winder dying first, but it was a cheapish purchase ($20) that I wouldn't hesitate to make again. It's lasted me at least 3 years now.

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    1. I'm glad to hear that you like the swift from Knit Picks cuz I did see some questionable reviews. Mind you, most often, everyone has her own experience. Maybe they got ones that were a damaged from the get go. Thanks for weighing in on this Liz. I know you have a lot of experience in these matters!

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  3. I really want a set of these now! I've been winding all mine on my knees. It's not fast. Lol. Thanks for all the info, really interesting post :)

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  4. I own a duo that looks exactly like yours :) I don't really remember how much I paid, but I think it was around 20 GBP for the swift (a no-name product from HongKong), and 40 GBP for the swift. Both have totally transformed my knitting life ... totally worth it, and after 3 years both are still working great.

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    1. Ooh, thanks for the feedback. I'm so pleased to know I haven't just been crazy-shopping. :-)

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  5. I own both these gadgets. They were a gift from my supportive-of-my-crafting husband, although I have the sneaking suspicion he got them because he wanted to stop acting as an umbrella swift early in our relationship. I have to tell you, I didn't take them to B.C. with me last year and how I regretted that decision. Let's just say our reunion has been sweet.

    P.S. I visited EweKnit for the first time today and met the owner. I did not leave empty handed. That place is so well curated!

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    1. I know! Thank you for your corroboration that the swift and winder are a boon to the home knitter. And, btw, I just saw your email (which I will respond to soon). I SO appreciate it. Thank you xo. We must def go yarn shopping very soon.

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  6. I have had both for a while now. I ended up getting a cheap swift on Ebay that I really regret. It is a wooden one but the wood is too soft so the clamp that holds it to the table broke shortly after I got it.

    I have to use blue tack and tape to get it to hold for any length of time and hate it with a passion that is truly unnatural. ;-?

    I plan to one day get the Swiss (I think) swift that is wood but has a more practical and long lasting metal clamp. I have read that this one will last a lifetime and many people talk of having had theirs for 30+ years!

    Having good tools is SO important.

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    1. Thank you for this comment! I wonder if my swift might be too soft but I decided to take the chance. It seems to be 50-50 when peeps buy these swifts "affordable-style". I think the swift you mean is Swedish. Can't remember the name right now but that's the one I really wanted!

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  7. Jonathan asked me if I wanted a swift/winder for my birthday and I told him I'm not a serious enough knitter for that! Haha! Your post is so apropos. Congratulations!

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    1. Um, you gotta change your mind, Lady!

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  8. I was my mom's yarn swift as a kid. ;) When I got back to knitting a few years ago the swift and ball winder were pretty high on my wish list. Santa got me a set for Christmas that year. I can't remember the brand, but the winder is the same plastic one my LYS uses. They absolutely do make knitting much more enjoyable.

    Lois K

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    1. Ha! Love that image. And I'm so glad you find them useful.

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  9. LOL - you're certainly a more serious knitter than I am and I own a swift. It's good for hand dyed threads as well. I prefer a hand rolled ball so I haven't bothered with a ball winder. For the thread, I have a gizmo that you attach to the bobbin winder to wind a spool of thread although... to be fair... it's been a long time since I used some hand dyed thread.

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    1. Why am I not surprised you have a swift! What's the name of the gizmo you attach to the bobbin winder. I want to look it up so I have a better sense of it.

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  10. I purchased both about five years ago... I, like you, struggled with the "am I a serious/frequent enough knitter to justify this?" thing until I realized that even the few times a year I needed it would MORE than make the price worth it to me. Especially since, even though I buy my yarn locally, it seemed they were always too busy to ask to wind it when I was there.

    I bought the knitpicks pair... the swift is absolutely great and sturdy and I have zero complaints about it. The winder is much cheaper feeling (being plastic, I suppose) but it was cheap so I'm not complaining. Though, that being said, I don't think I would give my money to knitpicks anytime soon after the horrible way they handled their recent hacking/fraud debacle. Opinions vary on that, of course.

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    1. It's amazing how busy they always are, right when I need my yarn wound! :-) I would have bought the knitpicks combo except I had concerns about the winder. It doesn't look well engineered in the photos I've seen.

      I didn't know about the Knitpicks debacle! I rarely visit the site cuz I have other options. Gotta go look it up.

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    2. Say what you will about Paypal, I'm glad I use it for online shopping... like at Knitpicks!

      I've been winding a lot of balls of yard by hand lately... but Christmas is coming. Maybe Santa will be good to me. :-)

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    3. Oooh, good call on having used Paypal in that instance! I suspect Santa will be good.

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  11. decades of knitting behind me, and I still haven't got either swift or ball winder. And no one, not a single soul, has listened to my hints for same. I suspect I've got to crank up the noise. OR ask more often for outstretched hands to wind on -- I make do with chairbacks. . . .

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    1. That must change! Get vocal Frances. You have earned this perk. :-)

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  12. I'm still using the whingy husband as a yarn swift. I did let him wind a ball once and it was so tight that I didn't think I'd ever be able to use the yarn again. I just wanted to say that Knit Picks is a great option for those of us whose only choice for yarn locally is Wal-Mart. I live in Alberta and they only charge $7.00 for shipping. It's not free, but it is certainly a lot better than most places coming up from the States. I love their wools, and they have some of the softest cottons and blends I've ever handled.

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    1. I know! That's why Scott has to be the swift and not the ball winder. What is it with guys?? Knit Picks is a good site, IMO. But I can actually get really good rates at Quince too (for yarn) or at LYSs here - happily I do have local options. Glad you have found a system that works so well for you.

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  13. I have a beautiful handmade swift that my lovely friends bought me as a birthday gift and a Royal ball winder. They are life enhancing! It's very soothing to sit and wind yarn in this way. You'll love them!

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    1. I sense I will - though the ball winder just arrived and it's VERY cheap seeming. May have to spring for one of the Royals. I mean, if it works, then fine. But it's almost too flimsy for me to want to use it. The swift however, is lovely.

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