A quest for perfect yarn cakes, and the Maple Jumbo Yarn Ball Winder

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I was recently chatting with my friend Shannon Cook about the woes of our yarn ball winders. I had been using a smaller plastic ball winder, which annoyed be for several reasons: the yarn guide had to be manually held in place, the table clamp was really shallow and did not fit on any tables I own, and most importantly, it couldn’t handle winding an entire skein of Hinterland Range, which is one of my favourite and most frequently used yarns! We realized we were looking for the same thing: a sturdy, wooden ball winder made to last. Enter: the Jumbo Maple Ball Winder from Fiber Artist Supply Co.

Beyond the winder itself being beautiful, I was really impressed with the amount of research and engineering that went into making this tool so efficient and easy to use. I grew up as the daughter of a fine woodworker and was given an appreciation of creating the smartest and most beautiful things from wood. The fact that my yarn winder now matches my wooden table top swift is also deeply satisfying, in my own Instagram-obsessed way.

This ball winder is heavy and sturdy enough that I didn’t need to clamp it to a table (although it does come with a clamp if you need or want to use it). The winding action is very smooth and satisfying. I tested out the winder using many different yarn weights and skein sizes (in the name of science!) and the ball winder had no issues with turning each into beautiful, even cakes. One thing I will caution against, fellow yarn glamour photographers, is that multiple starts and stops or changes in speed, etc that can happen while you are trying to wind yarn and extensively document the process at the same time can result in a less-than-perfect cake.

When have posted some of my experiments on Instagram earlier, there were some specific questions that people had about the yarn winder that I can now address:

@whistinggirlknits: I want to see it take down a hank of Eco Wool! 💪🏽
See below — this created a cake the size of my head! (For reference: Eco Wool is a bulky weight yarn with a hulking skein size of 250 g / 8.82 oz and approximate yardage: 478 yds / 437 m). 

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@katierojoI haven’t perfected winding lightweight (fingering/sport) yarns on mine. Tips?
I found that having the yarn guide as close to the winding dowel as possible, and slightly offsetting the metal yarn guide towards the same dowel is the ideal setup (you can see an example of this, and more about yarn guide placement here.) I made some cakes of sock yarns (Hedgehog Fibres Sock, Black Cat Custom Yarn Sock) as well as other fingering weight and DK yarns with good results (Brooklyn Tweed Peerie, Quince and Co. Chickadee).

@Pearadiseisland Can it work with any swift?
Yes it can!

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If you are considering one of these winders or want to see more of one in action, I would suggest checking out Timothy’s videos about using the winder and the placement of the yarn guide.

Overall, the attention to detail with the engineering of this winder and its clever, sturdy production makes my heart sing. It is something that was made with usability and longevity in mind, and I am so happy it will be a part of my studio for years to come!