Hey, crochet friend! Are you thinking of investing in a new yarn ball winder? If so, you might find yourself asking why you should want one, how much you should spend, how large of yarn cakes different brands can wind and if you should get a manual hand crank or an electric yarn winder. So many options and price points! Check out this list of 10 things to consider when choosing the best yarn ball winder to truly fit your needs, and a comprehensive list of your options!
Why You Want a Yarn Ball Winder
I’ll be honest, I crocheted for years without owning a yarn ball winder. I thought I didn’t need one (and truth be told I got along without it just fine so don’t feel bad if you decide not to). I now own two different brands/models/sizes and I absolutely love them (one more than the other but we’ll get to that). So why do you want a yarn ball winder, you ask? Well…
Cakes made from yarn ball winders don’t move around like hand wound (spherical) yarn balls do. To me, you either wind yarn into actual balls by hand and use a yarn bowl to keep it from flopping around like a fish out of water OR you use a yarn ball winder to form center-pull yarn cakes that sit flat and won’t move around as you work. Also, a yarn winder does as much in one turn of the crank as what you can do by hand in 25!
Yarn ball winders are also a preemptive way of inspecting your yarn for knots or weak points so you can fix them before you start working (see the video below for a perfect example). Winding your yarn before use also prevents it from getting as tangled as it might if you were to pull directly from the skein. Get toward the end of that skein without winding first and you’ve got a decent chance that some yarn barf will be involved in there somewhere. Am I right or am I right? Ha! Don’t spend time untangling yarn when you should be spending that time crocheting!
With a yarn ball winder you can also make your own yarn cakes from scrap yarn instead of buying one of the five main brands. Also, any partial skeins you have left over from a project are much easier to keep organized if they are in cakes instead of floppy skeins.
Do you have to have a yarn winder? Of course not. But if you want one, there are some questions you need to ask yourself first.
Choosing a Yarn Ball Winder
1. Manual or electric yarn ball winder?
This will be personal preference of course, but let’s talk about the whys of each. First, the electric winders do tend to be more pricey than the manual winders (like this electric winder on the low end at $89 or this one for about $210 after shipping).
One thing I prefer about my manual yarn winders is that I am in control at all times. (You can ask my husband about that! Bahahaha!! ) If you go the electric route, remember that it will need to be positioned near an electrical outlet while in use, whereas the hand crank winders can be attached to just about any table or counter top in your home. My vote is for portability!
2. Hank or skein?
Will you be winding from a hank of yarn or from a skein of yarn? Hanks are typically “fancier” yarns purchased at yarn specialty shops or those that were hand dyed, whereas yarn purchased from craft stores such as Michaels or Jo-Ann or Hobby Lobby are typically sold in skeins. If using a hank, you’ll definitely want to wind it before using. Skeins could go either way.
3. Will you also need a yarn swift?
If you purchase yarn in hanks, you will be much happier if you invest in a yarn swift as well as a winder. When you untwist a hank, it will look like a large circle of yarn. Snip off the small bits of yarn holding it all together (from 1 – 4 depending on the hank), and instead of wrapping it around the back of a chair (for example) you’ll wrap it around the yarn swift itself. The swift will spin in a circle while you wind the yarn into a cake with your winder.
You couldn’t pay me enough to crochet straight from a hank!
4. What is your budget?
My first manual yarn winder cost me right around $15. My second was closer to $70. The functionality and performance between the two is nothing short of astounding. Does the $15 winder work? Sure! I used it to create my entire yarn wall, after all. Yes, the entire thing.
I’ve used that winder for four years now with no issues at all, and is a great value if you’re wanting to make smaller cakes. Here’s a video of my inexpensive winder in action:
5. Wood or Plastic (sturdiness of winder)
Pay attention to the materials used in your yarn winder as these play a large part in how well (and for how many years) it will get the job done. The gears on the cheaper yarn winder could eat your yarn right up if it slips underneath (which happens more frequently than I’d like), whereas with a more expensive yarn winder the gears are typically better protected (and the yarn rarely slips because it can hold more).
6. What about tension?
Will you want to hold the yarn as you wind? I do, for two reasons:
a.) I like to have control of the yarn as it winds.
b.) The cakes are much tighter – meaning you can fit more on each.
I prefer to run the yarn through my left hand to control tension while I manually crank with my right, and many electric winders suggest that you provide extra tension while winding as well (I’ve found very few that control tension for you – and let me tell you those puppies are expensive)! If I’m going to hold the yarn with any of the models I can afford, I’d rather have the manual crank but then again that all comes down to personal preference.
7. How large of yarn cakes will you wind?
One of the most important things to research in your quest for a new yarn ball winder is the size of cakes each can make – ie. how much yarn it will hold. The least expensive yarn winder on the market can hold 3.5 – 4 oz of yarn (about half of an “average”skein of I Love This Yarn, Big Twist, Impeccable, Red Heart Super Saver etc) while the largest yarn winder can hold an entire Caron One Pound (16 oz of yarn). Note that the yarn ball winder that can hold 16 oz+ of yarn is also as expensive as a nice monthly car payment. Yowza!
The largest yarn winder I own can hold up to 10 oz of yarn which is plenty for me (and I’m guessing for the average user). For reference, those “average” skeins I mentioned above are typically around 7 oz each so you could wind an entire skein plus some on this guy.
Too small of a winder and you’ll have to break each skein in two – unless you’re only winding partially used skeins then it wouldn’t matter as much. Here’s my Stanwood 10 oz in action:
8. Will you use your yarn ball winder for partial skeins or whole skeins?
Will you wind every single skein before using the yarn, or will you only wind partially used skeins after use for easier storage? If you’re only planning to use it on partial skeins, a 4 oz winder (like this one or this one) would probably suffice.
9. How will you store them?
This goes along with yarn storage more than yarn usage, but floppy half-skeins are a pain to keep organized. Instead, wind those partial skeins after you’re done to use later in a scrapghan or in other small projects. You can’t use up what you have if you have no idea what you have.
10. Will you be making your own yarn cakes?
Making my own yarn cakes is something that I am just now learning to master. Now that I have a winder that will wind a cake larger than say, a Caron Cake, I will be creating my own cakes from other partial skeins. I can’t wait to share with you how I’m doing this!
Different yarn winders on the Market
Below is a list of ALL of the yarn winders I found on the market. Be sure to read the reviews before purchasing, I’ve noted which ones I have tried. Note that I did not include the hand mixer/paper towel tube here. 😉 I’ve seen horror stories so try that at your own risk.
Hand-held Yarn Winders
Yarn Winder by Yarn Valet
*also has a compartment for hooks!
Economical Yarn Winders (4 oz-ish)
Windaze Portable Hand Operated Winder
High Quality (highly reviewed) Yarn Winders (10 oz)
Lacis Jumbo Yarn Ball Winder (10 oz)
Heavy Duty Yarn Winders (16 oz)
Electric Yarn Winders
Here’s the skinny:
If you’re wanting to wind smaller, partial skeins, a less expensive winder will probably work great for you. If you’re wanting to step up your yarn game, if you purchase “fancier” yarns, if you are investing in your crocheting business or if you want to learn to make your own yarn cakes, I’d go with something a little higher end.
After all of my research I decided to go with this Stanwood 10 oz yarn winder. Large enough for all of my needs, it is durable, I can use it anywhere in my home and it stores away nicely. I did not have to invest in a yarn swift to use it, and I am looking forward to creating countless yarn cakes of my own design for years to come. Watch for a tutorial on that soon!
Which yarn ball winder will you choose?
More crochet and yarn love:
What to Do When You Forget Which Crochet Hook Size You Used
5 Reasons You Should Time Yourself While Crocheting
How to Crochet: Understanding Crochet Gauge and How to Measure It
5 Tips for Changing Colors in Corner to Corner Crochet (C2C)
How to Add a Border in Crochet
How to Keep Straight Edges in Crochet
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