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How to Choose A Yarn Winder

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Are you thinking of investing in a new yarn ball winder? There are many things to consider when choosing a new yarn winder, which we will delve into today!

Yarn winder comparison

Why You Want a Yarn Ball Winder

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 so many 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.

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.

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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 one).

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 or outside. 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 2 – 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 preferred economical yarn winder is this one from WeCrochet. My second/larger capacity was closer to $70. I’ve used the former (smaller) winder for plenty of cakes with no issues at all, and is a great value if you’re wanting to make smaller cakes or cake leftover yarn.

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, 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. The lesser 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 sure the average user as well). 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:

YouTube video

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) would suffice.

9. How will you store the cakes?

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 love doing with scrap yarn. See how I do this here.

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 and/or own.  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!

Nostepinne Premium Rosewood Center Pull Yarn Ball Winder

Economical Yarn Winders (4 oz-ish)

Knit Picks Winder
*the one in my photos

knit picks yarn winder

Stanwood Needlecraft Hand-Operated Yarn Ball Winder, 4-Ounce (older model)

Stanwood Needlecraft Hand-Operated Yarn Ball Winder, 4-Ounce (newer model)

Knitter’s Pride Wool Winder

Lacis Yarn Ball Winder II

EUBeisaqi Swift Yarn Fiber String Ball Wool Winder Holder Hand Operated New Big

Needlecraft Yarn Ball Winder Hand Operated

High Quality (highly reviewed) Yarn Winders (10 oz)

Stanwood Needlecraft Large Metal Yarn/Fiber/Wool/String Ball Winder, 10-Ounce
*that’s mine!

Best Yarn Ball Winders on the Market


U-nitt Metal Jumbo large yarn/wool/string/fiber ball winder hand operated capacity 10 oz

Lacis Jumbo Yarn Ball Winder (10 oz) 

Heavy Duty Yarn Winders (16 oz)

Olikraft Large Capacity Yarn Winder

Electric Yarn Winders 

Etcokei Automatic Yarn Winder

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?

How to Choose a Yarn Winder

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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  1. For me, it is a nostepinne all the way! A+ portability (wind a centerpull ball in the car), and has all the tension versatility you can shake a stick at.
  2. Ashlea, thank you for this post. You stated you didn’t need a yarn swift - is that because you’re mainly winding from skeins? I’ve been buying more hanks recently, so do I need a swift for those? Thank you if you have any suggestions for me.
  3. Thank you for this really informative and great review. I have ordered the Stanwood 10oz ball winder and cant wait to receive it and put it to work. Thank you! So pleased I found your website and will go through and learn more.
  4. I stand by my Boye electric winder. I've had it for probably 10 years now and it has never let me down. I can control the speed and shut it off if/when the skein I'm winding from decides not to cooperate. The main reason I wanted a winder in the first place was to quickly rewind without killing my wrist & arm muscles. I can't see where a manual winder accomplishes both. ‍♀️
    1. Hi Kathi! There is a entry link box right above the Choosing a Yarn Ball Winder section...you may have mistaken it for an ad. Hope this helps!
  5. I didn't see the one I have and love, http://www.fiberartistsupply.com/maple-jumbo-yarn-ball-winder. They are currently out of stock but are worth the wait.
  6. Thank you for all the research you put in. I have a small ball winder and would love the large 10oz. I couldn't find out what else I had to do to sign up for the contest . I did enjoy reading your post though
  7. I have been wanting one. I find it easier to carry cakes around instead of skeins. And easier for storage.
  8. I would like a Nancy’s yarn winder to add to my crochet tool kit. I am currently focusing on larger skeins of yarn for my projects. I have a Lacis Jumbo that is getting a work out but I need the next size up to work with the Comfort Big Balls. I like the centerpiece but also find that winding wether balls or cakes heads off time lost because of “yarn barfs “ or knots. Time saver and stress buster. Please keep up the informative articles , we are all students of the craft.
    1. I also wanted to get the Nancy yarn winder, but unfortunately, I was informed they are no longer in business. Trying to figure out an equivalent model.
  9. Thanks. I need a new winder. Mine is 51 years old it came from my grandmother's knitting machine. It's starting to come apart at the seams now. I like to centre pull from balls then roll the leftovers with the winder. I use 8ply acrylics alot So a large would be useful. Thanks for the info on what to look for.
  10. Pingback: Acquisition: Yarn Ball Winder – Cozy with Kim
  11. Link exchange is nothing else except it is only placing the other person's blog link on your page at proper place and other person will also do same in favor of you.
  12. Is there a one size fits all? I use 10,16 oz skeins. I don't like to cut the yarn to make 2 balls. What would you suggest?
    1. Is there a one size fits all? I use 10,16 oz skeins. I don't like to cut the yarn to make 2 balls. What would you suggest? I don't work with the bulky yarns. Mostly 3,4 and 5 ply yarns.
  13. Thank you for the reviews. One short-coming in the reviews of the larger capacity winders, though, is very important to me (and a lot of knitters, I imagine). How well does each winder function with larger diameter yarns? Heavy arans, bulky, and chunky weights are in common usage, but will the yarn guides accommodate them without stripping off their "halo" or bloom? And I get asthma attacks if lots of tiny lint particles get into the air. Those heavy weights come in hanks. If the yarn guides are OK, how about the cake size? Are there problems with yarns at the other end of the spectrum, viz, unplied lace and fingering weights? I remember when knitting was far simpler, but I don't remember that it was as much fun! Thanks again.
    1. Hi Ada! I have the 10 oz Stanwood and I've wound bulky weight yarn before. Since the winder can make fairy large cakes I didn't have a problem winding them. That being said, you will probably see the lint particles as you wind. I've noticed the slower I go they aren't so bad. The bulky weight cakes are large and somewhat clumsy when crocheting with them, so I personally ball all of my bulky+ weight by hand and use my yarn bowl. I hope that helps!
      1. Thanks for your speedy reply. I don't know who to use as an immediate source. It's out of stock at Amazon, and I'd like to have it yesterday!
  14. Thank you! I love my swift, which stands tied with ribbon at the edge of my bedside laptop 'desk' and is frequently unfurled to drape hanks of wonderful yarns. (I've had to replace the cotton strings with thin wires to hold it together, as the years have passed.) But I've been wanting to buy a second ball winder since my first, frustrating, flimsy plastic one ended in the recycling bin--I'd been considering the Stanwood 10 oz. but was concerned due to cost. With your comments here, I'll now go for it with no hesitation. No more balls trying to run away!!
  15. wow (again!!).....i can't believe you tried all those winders!!! after reading the reviews on the electric ones, i think i'll stick with my plastic one....i have a big one that will handle the 8oz hanks of blue heron rayon metallic that i just LOVE!!! and i have no issues with it....i put a little piece of rubber nonskid inside the clamp so i can tightly fasten it....i just need a bigger wingnut.... your page was a veritable fount of information!!! thank you!!!
  16. Hi! I love this article. I do a lot of cotton yarn crochet. My favorite yarn is I Love This Cotton. I am rarely able to find the center-pull string on these. One of the articles I read said that in order to use a yarn winder you had to find the center-pull string on your skein. Is that correct? Thanks! Audrey
  17. Thanks for the information! I was wondering: you said, when you found a knot, just to cut it out and keep going. I wasn't able to view you cutting the yarn, but I was wondering if you cut the knot out, then rewrapped the end (onto the yarn winder) and began winding the rest of the skein into the same cake. Or, once you find a knot and cut it out, do you begin creating a new cake so you don't have a loose end buried within the one cake? (Sorry if that is a dumb question. If you forget that you have a loose thread inside the cake you are using for a project, couldn't it cause a problem in knitting or crocheting; for instance, you might have to take out stitches because suddenly the yarn you are using has come to an end?) Also, does the yarn winder always stop and get hung up when a knot is encountered, or can one go through without you realizing it? (As you can probably tell, I have never used a ball winder.) Thanks!
    1. Hi Robin! I don't typically buy hanks, but when I do I wrap them around the back of a child-size chair I have in my craft room. I figured for as little as I would use it, the cost wasn't worth it to me.
  18. Thanks for this post. I decided on the Stanwood 10 ounce. I LOVE it ! :) So easy to use and works perfectly ! I use alot of bulky yarn and this will be perfect for that. I'm actually looking forward to making cakes of yarn . Who knew ?