Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Yarn swift and winder

Being a bit tired of winding hanks of yarn by hand, some time ago I started looking for an umbrella swift and a yarn winder.

I wanted a wooden umbrella swift because I love how they look, to be honest, but they also seem to be sturdy and useful. I prefer to spend a little more money and get a more durable item that performs well, so regarding the wool winder it wasn't at all clear to me which one to go for. I found a couple of great-looking ones, but the cost is a bit prohibitive for me at the moment. I wasn't convinced by the little plastic ones that pop up often either. I am not a fan of plastic moving parts, and I read reports of them wearing off or breaking.

Several weeks ago I found a relatively local source for the umbrella swift (in the NL), and the price + shipping was good. I bought it from stormopzolder.nl/ (here, at the very bottom of the page, as "wolhaspel") and received it promptly. Good service, I recommend it! The swift in particular is a Glimakra, made in Sweden out of birch wood.

There are a couple of wire girdles and the poles are tied with string, for the rest it is entirely and nicely made out of wood.

Loki needs to inspect everything...
When I received it, the finish was pretty good, but I still sanded the central parts where the wool would rest with a 600 grit emery paper (this is pretty fine-grained), since very thin wool was still catching slightly on it. I also rubbed a piece of white soap along the wooden parts that have friction to make movement easier.

This project is an Ugh
The second (yellow), slightly better
For a while I did wind by hand out if it, which was already an improvement from having the wool resting on some chair backs. I also tried an improvised nostepinne, out of a tool I use in the jewellery workshop, which admittedly is a little too short. This made nice(r) cakes, at least after trying a few times, but honestly, it was still a pain!

So tedious!
This was epic, 875 yards of Drops Lace yarn. Gah.
By the end you can see I got kind of lazy... but I swear it is nicer inside ;P
So I continued researching yarn winders, and it wasn't too easy to find reviews. Eventually, scouring German Ebay for "wollwickler", I found an expired (sold) listing for a vintage yarn winder that looked pretty solid: Knittax wollwickler (wool winder). I also found a handful of mentions via Google searches and people seemed to be happy with this item. I found a listing on Ebay.com (from the US) for a reasonable price (including the shipping, more than a plastic winder, a lot less than a modern wooden winder), so I went ahead and bought it.

I received it just today! I am very happy with the construction. It is built around a sturdy cast iron body, with machined gears, other metal moving parts, a wooden handle and cone for the wool (smooth and varnished) which also has rubber ring at its base.

In fact, there was some sort of lightweight metal swift in the box as well, but missing the clamp for the table, and I am not very interested in it anyway so I put it away in its box.

I impatiently put it to the test! first I wound was a skein of 50g of Drops Karisma DK weight (which totally didn't need to be wound but I had just received it this morning and was thus very much at hand!). Next were a couple of partial (less than 50g) hanks of Cascade 220 sport-weight wool. All of them went like a dream.

Winding the yarn a few times, then inserting it into the slit.
This way you will find the strand for a center pull cake.

Next was another 50g of Isager Spinni Tweed, which is like a light fingering weight and very sticky yarn (I love the texture of this yarn, but it is so annoying to wind by hand!). This also went well, although there was more resistance. I felt I needed to feed the yarn from the swift somewhat to avoid a cake that was too tensely wound. Here the Spinni Tweed, Karisma, and both Cascade 220 (green and brown cakes).

On to more serious matters, next was a 100gr hank of Marine Silk from Blue Moon Fiber Arts, a heavy hank (the instructions of the winder recommend max. 50gr of yarn) of a slightly slippery, generous fingering wool weight yarn. This most definitely needed help along the way. I found some sort of rhythm that worked well and rather quick. I made a little video:

Once there was less yarn in the swift, it went along easier.

And then I moved along to the last ordeal: 100g of lace-weight, single ply wool, a whopping 1100y. I love this wool! It is Tanhu from Wetterhoff, a Finnish brand. This yarn is temporarily unavailable, and I do hope it comes back in stock soon because it is delicious. 

This time I mounted the swift horizontally (and had to clamp it on the cat tree since I couldn't do that on any of my tables!), since this may help the unwinding along, and it did.

Perhaps it would have been best to help the yarn along as well, but I wanted to try not doing so, and the skein ended up a little bit tight, such that it wasn't as easy to remove from the winder once finished. The cone is wide, however, and once out, with the yarn relaxing inwards and a little massage, the cake does not feel particularly tight to me.

Tanhu and Marine Silk
All in all, I am very happy with this team! :) I do recommend this winder, they still pop up now and then on Ebay.

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