I have researched enough to know when it comes to a ball winder you get what you pay for. While a $26~ investment post-tax isn’t exactly cheap, this is on the low end of the scale for winders. With that being considered, I didn’t expect great things. With mostly favorable reviews, however, I did expect it to do the job reasonably well. Amazon product page: click here
The short version for those not interested in details: I have already set up a return, I am that disappointed. If you’re thinking of this one, my recommendation is to pass. You’re better off paying more for something you will be happy with than paying less for something you’re disappointed in.
Edit: For a review of the winder I chose after returning this one, click here.
For those who want details:
The first cake I wound turned out reasonably well. The middle was a bit messy, but it was a promising start. Every hank of yarn I wound afterward, however, was a disaster.
The first complaint I have is that the gears are a bit jumpy when turning. If you just wind the handle with no yarn attached it seems fine, but as soon as yarn is attached it gets jumpy for some reason.
The second complaint I have is noise. This sucker is pretty noisy. Like had to turn the volume up on the TV while using it noisy. I didn’t expect it to be totally silent, but I didn’t expect it to be as noisy as it is either.
Both of those could be overlooked if not for my biggest complaint: the yarn continually “skips” while winding (which coincides with the jumpiness of the gears) and this is completely unacceptable. It leads to messy centers and tangled yarn inside the wound cakes. I tried using different weights of yarn (but didn’t venture to my lace weights, I was too afraid of ruining them), winding at different speeds, having the swift placed in differing positions in relation to the winder, all to no avail.
What do I mean by the yarn “skipping”? The yarn is meant to be worked back and forth, evenly wrapping into a ball/cake (whichever term you prefer). When it skips, it doesn’t keep that smooth continuous wrapping but instead wraps around the spindle of the winder beside the already formed cake. I took a picture for clarification of what I mean:
See those wraps to the left? Those are what happens when the yarn skips, and it causes nothing but trouble later when using the yarn.
The ONLY thing I found worked to minimize the skipping, but still didn’t totally eliminate it, was winding with absolutely no tension on the yarn feeding into the winder. Which is pointless because the resulting cakes are so loose they don’t hold together and are not very compact, and if you’re winding from a hank (as opposed to simply re-winding a skein or ball) you are going to end up with a horribly tangled mess of yarn without the use of a swift. I tried putting the yarn very loosely on the swift till there was as little tension as possible as it turned, but still the yarn kept skipping.
I attempted to tidy up the “yarn guts” that were popping up (a result of the skipping) making a mess of the centers of the yarn, having more success with a couple than others. I wound nine cakes total, trying to figure out if it was a matter of there being a learning curve to using this winder or if in fact it’s just a crummy winder. With so little success I can only determine it is the winder, not me. I have used my sister’s winder (the one that comes in this swift and winder set from Paradise Fibers: click here) without problems like this. So it’s not as if I am unfamiliar with using a winder.
I wanted to be happy with this one. I did not have to love it, but the results from using it are just not worth it. If I’m left thinking I would rather hand wind my yarn, then it was not at all worth the money. I’ll be dropping it off at the nearest UPS drop-off location next week to return it, and once the refund goes through I’ll be ordering a different one. I have already picked out the one I plan to order, it’s got significantly more reviews than this one and seems to be loved by most folks who have it. It’s about $65 so a significantly bigger investment but like I said, I know from research when it comes to winders a truly good one isn’t going to come with a low price tag. Hopefully things will go much more smoothly with that one once I get it. Both figuratively and literally. I’ll review it once the time comes of course.