My current work in progress:

Seaforth designed by Alice Starmore, knit in British Breeds 5-ply Guernsey Wool on US 3 needles.


Yay! For Electric Ballwinders

When I purchased my electric ballwinder a while back (two years now?) I thought it was a bit of a frivolous purchase. But that is so not the case!

I bought the larger size winder (the link to the exact model I bought is in yesterday’s blog entry) and have not regretted it for a minute. It has adjustable tension, and will wind a ball up to 8 ounces.

Therefore, yes, I can wind an entire skein of Helen’s Laces (1250 yards) into one ball on it. This does save a lot of wear and tear on the old arm.

I am very careful not to twist the skein as I put it on my swift, so that it will come off easily when I turn on the ballwinder. But after that, said ballwinder does all the work — I just stay nearby so that I can switch it off quickly should the process hit a snag.

Size Matters

Erin asked:
Is there a standard width that you should shoot for on shawls? I’m getting close to finishing the Os and Vs shawl from Martha Waterman’s Traditional Knitted Lace Shawls, and she says her circle was 34″ across, which seems a bit small to me. Mine looks like it will end up closer to 42-44″ across. How do you know what sizes to shoot for?

It depends on the size of the recipient, and how big you want the shawl to be. Off the top of my head, I think most square shawls range from 54 to 60″ square.

And I think a good rule of thumb for triangle shawls is to make them as wide across the long edge as the recipient is tall. There’s a bit of advice in the Waterman book, btw, that says to make the long edge the same as the recipient’s wngspan, as it were.

Speaking of Shawls

I’m nearing the end of the “body” of the Woodland shawl — soon I’ll be knitting the edging.


(I see my photo stylist got in the shot there.)



  1. Be ingenious… use something you already own, your electric mixer, for that ball winder!

  2. Looks like I should save up some pennies for that baby. I bought a large manual winder last year which I can wind about 1600 yds on but, man, is it a workout on the arms.

  3. On the other hand, does winding count as aerobic exercise? How many calories does winding a large skein of laceweight consume? Just wondering (hoping?).

  4. schmendie says:

    Schacht stopped selling the electric ball winder in 2004. They refer you to the manufacturer, who is located in England. The only way to buy one would be to contact the company via e-mail or call them. The web site URL is

  5. Damn, Wendy, how the hell do you get things done so quickly? Is Lucy knitting for you while you sleep?

  6. Wendy, I adore your Woodland shawl… sure am looking forward to seeing it all finished.

    ps… Zak the Cat has the hots for Lucy… no mean feat since he ummm, meows soprano (so to speak).

  7. That shawl is looking fantastic – cute stylist!

  8. Hi Wendy!

    I just wanted to stop by to thank you for the fingerless mitts pattern! My MIL can’t knit, but loves to shop for yarn. She bought me two skeins of Noro and told me to make a sweater. I didn’t know what to do with just two skeins –I hate scarves– so I searched around and viola! The mitts! I made them over the weekend and love them. They’ll be perfect for my work.

    As a sidenote, my husband now wants a pair (not in pink) so he can play his PSP while waiting for the bus.

  9. Wendy, I am sure you already know this, but the measurement on each person from fingertip to fingertip is their height. The only exception to this is of course amputees. ๐Ÿ™‚ So both instructions say essentially the same thing. ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. I was wondering the other day if you wash your shawls – I have several that I drag back and forth to work and a couple are starting to look a little dingy, but the idea of a complete reblock is sort of discouraging. Do you do that?

  11. “the measurement on each person from fingertip to fingertip is their height” — yes, but only approximately. If an inch or two will make a difference, don’t use this method alone! When I was a rock climber (that’s “rocks”, not walls inside buildings with clay pieces screwed into them) we used to talk about a person’s “ape index,” any additional length in their fingertip-to-fingertip measurement over their height. I have (absurdly) long arms, so I had a visible ape index (although I can’t recall the number anymore).

    Love the shawl — I’m using the same colorway in Lion & Lamb!

  12. That’s how you do 1200+ yds of lace weight! I DO need an electric ball winder!

  13. Thanks for the answer! I couldn’t imagine winding an entire hank of Helen’s Lace by hand.

    Your electric ballwinder has got me thinking now. I’ve always loved my manual one, but the idea of an electric one made my heart skip a beat!

    Your shawl is progressing so beautifully. I love those colors.

  14. Caroline M says:

    I wound 2000m of laceweight this afternoon, thinking about your electric winder ALL the time. I followed the links tonight only to find that I live less than an hour from the manufacturers (in Nottingham). I’m not tempted though – I’d rather spend the money on yarn. There is something quite theraputic about turning the handle and watching the arms on the skein holder whizz by in a blur. (If I repeat that often enough I’ll come to believe it…)

    I visit often but I’ve never posted before – I’ve been following your Inky Dinky with great interest. I’m not ready for it yet, maybe in three shawl’s time.

  15. I’m a relatively new knitter (just started my 4th sweater – this one with cables!!!) and I stumbled upon this site when I was looking for aran sweater patterns. Thanks for such an entertaining and informative blog – I find myself checking it every day and I’m not a lace knitter.

    I haven’t commented before but I just finished winding a ball of yarn with my new swift (it isn’t umbrella style and I love it). Your post and the ensuing comments make me think I’m the odd one out. I actually prefer to wind old-fashioned balls by hand. Granted, it’s easier because it isn’t thousands of yards of lace weight at a time, but am I the only one? I guess it isn’t out of character for me – I sew on an old Singer treadle machine!!!