My current work in progress:

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


Mac Daddy Ball Winder

I have worked my way through many a ball winder in my knitting life.

My first ball winder was one of those small plastic ones. It more or less got the job done until it broke.  Then I found an electric ball winder that lasted me many years before finally dying  last year. It was expensive, but it didn’t owe me anything: I wound countless skeins of yarns into balls on that bad boy before it finally gave up the ghost. (I did take it apart to perform a postmortem in hopes that I could resurrect it, to no avail.)

Since the old electric winder died I’ve been in a quandry. I have one of those Boye electric ball winders, but it does not work well for large jobs and the tension control is not good.

Recently I have been using this winder, which has done a fairly good job:


It winds large skeins: 8 ounces and bigger. That made me happy. What made me not-so-happy is that the metal L-shaped arm that sticks out in front that you feed the yarn through is not firmly affixed to the base of the winder. There is a wing nut that is supposed to hold it into place, but it does not. So for every skein of yarn I wind, I end up turning the handle with one hand and holding the L-shaped arm in place with the other. As you might expect, this is not a terribly comfortable position to be in for more than a few minutes. When one has back and spine issues, it quickly degenerates into unbearable.

So last week I got this:


This is the heavy duty ball winder I ordered online from Nancy’s Knit Knacks.

(Disclaimer: I purchased this ball winder at retail price — it was not sent to me at a discount or free of charge to review, nor was any review solicited from the company. I proactively ordered it because I needed a new ball winder. I mention this only because someone posted in a Ravelry forum recently questioning my integrity and the integrity of a product review, conjecturing that it was likely that I was being compensated for writing a positive review.)

I paid for 2-day FedEx shipping and got an email from Nancy — because they are located one state away from me, she sent it regular FedEx (because it would arrive just as quickly) and refunded me the difference. Nice customer service and attention to detail there.

Before purchasing the winder, I checked out the video tutorials posted on You Tube. There are lots of great tutorials on Nancy’s Knit Knacks YouTube Channel for a number of their products. By viewing the videos, reading material on the website, and reading comments made by other people on Ravelry, I got the impression that this is a company that makes quality tools and stands behind their work.

When the winder arrived, I was pleased to see how well-packaged it was — very little chance of it getting damaged in shipping. I took it out of the box and set it up. It was completely assembled, apart from my needing to attach the table clamps. Nancy’s Knit Knacks had recommended trying it as-is without making any adjustments the first time. (They did  include in the box the one tool you need to make adjustments — a nut driver.) I wound a 400-yard skein of sock yarn into a ball with absolutely no problems or issues whatsoever.

This is a big, sturdy ball winder and it is beautifully crafted. The handle turns perfectly smoothly and effortlessly. No added strain on arm and back!

Yes, it is expensive ($250), but for me, totally worth the money. I think this is the last ball winder I will have to buy.

You can purchase a separate “power base” for this winder so you can turn it in to an electric winder. It is not a cheap add-on, but if the power base is crafted with the same quality as the winder, I think it would be worth it for people who need a production winder. Before I got the winder I was considering the possibility of adding on a power base, but don’t think I will. The manual winder works so beautifully for me, I don’t think I need it.

I wound some Wollmeise Merino DK on it this past weekend.


This is a large skein — over 200 grams. 236 grams, to be exact.


The winder handled it beautifully.

The only criticism I have — I think the Nancy’s Knit Knacks website needs to be re-designed — I found it jumbled and confusing. But it is worth digging through — there is a lot of great information there.

Oh, that skein of Wollmeise? Here it is:


Can you tell what it is going to become?

Lucy sez:


“When the weather is hot and humid, frequent naps are essential to keep up one’s strength!”



  1. I’ve heard nothing but good things about any of their products!

  2. I just got the Stanwood Needlecraft Large Metal Yarn/Fiber/Wool/String Ball Winder. I put a sheet of the bubble wrap under the L arm. It keeps it in place & stops it from moving. 🙂 I’ve looked at heavy duty ball winder and it looks great but too much for me right now. I hope its the last one you need.
    Lilie´s last blog post ..Pink Cowl – WIP

  3. Please tell me that someone was not THAT shallow as to question your opinion on different products….it seems that “someone” may have too much time in his/her hands…..
    So…I sit here on my recliner. I was scheduled to have a left knee replacement yesterday, but on Saturday I decided to wax the kitchen (so my house would be pretty upon my return) and fell, braking the other knee…. So surgery will be postponed for several weeks, as at the moment, I literally don’t have a leg to stand on!!! (insert laughter and drum roll here)…..My goal, this week, is to go to your very first blog post and move up from there…..It should keep me entertained… :):)
    Maria Neill´s last blog post ..In memory of my beloved Mother

  4. linda broglan says:

    Do you use a yarn meter to track how much yarn is in a “ball”?
    I’ve been considering one and wondered if the are that useful.

  5. You find such great tools…like your scale…

  6. That’s one wowza of a ball winder!

  7. Wollemeise looks like Grasshopper? I forget the German spelling, love the colorway!

  8. Barbara Fredrick says:

    The Wollemeise is beautiful. I think you are making a most elegant afghan for Lucy!

  9. That looks like a great winder. I have a Royal, little plastic one. It’s ok, but the tension is not always right. Not sure how to adjust it.

    Someone questioned your integrity, really? Whoa.
    pdxknitterati/michele´s last blog post ..Yarn and laughter hangover

  10. Ruth Porter says:

    Santa brought me one of these after seeing it at our LYS. The engineer in him loved it. Works like a charm; I certainly concur with your review.

  11. My LYS has one of these ball winders. It gets lots of use and winds like a dream. I’m sure you will love it.
    Sallie´s last blog post ..Bar Hopping Cowl

  12. Catherine S. says:

    Definitely AS Maidenhair. Beautiful color and yarn for that sweater, Wendy. That one’s been on my Someday List since her Aran book came out. I’ve only knit Grapevine from that book and want to have Cromarty in my closet.

  13. KathyM in SE VA says:

    Thanks for the winder review. What I need is a good swift! Any suggestions on that? (And boo to anyone who questions your integrity. Geesh, that’s incredible.)

  14. Kathleen says:

    Great products and great customer service from Nancy’s Knit Knack’s. Good to have your opinion on the ball winder. When mine dies I’ll look at Nancy’s to replace it. Have you tried their Yarn Pet? Makes it easy to knit from the outside of a skein without getting the yarn tangled.

  15. MelissaHB says:

    I have went through alot of cheap ball winders and after a particular bad experience with the last one (which involved ALOT of swearing) I bought the heavy duty ball winder too. Its SO WORTH IT!!

  16. Midnite Baker says:

    Yep, you got yourself a nice, handy, dandy ball winder. If I could, I’d have one of those too. But, I can’t justify it. I have one of those plastic things, which I bought well over 30 years ago and I think I have used it less than a dozen times. Sparky is being her unique self and says ” Hi” to Lucy. M

  17. Your timing is amazing… I just had a fight with my ball winder, one of the little plastic ones that everyone buys. It has not been completely fine up until now, but this time it was a complete p.i.t.a. It seems to be a bit too small for the skein I was winding, and the little wire guide has always done weird things depending on its position, and this time was no exception.

    I can’t really justify the Knit Knacks one, but I’ve been looking at the U-Nitt ones with the larger capacity and the metal guts.

    I finally bought a Beka swift, after my previous collapsible one dumped a skein of Hand Maiden Silk Maiden(?) that I’m still trying to untangle. It’s great but just eats up so much space. I decided that it was the best choice, though, for never again doing that to a skein.

  18. I’m not sure what your Wollemeise is going to become, but I know it’s going to be gorgeous! I just love seeing what you’re knitting!

    As far as Nancy’s Knit Knacks – they are a superb company. I’ve never had anything less than wonderful from them. My favorite thing from them is their Knee-Sel, a document holder that lets me put my pattern upright on my knee and holds it firmly. Mine is all navy and I see that the new ones are in a patterned fabric, but it’s so wonderful for patterns that need to be closely followed (I don’t have your memory for patterns). It’s very lightweight and can be used for more than patterns too. They have a lot of great gadgets – and no, I don’t work for them either, I just love their products!

  19. I’m guessing an Aran sweater.

    If my inexpensive ball winder ever breaks I know what blog page I’m going to reread. Thank you.

  20. Wow, that’s some spiffy winder! I have a little one, which was a gift, and so far I’ve not been unhappy with it. My swift is very lightweight, and I’d love to replace it with something sturdier, but the name on this product of Japan is “Almighty Reeler” — which just cracks me up so much that I can’t get rid of it!
    Mmm, I love green yarn; that’s got to be an Aran-style wrap or cardi. Have you considered shaving Miss Lucy for the summer? We’ve thought about it for Miss Hinky-Boo, but I think she’d go into hiding for at least a month if we did it.
    CeltChick´s last blog post ..Bunny Hop

  21. Louise in Maryland says:

    I bought the same winder for myself – along with a real nice wooden swift, the first winder and swift I ever actually owned after over 45 years knitting and hand-winding balls with the skeins draped over my own knees when I couldn’t press a child or some other helpless person into service. I’ve been working that baby the last 8 years and still love it to death – I’ve never had to adjust mine at all. Not an inexpensive tool, but I’m unlikely to stop knitting any time soon and this makes winding a 1200 yard hank of laceweight yarn not seem like a huge task.

  22. I managed to destroy, or atleast fatally damage, my Beka swift, but I replaced it with one from Crazy Monkey Creations that is my favorite yet.

    For awhile they were gone, but they seem to be back now. I got the hand reskeiner, which is composed of a swift on one side of the support base and, basically, a swift-with-a-handle on the other side. Love it, love it, love it!

  23. When my plastic one bit the ghost last year, I looked for a better winder. I ended up narrowing my choices down to the one you got and the Strauch ( ). I went with the strauch, mostly because it was $100 cheaper. It winds a huge amount of yarn! I normally don’t want to use a ball nearly as large as its upper limit (well over 800yds of sock yarn). It looks like the wooden spindle for the tensioner is probably more stable than the Strauch’s wire arm, which is secure, but, of course, flexible, and the more stable the tensioner, the nicer the cake….but, still, the strauch is a lot cheaper (yet, quite expensive!)

    I am delighted to see that there are at least two US companies making winders for us in the US!

  24. Carol christoffersen says:

    I have this ball winder. Love it.

  25. Oooooooooo should I buy one of these hhhhhhhhmmmmmmmmmmm…

    Very pretty green yarn! I do love a bit of Wollmeise. Beautiful knitting. I can’t wait to see it finished!

    Pinkadele´s last blog post ..Appreciating Brands!

  26. Christienne L Stewen says:

    Hey Wendy – Thanks so much for posting about the ball winder saga! 🙂 I had it in the back of my brain to put a ball winder on my next holiday wish list – this one looks like a good one, but I would also need a swift … If you have any suggestions, I’d be happy to listen.
    Totally cute Lucy pic too btw. Enjoy your weekend and your winder!

  27. Mary Lou says:

    Whoever questioned you on your “promotions” needs to get a life. Not once have I ever entertained the thought that you might be receiving remunerations for your endorsements. Anyway, it’s your blog, your thoughts, your opinions, so carry on. I have learned so much from your posts and I always enjoy reading about Lucy’s antics. Thank you for sharing your knitting life.

  28. I’ve had this ball winder for about 2 years now and simply put it was money well spent – absolutely love it !!!
    Karen´s last blog post ..In Progress