Shortly after we moved into our house a bit over a decade ago, my husband and I were driving along through town when we noticed an estate sale. When we wandered into the garage I noticed something pretty special and asked the gentleman running the sale how much he’d like for it. He said if I could tell him what it was, he’d take $1 for it. And that’s how I got my table-top swift for $1.
It wasn’t the greatest swift. You couldn’t adjust it to accommodate large skeins very easily. It had a tendency to sometimes just start randomly folding up. From time to time the top would detach from the base mid-wind and take a short flight off the table. All these things I forgave it though because it was a $1 swift and for $1 it worked well enough most of the time. Once I got this swift I picked up a Royal ball winder on eBay for a reasonable price and that was my set-up for the next 8 or 9 years and it served me really well.
Then a couple years ago when I started spinning, I found myself creating larger skeins that my swift simply could not physically handle. I could hand-wind those 700 yard skeins, but in all honesty, I don’t have a ton of patience for hand-winding. I started to look for a more substantial set-up. I knew I wanted a winder that could handle large skeins, but I also wanted something heavy-duty so that it would last. I was waffling between the Strauch Jumbo Ball Winder and the Nancy’s Knit Knacks Heavy Duty Ball Winder. Obviously, the price difference had me leaning toward the Strauch, but I had used the Nancy’s Knit Knacks one with the power base in my old LYS and I knew from experience that it was well-built. The Strauch was more of a wild-card for me. I asked the opinion of Kara of Suzy Sells Sea Shells — I think she had mentioned the Strauch in a blog post around that time — and she recommended that if I could wait and save up for the Nancy’s Knit Knacks version that that’s what she would do. Kara had never led me astray and that’s kind of what my gut was telling me to do anyway, so that’s what I did. I saved for about a year and then finally ordered my Heavy Duty Ball Winder and I have never looked back.
It attaches very securely to the table — my Royal used to sometimes come loose mid-wind — but the beauty of this beast is that it’s heavy enough that if I’m just doing a small skein or two, I don’t even have to bother with this step. The winder’s weight is enough to hold it in place as long as I don’t try to wind a zillion yards per minute (which you shouldn’t really be doing anyway).
Another great feature is that the yarn guide arm can be rotated along the base 180degrees which allows me to adjust the angle and tension when I’m winding. This is a very nice for me considering I don’t have a specific winding station so I set-up in different positions depending on the surfaces available at the time. The tension post can also be rotated which gives me further control over the tension on the yarn when winding. This means that as long as I have the patience and take the time, I can wind a perfect center-pull ball ever time.
Now I had my monster once-in-a-lifetime splurge of a ball winder, but still had the $1 winder. Needless to say the budget was pretty blown with the winder so I anew I’d be using my big fancy winder with my estate sale classic swift for a while. It was kind of a funny juxtaposition — this beautiful, sleek, smooth running winder working with my swift with all it’s quirky issues. But we make do, right?
While saving my pennies, I researched winders. Originally I was just thinking of going with a generic umbrella swift, but because of my space issues I was wary of the ones that have to be clamped. Also, like the winder, I was interested in finding a swift that would last. Admittedly I’m not the greatest when it comes to internet research, but I just wasn’t finding it. You know what I’m talking about — the right combination of design elements, cost, and quality. My new swift was eluding me.
It just so happened around Christmas time of last year that I received a Knitter’s Review email from the esteemed Clara Parkes in which she shared a bunch of gift ideas and in it were a few top-notch swifts. I took a look and as soon as I popped over to the Hornshaw Wood Works Etsy shop and saw these beautiful table top swifts, I knew I’d found it. It was right before Christmas though and stock was low. I had a brief exchange regarding restocking timeframes with Tim Hornshaw, the craftsman behind the shop, and he graciously offered to notify me when he’d have new swifts ready for sale. He makes all his swifts in his shop — using his engineering background he has a program that cuts all the pieces from a single slab of wood and then he sands and hand fits all the pieces together.
He offers a swifts in a number of beautiful types of wood and I had originally planned on getting an oak swift, but in the 11th hour I went with the cherry. Shipping was super fast, but unfortunately the USPS abused the box — the excellent packing job from the shop was no match for the fact that it was clearly dropped quite hard — both ends were smashed and one side was actually punctured. A small piece was broken upon arrival and it was heartbreaking!
The customer service of Mr Hornshaw that ensued, however, was incredible. He responded within an hour of my email notifying him of the problem and he had a new swift in my hands in less than a week.
And the little tree logo on the top is just a little added bit of beauty that I had to share because I just love it. The whole swift folds up for easy storage and even has a little locking attribute to keep it all together when on the move.
I can honestly say that I did not know what I was missing until now. I could have kept on with my Royal ball winder and $1 swift for years, cursing them both when yarn balls went flying. Clearly I’m aware that this set-up is extravagant — I’m actually a little embarrassed to share it for that reason, but at the same time… wow do I ever appreciate it every single time I bring it out. It winds all my yarn smoothly and easily cuts the time I spend winding yarn in half.
A luxury I will never take for granted, the efficiency, beauty, and heavy-duty quality that comprises my yarn winding set-up make it a cherished part of my tool set. It maybe have taken 3years to assemble this team, but it was worth the wait and worth every penny.