Heavy-Duty, Efficient, and Beautiful

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.

tools5I love this winder.

tools6The handle turns really, really, really smoothly and it’s very comfortable in my hand.

tools7It 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).

tools99Another 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.

tools3It is substantial, sturdy, and very well made. It is a practical and simple design, but has details that I think really make it a cut above.

tools9999The base consists of four very stable rubber grips (the other two fold out upon set-up).

tools99999There are measurements carved into the wood, so it easily accommodates skeins ranging from 24″ all the way to 72″circumference.

tools4The adjustable pegs (including one extra) come in a handy little bag and have a curved shape which keeps the skein in place when winding.

tools999And 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.

tools1A 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.

23 responses to “Heavy-Duty, Efficient, and Beautiful

    • You know, I spend a lot of my life using whatever’s cheap & gets the job done. It’s nice to have this little corner of my world where I have the best tools available to work with and getting the job done is effortless. :). It’s the little luxuries sometimes. ☺️

  1. Oh that’s absolutely worth it! Right now I wind off my knees, or when I’m lucky, with my husband holding the skein. I don’t even spin very often and I’d consider that beautiful swift a worthwhile investment!

    • Oh my! As soon as I had my kids, all hand-winding went out the window. It needed to happen just as quickly as possible! The price on the swift is very reasonable considering how well made it is. The fact that it’s gorgeous, too, is just an awesome bonus!

  2. Oh wow, I have serious swift envy right now. I’ve got a shaky old umbrella swift from JoAnn’s that I bought about 6 years ago. It does its job but not without complaining or slipping or falling or squeaking or coming untied. I especially love the sizes marked on the arms of this one, sooooo handy for figuring out yardage on handspun skeins. I’m alright with my Royal ball winder right now (so much better than the KnitPicks one I had) but this swift is something I’ll have to try to get my hands on sooner than later!

    • Absolutely! Like I said in the post, I know my setup is overkill, but it is so effortless and without any of the drama of equipment failure. Definitely take a look!

  3. Hi Sarah! I first saw your lovely swift on Instagram, and as my old umbrella swift is starting to malfunction more & more, I decided to ask for a new one from Hornshaw for my birthday. Only 2 days away now – I can’t wait! My Royal is still going strong for now, but I’m saving up for a Nancy’s ball winder, too. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • You will love the Hornshaw! The first time I used it I remember I looked at my husband and just stood there with my mouth hanging open. Lol! Enjoy!!!

    • It really does – partly just because everything works so well & partly because I feel good about where they came from. Being very beautiful certainly doesn’t hurt though!

  4. Both are absolutely beautiful and works of art in of themselves!! I’m so jealous of both!! And thanks for the recommendation on the swift. Mine is over 7 years old and had never really stayed open from the get-go, so I’ve been searching for a replacement but couldn’t decide between another umbrella style or this windmill-like one. I think you’ve convinced me to get the latter!

    • I was wary of a windmill being less adjustable than an umbrella style, but I’ve been using this one for a couple months now and haven’t had any problems. I love not having to clamp it down and that it’s so quick to setup and breakdown. Plus, with really limited space it folds down pretty small considering how sturdy it is. So yes, I’m very happy & definitely recommend the windmill style!

  5. You work so hard in everything you do and you definitely deserve this luxury. Enjoy! It looks beautiful, like a piece of gorgeous wood art.

  6. I had NO IDEA that balls of yarn weren’t supposed to fly across the room. Huh, learn something new every day. And my swift is one my grandmother got me at an auction about 30 years ago. It is metal, and clamps to a table, and usually wobbles a bit so it hits the table no matter how tight I clamp it. I never knew there were options that worked, but now that I do, I think I had best start saving and saving. Which is hard to do as there is so much yarn to buy.

    Thanks for sharing about these great tools.

    • Lol! I know, right?! I seriously just stood there amazed when I first put both of these 2 pieces together. It is pretty incredible I put set very thing up and know all the equipment will behave. And like I said, I literally just saved for two or three years. Squirreling away birthday monies and a penny here and there. Also a great idea to put on Christmas & birthday wish lists. 😉

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