August 2nd, 2013

Yarn Cake

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In the retail store, customers sometimes look at our ball-winder-and-swift set-up and ask us if we can wind their skeined yarn for them. “No,” we say gently. “We can show you how to do and you can get right on it.” There’s usually a look of panic, or a plea (“just for me? I can’t possibly.”) but we’re firm–because the beauty of a ball winder and a swift is that you can wind up any skein of yarn with less than three minutes of instruction, and it will usually take about 17 seconds for a long, twisty skein to turn into a firm, compact yarn cake. In my first years of knitting, I used to make my husband hold his arms out like a robot to wind a skein into a ball, and when he wasn’t around, I’d have my kids do it. However, it didn’t take long for them to become bored and annoyed at the constant demands on their time (very important things to do! Pokemon cards to look at! Legos to leave on the floor so that I step on them, barefoot, and cry!), and I’d start bribing them with candy, and then with cold, hard cash.

A tasty skein of Northampton Sport, wound into a cake!

A friend and co-worker convinced me to invest in a ball-winder and swift combo. I was really hesitant about doing this, because for some reason I thought that once I had the tools, I was expected to be a SERIOUS KNITTER. But the first time I hooked a skein onto that plastic swift and twirled the handle of the ball winder around for less than a minute, I was hooked. It was amazingly simple and the results are instantaneous. Ball winders, by the way, have a hilarious instruction manual in the packaging that is translated from Japanese and makes it all worthwhile. I have the plastic and metal swift, but we also sell a beautiful wooden swift that is much larger, and will probably be around when you teach your granddaughter or grandson how to knit. Spinners, weavers, dyers, and knitters can all benefit from a little fiber help, and these two indispensable tools will make your life a billion times easier.You can use either of these products separately–swifts can be used to wind spun fiber, and ball winders are great for coned yarns. Webs offers a fantastic deal on the two if bought together.

Now you can eat the M&Ms by yourself without having to parcel them out to the child who complains about how itchy the baby alpaca feels.

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Amy G.

Education Manager at WEBS - America's Yarn Store
I've worked at WEBS (on and off) since 2003. I'm one of the employees that Steve and Kathy refer to as "The Hotel California" crew (you can check out anytime you like but you can never leave). I've been knitting for about 15 years, I also sew and am an avid yogi. I'm hoping that the better I become at yoga, the less problem I'll have with reading charts!
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  • Greta Shaver

    The first yarn store I worked at (this was probably 5 or 6 years ago at this point) the shop owner gave each of the employees a swift and ball winder as a holiday present (the same kind as the ones carried at WEBS). This was a very generous gift and I still have that very same set and use it regularly to this day! These tools are remarkably efficient and save me so much time and effort.

  • KnittingFever

    I have that ball winder and a wooden swift. They make life so much easier!
    I think if you can only get one, the swift would be my choice. It’s easier to wind the yarn than it is to hold it.

  • Susan H

    I have that ball winder (shouldn’t it be called a “cake” winder?!) and a swift. I had hesitated to get them because I thought I wouldn’t get much use out of them. I was so wrong…I use them all the time. My youngest daughter LOVES to wind the cakes for me!

  • dan waits

    can there be anything as satisfying as using a winder & swift w/ a pile of skeins of yarn?!

  • Margaret Moore Holmberg

    I have a wooden swift and a ball winder, and I love yarn cakes. But, I also love Duncan Hines Yellow Cake with Betty Crocker Chocolate Frosting. Yes, I am able to make cakes from scratch and I make a dynamite chocolate frosting, but I really love DH yellow cake – plain or with frosting or sprinkled with cocoa or spread with blackberry jam (seedless) or plain or with ice cream or as the base of banana pudding. And, I won’t turn down a piece of good chocolate cake with a minimal frosting. I have many yarn cakes, and they don’t put pounds on me like the other kind.

  • reluctantacademic

    Just got mine (from Webs, of course) as a Mother’s Day present from DH. I’ve even used the winder to frog a project that was coming out a wee bit small. I have to restrain myself from winding every skein I have…savor the moment, delayed gratification and all that!