In this review, we’ve looked at the best yarn winders, from electric and handheld yarn winders to yarn ball winders. We’ve assessed the products based on their durability, capacity, ease-of-use, and affordability and in our opinion the best yarn winder available at the moment is the Stanwood Needlecraft Metal Electrical Yarn Winder.
We also highly recommend the Stanwood Needlecraft Hand-Operated Yarn Ball Winder for a smooth and reliable yarn ball winder.
Best yarn winders for knitting and crochet
The best yarn winders are fantastic time-savers that make knitting and crocheting easier and more efficient. Here are our top picks for the best all-around yarn winders, as well as the best electrical stick winder, budget, aesthetic, and heavy-duty options.
1. Top pick: Stanwood Needlecraft Metal Electrical Yarn Winder
This Stanwood yarn winder is made from 3mm-thick steel, so it is highly durable. The steel is coated with rust-resistant powder to avoid rust build-up and prevent the moving parts from getting stuck.
The highly durable design includes a reinforced nylon gear that will withstand high-speed winding without tangling or breakage, while being soft and flexible enough to keep noise to a minimum.
It is an electric yarn winder with 80 watts of power and a large capacity, being able to wind skeins up to ten ounces, meaning you can work twice as fast as many other yarn winders. This means you’ll be able to wind yarn cakes even from very large skeins, and work for longer before needing to change between yarn cakes.
Despite being sturdy and durable, this metal yarn winder is compact and lightweight. Weighing just 3.3 pounds and measuring seven by seven by 11 inches, it is easy to transport, store, and won’t take up too much room on your workspace.
We also like that this yarn winder is easy to set up and use. You can set it up, clamp it to your workspace, and be ready to start winding in minutes and without needing any tools at all!
What we like:
- Highly durable: Constructed from thick steel, this yarn winder is sturdy and well-constructed.
- Quality gear: The durable nylon gear can stand heavy use without jamming and tangling.
- High capacity: The Stanwood yarn winder can wind skeins up to 10 ounces, which will cover most skeins on the market.
- Low noise: The flexible nylon gear keeps the noise levels to a minimum while it winds.
- Portable: Lightweight and compact at just over three pounds, this yarn winder is easy to store and transport.
What we don’t like:
- Thin yarn may come dislodged: Some online reviewers report that thinner yarns can slip out of this yarn winder’s slot.
Although you may have issues using lightweight yarn on this yarn winder, you can easily troubleshoot this by anchoring it in place with a knot.
Overall, this is a durable, easy-to-use electric yarn winder that can wind large yarn cakes up to 10 ounces. In particular, its sturdy construction and quality nylon gear means that this yarn winder will keep working well without jamming or tangling, even after heavy use.
2. Runner up: Stanwood Needlecraft Hand-Operated Yarn Ball Winder
Our second favorite yarn winder also comes from Stanwood, though this model is hand-operated rather than electrical. It is fitted with a sturdy metal crank that allows you to smoothly wind yarn cakes with even tension.
The hand-crank system is quiet but sturdy, and is fitted with a clamp-on base that you can secure to the edge of your desk, table, bench, or chair.
A smaller yarn winder than the electrical Stanwood yarn winder above, this model can only wind yarn cakes up to a maximum of four ounces. Therefore, you won’t be able to wind large skeins in one go, though it is suitable for smaller hanks or half-skeins.
This hand-operated winder also comes with a one-year unconditional warranty, so you can easily resolve any faulty parts or issues. The manufacturer also recommends using it with a yarn swift for best results, though you can feed the yarn through using just your arms.
What we like:
- Smooth winding: This Stanwood hand-winder will smoothly wind nice, even yarn cakes.
- Built-in clamp: Allowing you to easily and securely attach it to any surface or edge of your choice.
- Quiet: Though durable and sturdy, the hand crank is also quiet to operate.
- One-year warranty: This machine comes with an unconditional one-year warranty.
What we don’t like:
- Four ounce capacity: This yarn winder can wind yarn cakes to a maximum of four ounces, so can’t handle entire large skeins.
- Takes a little time to get used to: Online reviewers says that it takes a bit of time to learn how to use this yarn winder for the best results, and it’s important to make sure the arm is in the correct position.
Although some users report taking a little time to get used to using this manual yarn winder, it is pretty straightforward to use they also note that if you read and follow the instructions. Once you do that, you will find this hand-operated yarn winder smooth and easy to use.
You can use the clamp to set it up on any edge or clampable surface of your choice and effortless wind yarn cakes of up to four ounces with consistent tension.
3. Best electric yarn winder: Simplicity Boye Electric Yarn Ball Winder
This yarn winder from Simplicity Boye is made of a sturdy plastic/metal construction that will withstand daily use. It is an electric yarn winder that quickly winds skeins with its powerful electrical motor.
This yarn winder requires little to no set up: simply pop it out of the box, put it on your workspace, and you’re ready to start writing! It is intuitive to use, but if you do need guidance, you’ll find handy instructional videos at simplicity.com or on YouTube.
However, it does not include a clamp, so you cannot attach it to an edge or work surface for extra security. It should also be noted that this yarn ball winder will only wind yarn cakes up to four ounces.
What we like:
- Easy to use: This electric yarn winder is intuitive and straightforward to use even for beginners, with instructional videos available online for extra guidance.
- Simple set up: You can essentially take this yarn winder out of the box and start using it straight away.
- Sturdy: With a quality plastic/metal construction, this is a durable and resilient yarn winder.
What we don’t like:
- No clamp: Although this yarn winder is pretty stable when set up on a table or desk, you don’t have the option to attach it to an edge with a clamp.
- Loose tension: Some online reviewers complain that this winder winds yarn skeins too loose.
Although some reviewers mention that the skeins are a little loose, other users say that adding a little tension to the working yarn will easily fix this issue. This is a great, user-friendly electrical yarn winder that will allow you to effortlessly wind yarn cakes up to four ounces.
4. Best nostepinne: Knitter’s Pride Center Pull Ball Winder Nostepinne
For a low-tech but still highly effective option, we love this nostepinne from Knitter’s Pride. A nostepinne is a piece of wood that has been specifically shaped to allow you to easily wind a ball of yarn with a center pull.
This means that you’ll be able to pull the yarn from the center without the ball rolling around as you work. A nostepinne is also a great alternative to an electrical yarn winder if you don’t want to have to work near an electrical outlet or rely on batteries.
Furthermore, it is literally pocket-sized, so you can easily take it with you for crafting on the road, or tuck in your knitting bag for easy storage. The Knitter’s Pride nostepinne is elegantly designed with a smooth finish that won’t pull on the yarn, helping you wind a yarn ball with even tension.
On the other hand, a manual winder like a nostepinne is much more time-consuming, not to mention more tedious, than an electrical yarn winder. This will mean you spend more time winding your yarn before you can get stuck into knitting or crocheting.
What we like:
- Portable: This pocket-sized nostepinne is easy to store and transport.
- No batteries required: As a nostepinne is a purely manual device, it doesn’t need batteries or electricity.
- Center-pull: You can use it to create center-pull yarn balls.
- Beautiful design: This nostepinne is elegantly crafted with an aesthetically-pleasing design.
What we don’t like:
- Time-consuming: As with any manual yarn winder, this takes much more time and effort than an electrical winder.
This elegant nostepinne is an excellent option for anyone looking for a manual yarn winder. It is compact, lightweight, and beautifully designed to wind the perfect yarn ball.
5. Best budget pick: Knit Picks Yarn Ball Winder
This affordable yarn winder from Knit Picks does most of what the more expensive alternatives do, with a much cheaper price tag! It will smoothly wind center-pull yarn cakes up to 3.5 ounces, with a clamp to attach it to a desk or table edge.
A 3.5-ounce yarn cake is at the smaller end of the range for yarn winders, but this versatile yarn winder can handle a wide range of yarn weights, from fingering to bulky weight. The yarn cakes have a relatively large center hole, which some will find makes it easier to pull the yarn from the center, while others may prefer a more dense, compact cake.
Already very compact, this yarn winder can be further folded down for easy storage, so it won’t take up too much space in your workspace or closet.
It is also easy to set up and use: all you need to do is attach the spindle, unfold the guide arm, and you’re ready to go! From there, the intuitive design makes this model easy to use, even if you’ve never used a yarn winder before.
Some online reviewers report that the machine makes squeaking noises as it works, though this can be fixed easily by lubricating the center pole.
What we like:
- Affordable: With a very reasonable price tag, this yarn winder represents excellent value for money.
- User-friendly: The Knit Picks yarn winder is very easy to set up and use.
- Compact: Already small and compact, you can fold it down for easy storage.
- Versatile: You can use it to wind almost any weight of yarn.
What we don’t like:
- Noisy: You may need to lubricate the workings to avoid squeaking noises.
Although very reasonably priced, this yarn winder is reliable and versatile, offering excellent value for money. Easy to set up and use, it will wind virtually any type of yarn into a center-pull yarn cake.
6. Best stick winder: Yarn Valet Yarn Ball Winder
This stick winder from Yarn Winder is another great manual option for winding the perfect yarn ball. You can use it to wind either outside-pull or center-pull yarn balls that are uniform in shape and consistent in tension, without damaging or stretching your yarn.
Lightweight and compact, measuring just two by 10 inches, you can easily fit it in your yarn bag or a drawer in your workspace. There is a handy secret compartment for storing crochet hooks or other accessories, letting you maximize your storage space.
Being so portable, you can take this stick winder with you wherever you’re crafting to easily fix any skein that falls apart. There is also a handy notch on the top of the winder that will hold the yarn in place and stop it from moving around as you wind the ball.
However, as with any manual winder, this process takes much more time and effort than an electrical yarn winder. You won’t be able to wind square yarn cakes but only round balls, which are more prone to rolling around as you work.
What we like:
- Versatile: You can use this stick winder to wind yarn balls that pull from the center or outside, depending on your needs and preferences.
- Compact: Small and lightweight, this stick winder is easy to transport and store.
- Bonus storage compartment: It contains a secret compartment for storing accessories.
- Even tension: The Yarn Valet stick winder will wind balls with a consistent tension, so won’t damage your yarn and will help you produce better results on your projects.
What we don’t like:
- Round balls only: You can wind square yarn cakes but only round yarn balls which may not stay put while you work.
Take this portable stick winder with you to wind yarn and fix skeins wherever you like to knit or crocket. You’ll be able to easily wind round, center-pull or outside-pull yarn balls with even consistency and tension.
7. Most stylish: INTAJ Rosewood Yarn Winder
This beautiful rosewood yarn winder will not only allow you to wind even, center-pull yarn skeins, but will also look stunning in your crafting area.
It is hand-crafted in rosewood, making it not only elegant but also durable and stable. Worked with a hand crank, it doesn’t need batteries or electricity, but will need to be worked manually.
You can use it to wind yarn balls up to an impressive 15 ounces, much more than most yarn winders. This means you won’t need to split larger yarn hanks into multiple yarn balls. On the other hand, in order to wind such large yarn balls, the machine itself is also pretty big, so takes up more space on your workspace or in storage.
The anti-friction bearing allows for free rotation of the spool, meaning it will run smoothly. The rubber pads on the underside of the machine will stop it from slipping as you wind, while avoiding damaging your table or desk.
What we like:
- Beautiful design: Hand-crafted in rosewood, this yarn winder is very elegant.
- Durable: It is sturdy and well-made, with anti-slip rubber pads so it won’t damage your work surface.
- Large capacity: You can use it to wind large yarn skeins up to 15 ounces.
- Runs smoothly: An anti-friction bearing allows the spool to rotate freely and work smoothly.
What we don’t like:
- Bulky: The machine is rather large, so takes up more space in storage or in your work area.
This yarn winder is not only well-designed in elegant rosewood, but it also runs smoothly and allows you to wind very large yarn skeins with a center pull.
8. Best heavy-duty: DONNGYZ Heavy Duty Metal Yarn Winder
This heavy-duty yarn winder will wind center-pull yarn cakes of more than 16 ounces, so you’ll be able to wind those large hanks and skeins in one go. Made with an iron base and a sturdy metal gear, this robust machine is also built to last.
The winder comes with a clamp that lets you attach it to any desk or table edge up to 2 inches thick, and can be easily installed with the included tools. However, it doesn’t come with installation or operating instructions, so may need a little trial and error to figure out.
Some reviewers also report the gears need to be adjusted to avoid sticking, and even once adjusted the machine is pretty noisy.
As it is operated with a hand crank, it does involve more effort than an electrical yarn winder, though it is more efficient to use than a stick winder or nostepinne.
What we like:
- Large capacity: You can wind very large skeins up to 16 ounces of yarn.
- Robust: This yarn winder is very durable, with metal gears and an iron base.
- Versatile clamp: The clamp attachment can be adjusted to fit table edges up to two inches thick, so will fit a range of table sizes.
What we don’t like:
- No instructions: Setting up and adjusting the machine may be a challenge, as the product doesn’t come with any instructions.
This hand-crank yarn winder is very solid and durable, so will last you a long time if well made. It is capable of winding very large center-pull skeins up to 16 ounces.
9. Best set: BUTUZE Yarn Ball Winder
This set from BUTUZE includes a yarn winder, yarn swift, and 25-piece knitting needle set, giving you everything you need to prepare and execute knitting projects of all kinds.
The one-piece yarn winder is very compact at just five by four inches, making it easy to store or transport. It can be fixed to a table edge and adjusted to fit securely.
However, some online reviewers note that the yarn may tangle around the base if you don’t watch it carefully once it starts to get full.
The set includes four different types of knitting needles and a yarn swift, making it easier to wind smooth yarn balls with even tension. Most yarn winders are best used in tandem with a yarn swift, so buying this set means that you won’t need to purchase one separately.
What we like:
- Full set: With a yarn winder, yarn swift, and knitting needles, you’ll be ready to start winding and knitting!
- Compact: The small yarn winder is easy to store and transport.
- Versatile: There is a 25-piece knitting needle set which includes four different types of needles.
What we don’t like:
- Prone to tangling: Yarn may tangle around the base once almost full, though you can avoid this if you keep an eye on the winder.
This handy set will set you up with everything you need to wind your yarn and knit it into a range of projects. Although not the smoothest or most durable yarn winder, it will do the job, and comes with a handy yarn swift and knitting needle set.
Things to consider before buying a yarn winder
So you’ve decided you could benefit from a yarn winder to organize your yarn collection, fix broken skeins, and make hanks easier to work with, but which to choose? There is an almost dizzying range of yarn winders on the market, which can vary greatly in their features and functions, including electric, handheld, and yarn ball winders.
Here is everything you need to know before shopping for the best yarn winder, and some tips to help you make the right purchasing decision.
Is a handheld, electric, or ball yarn winder better?
Yarn winders come in a few forms, namely:
- Handheld/manual winders: yarn winding machines that are operated by hand, usually with a hand crank.
- Electric yarn winders: similar to manual winders but run automatically using batteries or by plugging into an electrical outlet.
- Ball winders: simple tools that you can use to wind yarn by hand to create a neat ball. The best types are stick winders and nostepinnes, which generally allow you to make center-pull balls.
This largely comes down to personal preference, as each type of yarn winder has its pros and cons.
Handheld and ball winders:
|– Give a greater level of control of the yarn as it winds|
– Can be used on virtually any surface
– Do not need to be connected to an electrical outlet
– Pretty portable, especially ball winders
– Typically more affordable than electric yarn winders
|– Take more time and effort|
Electric yarn winders, on the other hand:
|– Quick and efficient, winding even large yarn cakes in no time at all|
– Require little effort: generally, you only need to set them up and then let them work
– Suitable for people who can’t operate yarn winder by hand, for example, if they have arthritis or RSI
|– Generally more expensive than manual yarn winders|
If portability and control are more important to you, or if your budget is very limited, you may be better going for a handheld or ball winder like the Stanwood Needlecraft Hand-Operated Yarn Ball Winder. On the other hand, if you want to be able to wind your yarn cakes quickly without needing to use your hands, an electric yarn winder like the Simplicity Boye Electric Yarn Ball Winder is your best bet.
What size yarn cakes do you want to wind?
Before deciding on the right yarn winder for you, think about the size of the yarn cakes you want to wind. This will probably be the same as the size of the yarn skeins or hanks you usually buy.
If you generally purchase smaller hanks of no more than four ounces in weight, you don’t need a yarn winder that can wind yarn cakes larger than this size. On the other hand, if you want to be able to wind larger yarn skeins, you should look for a winder that can handle up to 10-ounce cakes.
Most yarn skeins are 10 ounces or less, so this should cover you in the majority of cases. However, if you want to be able to wind very large cakes of over 10 ounces, you’ll need a heavy-duty yarn winder.
Is it well-made and durable?
It is always important to look for a product that is well-made and durable, but this is particularly the case if you are going to put it to heavy use. Make sure that the yarn winder is made of good-quality materials, and that if it has clamps that they are sturdy and will hold the winder in place without slipping or damaging the surface it is attached to.
Also, be sure to pay attention to the level of protection the yarn winder gives its gears. One risk with poorly-made yarn winders comes when the gears are not properly protected, meaning that the yarn can slip underneath the gears and get caught.
Is it easy to set up and use?
Ease-of-use is another important factor to consider when buying a yarn winder. You want to choose a machine that is easy to set up as well as simple to use.
Yarn winders of all types, but particularly electrical yarn winders can be pretty complex to operate. If you don’t operate them properly, you may end up with tangled yarn or uneven, inconsistent yarn cakes.
Similarly, setting up and, if it has a clamp, attaching the yarn winder to a table edge can be quite tricky. If not set up properly, the winder is unlikely to run smoothly, and the clamp could slip or damage your table.
Unfortunately, many of these products do not come with a very good set up or operating instructions, so it is important to read the reviews and look for a model that is easy to use.
Does it have an easy crank system?
If the yarn winder has a hand crank, it is important to make sure it is easy to operate. The crank should give even tension which is firm but does not pull on the yarn too hard.
You also want to ensure that the crank is smooth to operate and doesn’t require too much elbow grease, otherwise, yarn winding will be very tiring!
Does a yarn winder need a clamp?
Many yarn winders, such as the Stanwood Needlecraft Hand-Operated Yarn Ball Winder come with a clamp that allows you to attach the machine to a table edge or similar. Although this is not essential, it is a handy feature that holds the winder firmly in place as it works.
Models without a clamp can work equally well if they feature rubber pads underneath to avoid slipping on surfaces, such as the INTAJ Rosewood Yarn Winder.
If you opt for a ball winder like the Yarn Valet Yarn Ball Winder, you don’t need to work about a clamp as you’ll hold this in your hand as you use it.
Do I need a yarn swift?
Although not essential, many knitters find that a yarn swift helps make the process of winding yarn cakes easier and more efficient. Once you’ve unwound a hank, you’ll be faced with a large circular loop of yarn.
Placing this on a yarn swift will let you feed the yarn smoothly on to a yarn winder while maintaining even tension. You can achieve the same effect by winding the yarn around the back of a dining chair, or around the arms of a willing helper, but a yarn swift is much more convenient.
Still have doubts on how to choose the best yarn winder? These answers to the most frequently asked questions on the subject should help to clear things up.
Why do I need a yarn winder?
If you’re an enthusiastic knitter, you can probably relate to the chaotic mess of yarns that many knitters struggle with every day. There’s little more frustrating than finding that the yarn you want to use is tangled up and having to spend hours untangling it before you can start knitting.
A yarn winder not only makes knitting stress-free, it also lets you work faster so you’ll finish your projects in no time. You can use a yarn winder to neatly and tightly wind up loose skeins or unwound hanks, as well as fix any skeins that have started to fall apart.
These days, there is an incredible range of yarns available, from superwash yarn and soft acrylics to hand-spun artisanal yarns. Increasingly, the most expensive, hand-made yarns come in a long, loosely-twisted hank, so a yarn winder is invaluable for winding these yarns into a form that is easy and efficient to work with.
Likewise, it is common to find many types of yarn sold in craft stores or online in loose skeins that can tangle easily. Therefore winding them into a tighter ball or cake not only makes work faster, but also less stressful.
The other advantage of a yarn winder is that you can rewind your yarn cakes so that the yarn pulls out from the center of the ball rather than the outside. Most yarn winders will produce a yarn cake – a squat, cylindrical ball with a flat top and a flat bottom – rather than a traditional, spherical ball.
Both of these characteristics prevent the cake from rolling around as you’re working, letting you focus on your work rather than having to chase around after your balls of yarn. These yarn cakes are also the ideal shape to put inside a yarn bowl.
Additionally, using a yarn winder creates a yarn cake that has a uniform tension, which in turn helps you to maintain a consistent tension in your projects and therefore produce a neater result. Finally, while you wind the yarn, you can check it for color changes, knits, or other imperfections before you use it.
How does a yarn winder work?
There are a few different types of yarn ball winders, and each works in a different way. Some are electrically powered, while others are hand-operated.
Hand-held and electrical yarn winders essentially work the same way, winding the string of yarn around a cylindrical bobbin to create a square, flat cake of yarn with consistent tension. Almost all of these yarn winders are designed to make yarn cakes with a hole in the middle allowing you to draw the working edge from here – this is called a “center-pull” yarn cake.
The main difference between handheld and electrical yarn winders is that the former are worked with a crank while the latter run on electricity.
On the other hand, more simple stick winders and nostepinnes like the Knitter’s Pride Center Pull Ball Winder Nostepinne work by wrapping the yarn in a particular way around a specifically designed tool to make the perfect yarn ball.
Do I need a yarn swift with a yarn winder?
A yarn swift is not essential, however, it is a big time-saver that makes winding quicker and easier. A yarn swift works by holding the yarn hanks in place while you wind them, expanding rather like an umbrella to fit snugly inside the loops of yarn.
You can use a yarn winder without a yarn swift, but once you untwist a hank of yarn, you will need to wrap it around something to hold it in place while it is being wound. A yarn swift is ideal for this, as it is designed specifically for this purpose, rather than using the back of a chair or similar which may not work so well.
Should you roll a skein of yarn into a ball?
We’ve already seen how winding your yarn into balls makes it easier and more efficient to work with, namely:
1. Winding loose hanks and skeins into tighter balls or cakes avoids tangling.
2. Center-pull yarn cakes won’t roll around while you work.
3. Cakes that are wound on a yarn winder have a uniform tension.
However, you don’t want your yarn to be stored in tight balls for long periods of time, because it can lose its elasticity this way. This is why many yarn producers sell their products in loose skeins and hanks.
The big advantage of having a yarn winder is that you can wind store your yarn in loose hanks to avoid overstretching and then wind it into balls when you’re ready to use it.
How do you wind yarn without a winder?
You can also wind your yarn by hand, although this is more tedious and time-consuming than using a yarn winder. Traditionally, knitters wound yarn balls entirely by hand.
The easier and more efficient way to do this is by using a stick winder like the Yarn Valet Yarn Ball Winder or a nostepinne like the Knitter’s Pride Center Pull Ball Winder Nostepinne.
Using one of these tools also helps you to make an even yarn ball with consistent tension, and may be designed to create center-pull yarn balls.
Whether you opt for an electrical, handheld, or yarn ball winder, you’ll find it invaluable for winding even yarn balls or cakes with consistent tension. This, in turn, will make knitting and crocheting easier and more efficient, as well as helping you to produce better results in your projects.
We highly recommend the Stanwood Needlecraft Metal Electrical Yarn Winder as the best yarn winder overall, with the Stanwood Needlecraft Hand-Operated Yarn Ball Winder as a close second. The Knit Picks Yarn Ball Winder makes a great budget option, while the most stylish yarn winder is undoubtedly the INTAJ Rosewood Yarn Winder.
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