Recently in Spinning Tools Category

Big Ol' Ballwinder


When you buy yourself a spinning wheel, you think to yourself: How cool, I can buy this one machine and I can spin. I don't need any more equipment. Just me and some bobbins and the swift and ballwinder I already have from all that knitting. You might even tell your significant other how when you buy your wheel, you won't need anything else. You've reached the apogee of fiber equipment. You're good to go for the forseeable future.

Yeah, right.

My spinning wheel has turned out to be a tool I absolutely love, but it's also turned out to be the sort of tool that begets the purchase of other tools. Want to work on more than one spinning project at once? Time to get yourself a bunch more bobbins. Want to spin a bit faster and avoid having to change hooks. You need that WooLee Winder. Better throw in a few more bobbins for that, too. Tried out that big ol' plying head and made a big ol' skein? Better hope you have a good sized swift. And that lovely plastic Royal ballwinder that was always sufficient for commercial knitting yarn. Heh. It's probably not going to cut it.

In the summer/fall I started to look for a ballwinder that could handle jumbo-sized skeins. I really only came across a couple of options and I figured I would end up with the Strauch ball winder that I had seen at several fiber festivals. So I headed off to the Fold to see if Toni had them for sale. She had the Fricke electric motor driven version, but I wasn't really interested in a motorized ball winder. Then she told me that Nancy's Knit Knacks was going to introduce a ball winder and it looked like a good machine. Could I wait a little bit?

Well, there are very few ball winder emergencies in my house, and after watching the video for the NKK Ball Winder (click the link and look in the right sidebar) I was intrigued. It looked like a lot of engineering had gone into their machine, and it had a lot of flexibility to go along with the ability to wind big balls. Not only that, but it was a heck of a lot more attractive than the Strauch/Fricke options (this is my opinion... clearly tool beauty is in the eye of the beholder). When Toni finally got hers in and I got to try it out, I placed my order on the spot. As a woman whose father, brother, husband and brother-in-law are all engineers, I'm pretty good at telling when I've found a good piece of equipment that has the potential to last me a life time.

My New NKK Ball Winder

My new toy arrived at my house just after Christmas. Unfortunately, I haven't had too many opportunities to put it through its paces yet, but every time I use it I get the same big goofy grin on my face that my husband does when he installs a new high powered graphics card in his home theatre computer and plugs in a first person shooter. This, my friends, is, I think, my forever ball winder. It can wind balls of 1 pound and larger, it has a smooth mechanism, the yarn guide is adjustable, and it has the flexibility to be upgraded to a motorized machine should I want to go that route at some point in time. This is the sort of toy that makes me want to pull all the yarn out of my closet and turn it into center pull balls.

And I'm absolutely sure that after this, I won't need any more spinning support tools.


Well, at least not for a little while.

Building a Homemade Lazy Kate


On Monday, Lee Fay asked a question that I thought was deserving of its own post:

Could you please tell us more about your tensioned home made lazy kate? I'm very intrigued.

Lazy Kate's are simple devices that are used to ply yarns off of bobbins. The tensioning of the Kate controls how the bobbins rotate. It's very simple to make your own Lazy Kate for plying.

Homemade Lazy Kate

First of all, you need a box. It can be a shoebox or a small corrugated cardboard box. The only thing that is important is that it be wide and tall enough to accomodate a bobbin. I also like mine to be long enough so that it can hold three bobbins, and can thus support a three ply.

Bobbin Axles

I then take three inexpensive metal knitting needles. These needles need to be long enough to go all the way through the box. They also need to be narrow enough that they can slip through the center of the bobbin, so that the bobbin can be suspended in the box and the bobbins can rotate freely on the needle axle.

Tensioning the Kate

To create the tension band (a length of Lion Brand WoolEase) and thread it through two holes that you punch in lower corners of the short sides of the box (you can see where the blue yarn goes in the top picture). This yarn is drawn over the tops of the bobbins and fits in the grooves in the bobbins. In order to maintain the tension, I pulled one of the ends under the box and used a small binder clip to hold the ends of the yarn together so that the yarn remains taut over the three bobbins.

The final important element is something that will prevent the bobbins from moving back and forth on the needles. To do that, I used some random pieces of folded cardboard and cut a groove in the center that would go around the needle and could be folded so that they prevented the bobbins from moving away from the tensioining line.

So there you have it: a homemade tensioned Lazy Kate from spare junk around your house. Even if you had to buy the needles out right, it still would probably cost you 10 dollars or less. And the nice thing about this style of kate is that you can have as many bobbins as you want, assuming you can find enough needles and a large enough box. But it's also not a precious treasure, so if you don't want to keep it around, you can store or discard most of the parts easily. For these big WooLee Winder bobbins, it works much better than the Lazy Kate that comes with the Lendrum wheel, where the axles point straight up into the air and the bobbins are on a vertical axis instead of a horizontal one.