The yarn ball. Unless you’re gifted with the same sort of genes that makes your grandmother’s fingers glide along with crochet needles like a world-class violinist, even the most seasoned knitter will know that they’re going to need some sort of tool to keep their yarn skeins firmly in check.

And chances are, you’ve got a wading pool of knotted, tangled and otherwise unusable yarn bundles stashed around your home. But are all yarn winders created equal? And how do you know what’s the best bargain without sacrificing quality?

We’re going to examine four of the top-selling yarn ball winders currently available, as well as what to look for when shopping.

Stanwood Needlecraft Large Metal Yarn/Fiber/Wool/String Ball Winder, 10-Ounce Review

Don’t let the size intimidate you. This winder is decidedly easy to use despite looking like a piece of industrial machinery.

It’s capable of handling both thicker material and more delicate threads with efficiency; especially larger sized bundles. Preassembled and solidly built with nylon cogwheels, it can wind yarn with surprising swiftness and no irritating noise.

Perfect if, you’re like me, you prefer your yarn balls pulled from the center.

Darice 30022871 Yarn Winder Review

This model is a cute, compact and fun to use little tool. Despite being lightweight, it’s decidedly sturdy and works well for circular weaves, too.

It’s a budget alternative to some of the more popular brands on the market, but don’t let the price fool you; it’s every bit their equal.

And while it is hand operated, the crank operates quite smoothly and effortlessly. Easily worth having around as a back up.

Stanwood Needlecraft YBW-A Hand-Operated Yarn Ball Winder, 4-Ounce Review

I’ve come to love most Stanwood products; and this alternative to their Royal line is no exception.

It’s sturdy, quiet and operates evenly on yarns ranging from lightweight to clunky. And while it only holds up to 4 ounces of material, this is a tool perfect for smaller sized projects.

It’s a little bit tricky to use for novices, but if you follow the directions and tips (remember to hold the yarn with a good bit of tension and always use a sturdy surface!) you should have no problem.

Knit Picks Yarn Ball Winder Review

At first, I was wary of this winder, given the lightweight and need for assembly. But once I was able to put it together in three simple steps, I was surprised to find just how durable and efficient it was.

Position the guide arm opposite the winding handle and… presto! A splendid little tool that can handle 3.5 ounces of yarn.

Ideal for winding mass balls at a time, it creates perfect cakes with surprising ease, quickly and compactly. A solid bargain, in my book.

Yarn Ball Winder Buying Guide – How to find the best yarn ball winder for your needs.

There are a million benefits to owning a winder; chief of which is the countless hours of time and frustration you’ll save from hand winding. Need to look for any potential knots or tangles? A winder is invaluable for inspecting your bundle prior to your project.

Since we all know how addictive crocheting is, it’s better you spend your time enjoying your fix productively instead of wasting time retracing errors. But what are some of the things to be on the lookout for when purchasing a winder?

Portability and Ease of Use: While you will need a sturdy surface, most winders can be easily clamped to any handy top. Which leaves the question; manual vs electric? That’s a matter of not only of preference but of cost. Keep in mind that while electric models cost considerably more, you’ll be able to wind balls in less time.

And with a manual model, arthritis sufferers or individuals with dexterity problems may soon find themselves limited by the process.
On the other hand, manual models allow you to be in full control; which means that you can choose for yourself on both the tightness and amount of cakes you create.

Ultimately, you’re going to want to find a rhythm and pace that’s within your needs.

Durability: Frequently, you get what you pay for. Cheaper models can have gears that tend to gobble your threads right up if it slips underneath (and it happens to the best of us!) while the pricier winders are generally better protected and much sturdier overall.

That being said, there’s plenty of bargain alternatives on the market that work just as well as top-line models. Shop around and compare reviews. You’ll be happy you did.

Price: Ultimately, this depends on what you’re looking for. You can find electric models capable of holding up to 11 ounces of yarn starting at $89.99; or a nice, compact handheld winder for $19.99 that can hold no more than a third of that amount. It all depends as much on your needs as your (financial) means.

If you’re new to crocheting, you’re probably intimidated by the sheer volume of tools and accoutrements available to you. You may even wonder if many of them necessary at all. But with just a little research and experience, you’ll find just how invaluable they really are. And soon enough, you’ll be able to separate… the cakes from the scraps.