review of wool winders
general,  machine knitting,  wicked

Review of 5 low-priced manual wool winders

A wool or yarn winder is a very useful piece of equipment for machine knitters that want to knit with more than strand of yarn or for rewinding yarn from a ball or skein into a ‘cake’ . I give more information about using wool winders in my previous post.

Over the past couple of years, I have managed to acquire 5 wool winders, two are second-hand and three were bought new. They all cost me less than £25. I have five because I am still looking for the ideal wool winder on a budget.

Although it is ideal to use these wool winders on a separate table, I currently do not have suitable table in my workspace so I need a winder that can fit on the back of my knitting table. I thought it might be useful to try them all and compare their performance for knitting with fine yarns, with regard to the following aspects:-

  • how well-made is it
  • how easy is it to attach to table
  • how easy it is to wind
  • how much can they wind
  • how easy it is to unwind and knit with the resultant cake

It took me a few days to get it all sorted out. I used industrial 2/28 yarns from BSK for the winding. The winders were attached them to the back of my knitting table. Yarn cakes were made as big as possible (until I felt that something was going wrong).

Here are my results in reverse order.

Fifth Place: scored 1 out of 10

Knitmaster rotating winder
Knitmaster rotating winder
Conclusion: STAY AWAY

This is a second-hand Knitmaster wool winder made probably in the 1980s. The winder came free with a knitting machine but I have seen a similar ones being sold between £20 and £50 under a variety of branded names like Royal and Swift, for example the Swift wool winder, being sold for £20 on Amazon.

The winder comes with a simple tube hat that you twist on and off the winder. I do not have any spare hats, and have not seen any online. An empty loo roll was too big for the winder and flew off, so I just used it as it was.

This winder looks well made and would last a long time. It is easy to attached to the table with the clamp. The plastic hat is easy to screw on to the winder.

Knitmaster Blue Winder
Knitmaster Rotating Winder

It is easy to wind, however, it has an exaggerated of angle rotation and the knitting table was vibrating strongly, things were falling off. I had to rotate slowly but the table still rattled.

cake flies off
cake flies off

Then the whole cake flew off. I tried again with two strands of yarn but the same thing happened, so I gave up. The cake weighed only 41 g.

This may work with hand knitting yarn (given 1 point for hope), but for a standard gauge knitting machine it is not good. This will be relegated to the bin.

Fourth Place: scored 2 out of 10

standard wool winder
standard wool winder
Conclusion: BEWARE

This is a new winder, known as a standard wool winder and can be bought online in the range of £15 – £25. You can also get the same design as a more expensive branded version. This was is a cheap unbranded version. (It may be that branded, more expensive versions are better quality, but I think they all come from same place in China). It is quite easy to buy spare standard-sized hats for the winder.

The winder seems a bit flimsy and after a few goes, I had to tape up the yarn thread arm as it would not stay in place. The winder has a basic clamp to fit to the table. You may want to protect table with some cardboard.

This type of winder rotates at an off-set angle to form the yarn cake.

another winder disaster
another winder disaster

Winding turned out to be a disaster. The first time I tried the yarn got tangled around the rotating cog and could not be taken off. This has happened to me in the past which is why I do not use it.

standard winder cake
standard winder cake

I finally managed to create a yarn cake with a single strand of yarn by going very slowly and carefully (it took a long time to wind), and managed to get a reasonably sized cake before it started to look messy. The cake weighed (without hat) about 69 g.

Unfortunately unwinding was not good. About half way through unwinding the yarn kept getting stuck. The winder had wound some of the yarn under the cake and so I had to keep stopping to unwind the yarn. This would be a disaster for knitting. I was not impressed. However, it may be possible to use the winder for winding small 50 g balls of yarn into cakes for hand or manual knitting. I suggest that you take the cake off and unwind from the centre. I might give it a couple of points for the possibility!

Third Place: scored 7 out of 10

Knitmaster barrel winder
Knitmaster barrel winder
Conclusion: Lovely small winder

This is a second-hand Knitmaster barrel type wool winder. The yarn moves up and down the grooves of the barrel. I paid £20 on eBay for it. It came with a second plastic hat. These winders were also branded as Royal. I do not think you can buy any spare hats new so I will need to buy another winder. (Update: someone on etsy is selling cones which might fit). It might be possible to use empty loo rolls as hats, or home-made card tube, as this the hat only turns, it does not do any wild rotations. It is a good design.

Knitmaster compact winder
Knitmaster is a compact winder

It is easy to set up on the table and has a pad to stop any marking of the table. The winder is quite compact and easily fits on the back of my knitting table. It is also easy to attach the hat and to wind your yarn.

There is a bit more noise when winding, compared to the previous two but not enough to worry about it. It is also takes a long time to wind as it has a small cog. You need to have lots of rests.

barrel cake
good sized yarn cake

I was impressed with the winder, the cake kept on getting bigger and bigger without problems. For a small winder, this is a good sized yarn cake. The winding pattern is much tighter and even than on the rotating winders. I stopped when the yarn started to cross over the cake which would have caused problems in unwinding.

The final cake weighed an impressive 188 g. This is for acrylic yarn and would weigh more if wool or cotton. This might not be enough to do a whole adult sized jumper so you would need to unwind some more.

I gave the winder a score of 7. I will need to try making home-made hats for this winder and report back in the future.

Second Place: scored 5 or 9.5

heavy duty winder
heavy duty winder
Conclusion: BEWARE … lovely winder if you are wearing ear-plugs

This is a new winder and is described as a heavy duty 10oz or 280 g wool winder. It cost me £19 from eBay. I was a little worried that I might have to assemble it, but it came mostly assembled with just the long yarn thread arm to attach using a screw. I need to take it off again to store it, unless I find a bigger box. This is a rotating (off-set angle) type of winder and has a metal arm that spins around the rotating centre.

The winder came with a jumbo plastic hat. Spares are also available from Sunny Choi (Hong Kong Knitting) on ecrater for about £9 and are called Jumbo L-2 spare hat/cones. Please note that if you ordered more than 1 hat at a time you may incur import taxes. Since the postage is free, I would order them separately. They take about 3 weeks to arrive to the UK. You can also make home-made hats out of card as shown in this post.

heavy duty winder issues
heavy duty winder issues

Unfortunately, the screw that holds on the yarn thread arm sticks out of the bottom of the winder and would make a hole in your desk. I remedied ths by taping two squares of cardboard over the screw to stop this happening. I also taped some cardboard to the clamp disk was a bit rough.

Overall, the winder is large, solid in design but heavy. I am sure this will take a lot of winding without falling apart. All screws and bolts etc are visible which would make maintenance easy, but might mean that it should be protected from dirt and damage when not in use.

Although large, the winder easily clamps to the back of my knitting table. Its large clamp disk allows you to do this at a good sized angle, so that the moving arm can spin round without hitting the back of the knitting machine.

It is also easy to fit the cone onto the winder, just push and twist. However, it is a bit more difficult to take off once the cake is made. You have to hold the hat and the base and then push and twist the other way.

starting to wind
starting to wind with home-made hat

This winder is really easy to wind. It is comfortable and has a smooth operation. It is also fast at winding because of the big cog. Unfortunately, the table did vibrate a lot AND…… it is VERY noisy!!

The noise is a real problem unless I sit away from the winder and then it is more difficult to wind. I was so disappointed as it could have become my favourite winder. Fortunately I did have some ear plugs, so I put them in my ears and continued to wind.

heavy duty cake
heavy duty winder yarn cake

Usually I have to wind in several sessions but this went to fast that I quickly created a large yarn cake. I am not sure how big I could go before the edges of the yarn cake would collide with the arms. I finished when the yarn started to cross over the top of the cake.

large yarn cake
large yarn cake

The final cake (after subtracting 80 g for hat and card) weighed a massive 361 g. Maybe this yarn is heavier as this seems a lot.

Although the winder hat is the same size as the L-2 winder (see below) this cake is larger. This is because the winder rotating arms are bigger and so the resultant cake is taller and starts lower on the cone, hence the extra yarn capacity. Unfortunately for me, this means that the yarn can catch on the bottom of my home-made cones. I may need to think about this when I use it again.

I unwound the cake onto another hat and found that this was done very easily without any snagging or problems. I was impressed. But shame about the noise. With ear-plugs (or if you are deaf) this is a 9.5 but without, this is difficult to assess.. maybe a 5.

#1 First Place: scored 9 out of 10

Jumbo L-2 Wool Winder

l-2 Jumbo wool winder
l-2 Jumbo wool winder
Conclusion: easily makes good sized yarn cakes

This was bought new two years ago for £23 on Amazon. It is a copy of the original Brother L-2 Jumbo wool winder with capacity of 250 g or 8 ozs. It is a cheap unbranded version and came with one jumbo cone. At the time of writing this post, I found a similar Lacis version at £44 on Amazon and a cheaper Cikuso version on Amazon for £21.

You can get spare L-2 jumbo hats from Sunny Choi. They are the same ones as mentioned above in heavy-duty winder review.

It is looks similar to the standard wool winder, except that it is bigger and has two spinning arms. It feels a bit flimsy but not too bad for the price.

home-made winder hat
home-made winder hat (needs top to be trimmed)

Most of my spare cones will go on relatively easily, but a couple are a tight fit and so it is more difficult. I make card hats around the cones so that I can store any left over yarn by removing the card cone. Then I can still use the original cone.

The winder is large but fits on the back of my knitting table at a slight angle so that the arms do not bang on the back of the machine. The clamp is not too big so it is difficult to attach firmly at more than a slight angle. Fortunately it is just enough.

l-2 Jumbo wool winding
L-2 Jumbo wool winder set-up

Winding is not as smooth and quick as the heavy duty one but it is still good enough. However, I have found that the inside cover bolt and the long arm hex bolt can come loose after time and the winder starts to make a noise when winding.

Lidl toolset for winder
Lidl toolset for winder

At first I thought I would have to buy a new winder, but fortunately I just bought a tool-set from Lidl for about £15. This contains a no 8 socket and the right hex key to maintain this winder. Just needed to tighten these two bolts and the winder is as good as new. Now I know what to do I am very happy with the winder for the price.

L-2 Jumbo yarn cake
L-2 Jumbo yarn cake

It does wind a large cake (although not as big as the heavy duty winder) and I do need to take some rests before it is finished. Because there is a bit of a gap at bottom of cake, the yarn does not tend to catch on the teeth of my home-made hat which is good.

I stopped the winding when the cake was about the same width as the cone. The final yarn cake weighed (after subtracting 80 g for hat and card) weighed a 273 g.

Unwinding the cake was easy, and I have used this machine many times now and had no problems knitting with the yarn cakes that it makes. Thus it is my current favourite wool winder. I usually manage to make an adult jumper from one cake without needing to wind another cake. (I knit one cake and one cone knit together as 3 ply)


Overall the L-2 winder wins as a good low-priced winder for machine knitters using fine yarn. This winder manages creates good-sized cake that can do a small to medium sized jumper.

I feel disappointed with the heavy duty wool winder. It winds quickly and smoothly and makes a large yarn cake, however, the noise is uncomfortable. With ear-plugs though it is lovely and I have bought a large packet so that I can use this machine when making larger garments.

The little Knitmaster barrel type winder impressed me with the size of the cake that it can produce. This was bigger than I thought it would be and it unwound without any problem. The cake is not quite big enough to do an adult jumper, so you would have to create two cakes. This would not be a big deal. I am happy to use this winder if my jumbo one stop working. I also like the fact that the hat has a hole in it (the only one I know). This means that I can use it in a twisting stack when using 3 strands of fine yarn to make a 4 ply yarn. I can either use it with the cake or I can use them to hold the L-2 card cones as the L-2 cone does not have a hole in it.

The other two might be useful for hand knitters or those who are using hand knitting balls of yarn on a manual machine, but I think I would rather use the little Knitmaster. I think it is time to shrink my wool winder collection to just 3.

So that is my review completed. I do hope that you have found this useful if you are looking for a good cheap wool winder. Please let me know, in the comments below, what your favourite winder is.

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