UndyedYarnpire’s Fiber Opera

August 14, 2009

Slow Swift is an oxymoron, but buying one would make me an ordinary moron.

Filed under: equipment — Tags: , — UndyedYarnpire @ 6:49 pm

What do other people want in a swift? It seems unimaginable that the new Paradise Fibers swift would be good after seeing their advertising video. It has added friction. They made it extra friction-y, purposefully. If it was software, this would be the cripple-ware version that most developers give out free to entice you to pay for the full-featured version. “If you buy our swift, we will send one with bearings and bushings to reduce drag and damage-through-use! In the full version, your swift is finished in your choice of varnish! Pinch clamps will make adjustments easier than you see here in our proof of concept mock-up.”

I want a swift with smooth action that does not resist. The plastic ball winders use plastic gearing and they will be destroyed by high-tension skeins.

I want my swift to be easily skein-size adjustable because yarn manufacturers are really horrible about consistency in their industry. I want it not be easy to lose the tail end of the yarn around the axle.  (How hard would it have been for the swift manufacturers to include a notch to hold the yarn end?) And if it was possible, I would like it to have a brake that can be applied without sticking one’s hand into a blur.

Currently I have a swift made of K’Nex. Then I bought some Fleece Artist yarn (very much on sale) and it comes in 800yd skeins that are enormous. *pause for measuring* at least 65-inch circumference. My homemade swift is about 50″ circumference. It is not very adjustable. I can take it apart and use a smaller diameter, which is about 40″, but there is not much I can do to make it larger. What I like about it is that normal (for whatever variance normal has) skeins seem to be 1.5 yards or 54″, so since I have flanges on my swift, it works pretty good. (For handspun skeins, I do not care what size they are made into.)

My swift spins like greased glass. The yarn does not fly off the tops of the supports because I put end caps on them. It is silent. Honestly if I could find an easy way to make it big enough for those giant skeins, and if I could make it adjustable so the shrinkage after washing handspun did not take 20 minutes to retool for, I doubt I would even consider replacing it. It is also plastic, so I can use it as a drying rack for wet yarn. Wood is not a superior material choice.

I certainly am not going to spend $50 (going up to $65) for a friction-added, unfinished wood, hassle-to-adjust, no feature swift that is not large enough to handle the ridiculously over-sized Fleece Artist skeins. (Remind me not to buy their yarn again, I bought it months ago and cannot use it because it is not possible to wind it.)

I think I could make a swift from stuff found at the hardware store. Metal rods, clamps, and a bushing-lined block of wood. I think, with a drill and some dowels, I could improve on the friction-added swift concept just by lining it with a spare couple pieces of K’Nex. But it is mind-boggling that $3 of wood and 4 wingnuts and 4 rubber feet is selling for $65 next week.

I started knitting with dowels I put in the pencil sharpener. But I have seen people selling birchwood needles for $30 a pair. I paid $0.30 for a birchwood dowel that made 4 needles.  I used a square of fine grit sandpaper and rubbed the sticks with the end of a candle for a fancy wax finish. I did not spend even a dollar making 4 needles, not even when I added the clay endcaps later.

When I saw that swift, made from the $1.09 size dowels (and they surely do not pay retail!) using screws that are under a dime each, I do not have to ask myself whether it is worth the money. It is not. But I do want a swift that adjusts. Maybe I just need more K’Nex!

Or maybe yarn manufacturers should actually wind their yarn into pull skeins so we do not need absolutely everyone who knits to own special tools.  I can understand small fiber artists not having that kind of equipment and time available, but Cascade? They are the Red Heart of wool yarns and there is no excuse for them expecting absolutely everyone to own a ball winder and swift in order to use their products.



  1. Do you have chairs with narrow backs, particularly with knobby bits on their ends? It might work to move two of those a few feet apart, then drape the unwound skein over the tops of the chair backs.

    IME one must unwind 3-7 lengths from the skein, operate the winder, unwind a few more lengths, etc., but at least the yarn doesn’t tangle as it would if laid flat on a bed or a floor.

    Comment by skg — August 21, 2009 @ 2:47 pm

    • I do not have ladder-back chairs, no. My chairs are the modern-farmhouse kind with the backs like a curved, upside-down U supported by spindles.

      My swift (assuming I can get the yarn on) allows continuous high-speed cranking of the winder.

      We talked about the clean feet option, but the 65″ skeins are 800+ yards. I do not have a handy gymnast or yoga-practitioner who can keep his or her legs spread like that for more than an hour without pain.

      Comment by UndyedYarnpire — August 21, 2009 @ 2:56 pm

  2. p.s. I still don’t own a swift, and most of what I wind is sock-weight or lighter.

    You already know about my usual workaround, involving someone else’s hands / knees / clean feet, but 65″ circumference seems a bit much for that!

    Comment by skg — August 21, 2009 @ 2:48 pm

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