Review: Easy-read Row Counters and Needle Gauges

Over the past few weeks, I have had the pleasure of trying out tools designed specifically for knitters who are blind or visually impaired. For me, typical needle gauges and row counters are almost always useless to varying degrees because their use requires that you be able to see well enough to read the numbers. I have done many things over the years to adapt needle gauges, including adding braille labels and memorizing the sequence of sizes on the gauge. For row counters, I have never been able to use a commercially produced counter. Instead, I’ve use everything I could think of to keep track of my rows including an abacus, a score card for blind board game players, braille tags on a ring, and an app on my phone. Most of these have one drawback or another, even if the drawback is mostly related to having a young son who liked to move all the beads on my abacus to random positions because it looks fun to play with. He is old enough not to do that now, but there always seems to be a child around who doesn’t know the rules yet. The best thing I ever used was a bracelet with beads in two rows. It had a row for ones, a row for tens, and markers that slid over the beads to keep count. That bracelet was given to me by a knitting friend and was great, but my attempts to make more did not go well. With that being said, I was thrilled to test out knitting tools designed for the blind. The best part is that someone else did the thinking and the developing to make something that works, and for once, I didn’t have to be the one to think of ways to create and adapt something all on my own.

 

Jocelyne Denault, the designer of these products, lives in Canada and teaches knitting to French speaking people who are blind or low-vision. There are gauges for knitting needles and crochet hooks as well as beaded row counters. I will go over each of these separately and follow the review with ordering information. There are a few sections to this post, so I have used headings at level 1 for each section to make navigation easier with a screen reader.

 

 

Easy-read Row Counter Bracelet

 

 

The row counter bracelet consists of five round beads and five square beads that slide, with a stationary bead or jingle bell in the center. The bracelet had a simple toggle and loops system to fasten it on your wrist. I was able to take it on and off without unfastening it, and my hands are an average width for a woman. For reference, my bracelet is a little over eight inches around when fastened. The round beads count as one each, and the square beads count as five, so you can count up to 30 with the bracelet. I use it just like an abacus, when I get to four, I move all the round beads back to the starting position and replace them with a square bead that represents five. It is incredibly easy to do, and the convenience of having the row counter on my wrist makes it that much better.

 

I can see how the bracelet could get tangled on your yarn depending on how you have everything set up. I didn’t have that problem as long as I made sure the project bag with the working yarn was not at an angle where the yarn would touch my wrist. I knit with the yarn in my right hand, the project bag is usually also on the right, and I still liked the bracelet on my right wrist better. Since the yarn is wrapped in my right hand, the left hand is free to move the beads without having to drop the yarn at the end of every row.

 

I really like that the bracelet works by sliding the beads because there is nothing else needed to mark your position. Think about how an abacus designed for the blind has that padded backing so the beads don’t slide unless you want them to. The way the beads are strung on to this bracelet creates the same effect, without the padded backing of course. The directions for the bracelet recommend moving all the beads to the center of the bracelet and sliding one bead away from the center when you finish a row, a repeat, or whatever you’re counting. For me, I prefer to begin with all the beads away from the center so I can move them toward the center as I go. That way, the beads that indicate the completed rows are all together in the center, making it easier to count quickly how many I have. It also works well in my mind that way because that is how I was taught to use an abacus. The wonderful thing about this, as well as many other things, is that you can use it in the way that works for you.

 

 

Easy-read Row Counter Necklace

 

 

The necklace is a larger version of the bracelet with ten round beads and 10 square beads, which would allow you to count up to 110. Wearing the necklace feels a lot like the days in my early 20’s when I wore a braided hemp necklace all the time.

 

I have not used the necklace as much because I tend to use Bluetooth headphones to listen to audio books while I am knitting. My current headphones sit around the back of my neck, and adding the necklace feels extra crowded. If that’s not a problem for you, the necklace will work very well. I like the idea of using the necklace to count rows while the bracelet keeps track of increases or decreases, but I haven’t needed that set up since I received these products a few weeks ago.

 

 

Easy-read Knitting Needle Gauge

 

 

A while back, I realized that my interchangeable set of Chiaogoo needles was a disaster. Almost all of the short tips I have were missing along with about half of the standard size tips. There were things in the wrong place in the case, and I was having a hard time tracking down what was on projects or actually missing. So, I sat down with my new needle gauge to straighten everything out. It was a trial by fire, if you will.

 

First, it is important to note that these gauges use the metric system instead of US needle sizing, so a little conversion is needed to use these if you are, like me, used to thinking of needles in US sizes. I wrote a separate blog post about the metric system including a conversion chart that you can read if you need more information on that topic.

 

The knitting needle gauge is made with clear acrylic, which means that it is thicker and sturdier than typical gauges made with cardboard or thin plastic. Another advantage to this is that there is absolutely no way to insert the needle if it doesn’t fit because there is no give in the material. Also, because the gauge is a little thicker, it forces the needle in straight, and I found that this helped me feel confident that I had the needle in the best fitting slot.

 

In the past, I have had to memorize the sequence of US sizes so I could use a commercial gauge, and I always seemed to be forgetting where I was, or it was really hard to feel the holes once I got down to US size 5 or so. This gauge solves both of those problems. There are ten holes on one side for the measurements 1 mm through 10 mm, and the other side has 6 holes for the measurements 1.5 mm through 6.5 mm. There are no skipped numbers and the smallest holes on each side begin with 1 or 1.5, so there is nothing to remember. Very distinct bumps beside each hole on the gauge make it easy to use by touch. All you have to do is find the hole with the best fit for your needle, leave it in place, and count up from 1 by starting with the bump next to the smallest hole until you get to the bump next to your needle. If your needle is on the side with fewer holes, they are half sizes, so begin counting from 1.5 instead. It did take me a minute to think with millimeters but using a conversion chart made this fairly painless.

 

I tested my Chiaogoo metal needles as well as my Knitpicks wood needles with this gauge, and both worked great. The needles fit perfectly into the holes, and there is no question if you are in the best fitting hole or not. Basically, if the needle doesn’t fit snuggly, or wiggle at all, it isn’t the right hole. I was also happy to learn that this gauge works perfectly for all but three sizes in my Chiaogoo set, which includes US sizes 2 through 15. Apparently, if I paid more attention to the not so random metric numbers that always show up after US knitting needle sizes, I would realize that they are all whole or half millimeters. For reference, the thre exceptions in this set are 2 = 2.75 mm, 3 = 2.25 mm, and 5 = 3.75 mm. these still did not cause much difficulty because the 2.75 mm needle, for example, was too big for the 2.5 hole and still wiggled in the 3 mm hole.

 

I really enjoyed using this knitting needle gauge, and I was able to reorganize all the tips in my interchangeable set with ease.

 

 

Easy-read Crochet Hook Gauge

 

 

Having a gauge for crochet hooks is a new concept for me. I have never heard of, much less owned, anything that I could use to check hook sizes before. I suppose it is possible that such a tool already exists in the commercial market, but if it does, I’m sure it would not be as easy to use as this one.

 

The crochet hook gauge is set up exactly like the knitting needle gauge except that there are slots to slide the hook into instead of holes. Again, I had to look up the metric equivalents for the typical US sizing that uses the letter system. Like the needle sizes, the only sizes without perfect matches on this gauge are a few of the smaller sizes such as B, C, D, and F. After that, they all match up well.

 

This gauge is taking me a bit longer to get used to using because I have never had a tool to check hook sizes before, but I think it is going to be a great help when I need a certain hook size and there is no one around to look at the size on the hook for me.

 

 

Ordering Information

 

 

A quick note about using a screen reader with websites where the native language is something other than English:

 

Since the native language for the website is French, you might need to adjust a setting if you are using a screen reader to keep it from trying to read English words with French pronunciation. I use JAWS, so these directions are specific to that program. With the browser open, type INS + v to pull up the quick settings dialogue, type “language,” arrow down to Language Detect Change, and make sure it is not checked. After that adjustment, JAWS will read English text correctly, even if the native language of the website is set to something other than English.

 

The boutique section is still mainly in French, but it is dedicated to these four products and it is easy to pick what you want to order based on the price. In the shopping cart, the buttons and forms read in English, and you can pay with PayPal or credit card.

 

English Product Descriptions

https://www.questionstricot.com/english

 

To order from the Boutique

https://www.questionstricot.com/boutique

 

 

Knitting and the Metric System

The United States is one of the remaining few countries that haven’t fully switched over to the Metric system, but with modern globalization, I believe it will only be a matter of time before that happens. In a lot of ways, I think the Metric system makes more sense, but I also know a full conversion would be difficult to say the least. I don’t think in meters or grams, and I don’t think many other people in the United States do either. At the same time, I constantly have to look up how many cups are in a gallon or how many ounces are in a cup, so I understand why this conversion is needed.  With the metric system, all of those conversions are much simpler because everything is based on factors of 10.

 

Knitting is one of the few areas of my life where I regularly come across metric sizing. While needle sizing and patterns usually include both measurements, there are times when I have to convert back to the US system because the pattern designer only uses metric measurements, and I can’t easily think in millimeters or centimeters. The conversion is fairly easy, with 1 inch = 2.54 cm, but I have recently started to get annoyed with using the US system for needle sizing because the conversion is not as simple.

 

IN the United States, the numbers that indicate needle sizes are basically arbitrary, indicating nothing more than that if you have a smaller number, you have a smaller needle. They are standardized to the Metric system, which is great, but why we don’t just use the actual metric sizing when we talk about needles is beyond me. I automatically began thinking of needles in the US sizing when I began knitting, and even though the Metric sizes are almost always listed in conjunction with the US sizes, it is still difficult for me to convert my thinking. Because of this, I decided that might help to begin memorizing the metric sizes for needles to make my knitting life a little easier. When you actually take time to compare the metric sizes to one another, it is a very consistent progression, and I’ve found that it has strengthened my understanding of needle sizes.

 

To help, I made an accessible PDF of Metric/US conversions that are relevant to knitting and crochet which you can download here if it would be helpful for you. For convenience, the information in the PDF is also included below.

 

 

 

Quick Length Conversion

 

1 inch = 2.54 Centimeters

 

Divide centimeters given by 2.54 to determine inches.

 

Multiply inches given by 2.54 to determine centimeters.

 

 

 

Knitting Needle Sizes

 

 

US Sizes Metric Sizes
0 2 mm
1 2.25 mm
1.5 2.5 mm
2 2.75 mm
2.5 3 mm
3 3.25 mm
4 3.5 mm
5 3.75 mm
6 4 mm
7 4.5 mm
8 5 mm
9 5.5 mm
10 6 mm
10.5 6.5 mm
10.75 7 mm
11 8 mm
13 9 mm
15 10 mm

 

 

 

 

Crochet Hook Sizes

 

 

Note that some brands might vary slightly, so be sure to check the sizing for your particular brand of hook for accuracy.

 

US Sizes Metric Sizes
B 2.25 mm
C 2.75 mm
D 3.13 mm
E 3.5 mm
F 3.75 mm
G 4 mm
H 5 mm
I 5.5 mm
J 6 mm
K 6.5 mm
L 8 mm
M 9 mm
N 10 mm

 

 

 

Crochet Baby Blanket With Flower embellishments

Yellow crochet baby blanket with three white flowers in each corner and a simple white border.

 
 I originally planned to publish a pattern for this blanket. Then I was crunched for time and didn’t design my own crochet flowers. Then I decided a tutorial aimed at helping you design your own baby blanket would be more helpful anyway.

The blanket I made is fairly simple. It is yellow with a white border and three crochet flowers in each corner. They are small five petal flowers that I learned how to make from this blog post.

The first thing you need to do to make your own blanket is to figure out your gauge in the stitch pattern you want. I chose to use a plain single crochet background so I made a swatch of about 20 single crochet stitches and worked even until I had about 4 inches of fabric. My gauge ended up being 10 stitches per 4 inches. It really doesn’t come out that even very often. I wanted the blanket to be about 36” including the border. Allowing an inch for the border on each side it would need to be 34” so with my gauge of 10 stitches per 4 inches, I would need 85 stitches. Simple enough. Then I just continued working row upon row of single crochet until the blanket was square. I added a border of 4 single crochet rows in white. I was going for a classic and clean effect but you could use any kind of border you wanted. A lace border would be really pretty. There are a couple of things to note when working a crochet border in the round. You need to work three stitches into each corner stitch/ this makes the corners square. Another thing to remember is when you get to the end of the round you join the stitch you just finished to the first stitch of the round with a slip stitch. Then you chain 1 for single crochet and turn the work to start the next round.

 

Closeup of white crochet flowers in the corner of a yellow baby blanket. Also shows a white border.

 

I added 12 flowers to my blanket. They were small and I put 3 in each corner. You can use as few or as many flowers as you want. It would even be nice to use just one large flower or none at all. Be creative and experiment.

The yarn I used was Bernat Softee Baby in Lemon and White. I double stranded the yarn and needed 4 balls of Lemon and 1 ball of white. You can make a baby blanket as thick or thin as you want it. Just figure out your gauge and how many stitches you need.

This is the baby blanket I made for my cousin who is due any day now. Her first two children wore holes in their baby blankets so I’m hoping this one holds up a little longer. One thing I know is that it will be very well loved.

Getting Through the Boring Bits

Aside from socks, my favorite knitting project is capes, groovy substitutes for sweaters or jackets. The concept is simple enough: I make a collar or neckband as I would for a sweater; then I increase at regular or irregular intervals until the garment is 2 feet (60 cm) long. I just finished one, in fact, a frothy thing in spring pinks and greens made of a tulle-like cotton-silk ribbon yarn.

There one big drawback is that rows get longer as the cape grows, so the rows in the last few inches before the bind off can take one to two hours, depending on the number of stitches and on the complexity of the stitch pattern being used. Not surprisingly then, however exciting the project was in the beginning and however high my motivation is to wear it, the last vertical third of the cape turns the Zen of knitting into a twitchy fear of boredom and an unwillingness to keep on keeping on.

So how does one plod along?

By doing something else at the same time.

I think I’ve mentioned here that my mom taught me to knit when I was in kindergarten, but beyond a few scarves, shawls, and blankets for my dolls and an anomalous blanket for myself in college, I didn’t do much with the craft until my mid thirties, When I took up the needles again.

Initially, when I returned to knitting, I could not do anything while I knit. I had to concentrate on what I was doing, especially once I started working with interesting stitch patterns. After a year or two, I found my mind wandering, so I started knitting while my favorite TV shows were on, saving the tricky needle maneuvers for commercial breaks. Over time, I realized that I was getting wild and exotic with my needles even during the most dramatic scenes, a discovery which gave me confidence to try stitches that were more involved while my shows were on.

By this point, I had wholeheartedly embraced the power of multitasking during tedious stretches of yarn craft. My first intentional use of the power was when I came to terms with the fact that I’d put off fringing a shawl for over a year, so I cranked on AC/DC, Candlebox, and GodSmack, and fringed away. That worked so well that heavy metal became my cure for every-tedious-craft-related-thing from swatching to weaving in ends.

It occurred to me that I could move from music and TV to audiobooks. There really is no end to my gratitude for MP3 players and their capacity to play hours and hours of audio books without human intervention (the victor Stream rocks). I began with the comfortingly formulaic, steamy bodice rippers and murder mysteries, genres I read frequently and know well. I noticed the same pattern with audiobooks as for television: simple stitches (like stockinet, garter, or ribbing) at first with pauses for tricky knitting or complex listening, fewer pauses over time, and eventually, steady forward movement in both activities.

Since I learned to listen to books while I knit, I’ve gotten more knitting and more reading done, two fabulous outcomes. There are still times, of course, when I need to stop one activity in order to do the other well. Just yesterday, I got so caught up in a book that I kept screwing up the knitting. But for the most part, having an interesting distraction–like TV, music, or audiobook listening—is the best way to get through a long boring stretch of yarn.

Solids, Heathers, Jewels, and More

Colors can be something of a headache, and asking sighted people for clarification doesn’t help because each has a different notion of what color matches what and which color looks good on whom. So I’m not even going to pretend to go there. Instead, I’ll mention a few general bits and pieces about colors that may come in handy while working with yarn.

Some Basic Characteristics

Light and dark are contrasts. If you’re musically minded, think of light as one octave above middle C and dark as one octave below it. Think of muted, a dull version of the color, as quiet (piano), and think of vivid or saturated, a bold medium dark to dark variation, as loud (forte).

While most colors can be light medium or dark, white, yellow, pink, and lavender are light by definition, and black and red are dark by definition.

Solid yarns are the same color all the way through and make fabric that is uniform in color. A textural equivalent is the smooth public side of a store-bought knitted sweater.

Tweed yarns are solid yarns with flecks of different colors and make fabric that is uniformly not-solid. We all did a little weaving in elementary school or summer camp. (Remember the potholder?) The yarn and loom were big enough that the fabric we made had a definite grain and a clear textural pattern: the longer lines of the weft lay across the vertical warp, which was mostly hidden to the touch. This texture is like tweed: the solid background color is like the horizontal lines of the woven potholder that are easy to find with our fingers, and the flecks are like the tiny vertical bits that we can also feel. The foreground and background colors are so uniformly distributed that the fabric isn’t described as being two different colors though the two colors are seen.

Heather yarns are different muted shades of a single color. The different shades would be something like light blue, light-medium blue, medium blue, maybe a turquoise that’s more blue than green. Muted means that the colors are visually soft or grayish, like a dusty or fuzzy surface. The overall textural equivalent of a heathered fabric is like the fabric that results from working with slubby yarns, the yarns that are thick in some places, but thin in others. This type of fabric is full of subtle, but unmistakable variation. It has loose, almost lacey areas where thin yarns form a meshlike fabric; it has dense areas where thick loops interlock; and it has normal areas where thick and thin loops come together.

Variegated yarns are a dramatic version of the heathers. Variegation progresses through unmuted shades of the same color or more commonly from one color to another. The cape I’m making now has several shades of pink and peach, , a related lavender, white, and green. Texturally, the general effect is like making a slubby fabric, only imagine that the different fabrics—mesh, dense, and standard—are made of different yarns, maybe silk, wool, and cotton, so while the way one color or texture blends into the next is subtle, the over all effect is not.

Jewel tones are vivid medium or dark colors resembling gemstones (e.g., ruby red, emerald green, sapphire blue). They’re usually solid or nearly solid (meaning subtle variations of the same bold color), and they draw the eye, so they’re best for items that make a statement, comparable to a melody heavy with fortissimos, allegros, or slinky syncopations.

Colors and Stitch Patterns

To show off stitch patterns, solids and heathers in light to medium shades work best.

The darker the yarn, the less likely people are to see the stitch patterns and the more impressed they’ll be by the person who could see well enough to knit or crochet with the color.

Variegated yarns are best for no-frills crafting, like stockinet, garter, or ribbing for knitters. People never see the stitches amid all the interesting color activity, so take it easy and let the variegation do the work.

Jewels are also good for no-frills stitching. The colors tend to be darker, and their vividness is pretty damn interesting in and of itself.

All of these are generalizations, of course. A sighted friend with color and craft sense can discourse on various nuances or, more likely, point out a specific yarn that does or doesn’t do well with intricate stitch patterns, but knowing broadly what these color terms mean and how they affect our work is takes some of the uncertainty about what to do with our yarn.

JKnit Knitting Project Assistant for IPhone

I recently invested in an IPhone. It has been amazing to be able to use every feature of a phone. I haven’t been able to do that since I lost my sight ten years ago. But, rather than gushing on all the wonderful things I can do with the phone, I’ll just tell you about one app I found.

JKnit is a knitting assistant app. It costs $5.99 so I was very hesitant to try it out. Luckily for me it works perfectly with voiceover. The app allows you to keep track of your projects by the piece and by the row. You can use the online web portal to input all your project directions along with the row numbers they affect. Then you sync the app and all the information transfers to the phone. JKnit has a built in row counter and each time you get to a row it shows the directions for that row.

I’ve really enjoyed having an easy row counter. I turned off screen lock within the app so all I have to do is position voiceover to the counter plus button and sinply double tap each time I start a row. It will keep your place on multiple projects and it’s just so easy.

I can’t say enough wonderful things about JKnit. As a blind knitter it’s even more helpful since it allows me to have an accessible version of the pattern wherever I am. It’s true that I can also read online and text versions of patterns with the IPhone but having one integrated with a row counter is even better. The online web portal is also easy to use. Copy and paste your individual pattern instructions and you’re ready to go. I highly recommend it and the price is well worth it.

Here are some links to more information on JKnit:

JKnit Knitting Project Assistant App

JKnit User Guide

Ravelry Group for JKnit App Users

Direct Link to JKnit in the ITunes Store

Winding Yarn the Modern Way

One of my favorite yarny gadgets is my Knit Picks Ball Winder. There are few things in life as miraculous and elegant as the center pull skein, a cylinder of yarn you just pull and pull from. Its one flaw, though, is that it gets misshapen and battered as it shrinks, so rewinding the leftover yarn becomes necessary when the project is finished or when yarn havoc is reeking as the work is still on the needles. “Grab a piece of paper, and wind around that,” you say. I can, but the paper slips out or loops of yarn drop off the ends, and I’ve got a tangled mess to take care of. This problem gets even bigger when I need to wind the yarn that comes in hanks, the braid-like twists expensive and handmade yarn is often sold in. For these jobs, nothing beats a ball winder or the cute cake-like center pull skeins it makes, and my favorite part of the ball winder made and sold by Knit Picks is that it gives users the option of a handle or a clamp, so they can pick where and how to use their winder.

This post is mostly about how to use a ball winder. The one I have is the Knit Picks Ball Winder, which sells for about 20 dollars, a good price, but the instructions should work for any ball winder since they all have a standard shape and work more or less the same. Mine is made out of durable plastic and is light-weight, so it’s easy to carry around the house. It’s relatively small, accommodating about 3.5 ounces or 100 grams of yarn, though thinner yarn works a little better than the thicker stuff.

The ball winder itself is a square platform with a tall wide-brimmed hat on top. One side of the platform has a crank, like the handle used to roll the windows in a car up and down, and on the other side of the platform is a sturdy L-shaped guiding wire that starts underneath and points straight up to the ceiling, like an arm bent at the elbow. These are the four important parts. The platform or base is the part that is clamped to a table. The “hat,” which is called a spindle assembly, is what the yarn wraps around. The crank is what turns the “hat” and causes the yarn to wrap evenly. The guiding wire is what keeps the yarn from tangling around the bottom of the spindle assembly and also lets the operator (you or I) put more or less tension on the yarn. The fifth part of the ball winder is the clamp or the fixed handle, depending on which either one of us is in the mood to use.

Clamping the Ball Winder to a Flat Surface

The clamp is a big L-shaped screw. The long leg of the screw has a wing nut and a large plastic wedge. The short leg of the screw has a small screw with a large head. To clamp the ball winder to the edge of a table, follow a few simple steps:

1. Remove the short screw from the short leg of the large screw.
2. Turn the ball winder so that the bottom of the base is facing the ceiling.
3. Locate a hole on the side of the platform. It is near the crank.
4. Insert the short leg of the clamp into this hole.
5. Locate a rectangular hole on the part of the base that is facing the ceiling now. It is inside a large recessed circle. You should have no trouble feeling the short leg of the screw in that rectangular hole.
6. Wind the short screw back into the short leg of the clamp. Make sure the long leg is pointing toward the ceiling.
7. Turn the ball winder right side up so that the bottom of the platform is facing the floor.
8. Set the ball winder on the edge of a table, slide the plastic wedge up to the underside of the table, and tighten the wing nut until the ball winder is firmly in place. For best results, place the ball winder near the corner of the table.

I position the ball winder so that the turn handle is to my left and the vertical guiding wire is to my right. Well, I guess I should say that I clamp the winder close to the corner of a table or counter and position myself in front of it so I can turn the crank with my left hand.

Winding the Yarn

Winding the yarn is essentially a three-step process, which involves running the yarn through the guiding wire, securing it on the top of the hat-shaped spindle assembly, and turning the crank. Here’s how that’s done:

1. Running the yarn through the guiding wire — Notice that the top of the guiding wire has a coil, really just a loop with a hanging tail. Lay the yarn between the two loops at the top of the guiding wire. The Yarn tail should be in front, and the ball end should be in back. Next, pull the yarn tail down, behind, and to the left of the wire tail. Then pull the ball end down, in front of, and to the right of the guiding wire. The yarn is now through both loops, with the tail end closest to the rest of the ball winder.
2. Securing the yarn — Notice that the top of the hat-shaped spindle assembly has two grooves, where the bullet grazed the wearer as she ducked down. Turn the “hat” so that one of the grooves is close to the guiding wire. Then lay the yarn across the “crown of the hat,” positioned in both grooves. I like to leave a longish tail, at least 6 inches (15 cm). Some people like to put a stitch marker or safety pin around the yarn at the “crown” so they can find it easily.
3. Turning the crank – Pull the guiding wire toward you as far as it goes. Place your right hand on the guiding wire, loosely holding the yarn against the wire itself or against the table near the wire. Then turn the crank clockwise with your left hand at a slow steady rate, and use your right hand to put a small amount of tension on the yarn that is being fed to the ball winder.

When I was new to winding yarn, my preferred method was to cup my right hand around the guiding wire. I could use my palm to keep track of the yarn being fed to the winder, and I still had my fingers free to check that the yarn was wrapping correctly around the spindle assembly. Now I don’t bother checking the spindle assembly because I can tell I’ve got problems when I feel heaviness or lightness as I turn the crank.

Winding While Walking

If, like me, you don’t have very many good flat surfaces to clamp your ball winder to, you can remove the clamp from the Knit Picks model and attach the fixed handle. The handle is about as long as the guiding wire, and its general shape is like the handles at both ends of a big rolling pin.

Attaching the handle is simple.

1. Turn the ball winder so that the bottom of the base is facing the ceiling.
2. Run a finger around the flat end of the fixed handle, noticing two small tabs around the edge.
3. Locate a large circular recess in the center of the base.
4. Run a finger around the circular recess in the base, noticing two small notches around the edge.
5. Position the fixed handle in the circular recess so that the tabs fit into the notches. (This is where technical manuals get all male-and-female).
6. Twist the fixed handle clockwise until you feel it click into place.

The winding process is the same. The yarn is run through the guiding wire, secured on the spindle assembly, and wrapped around the device with the crank. In fact, the first few times I wound yarn, I balanced the winder on my stomach or thigh while I did exactly what I described in the previous section.

Once I felt comfortable with the process, though, I grabbed the winder by the fixed handle, catching the yarn between the handle and my palm, and cranked away. I paused to check frequently the first few times, but eventually learned to trust the yarn and the crank to let me know what was going on.

I decided to get a ball winder because I had a few hanks of yarn to work with, but I bought the cheapest one I could find because I thought I wouldn’t use it very often. It’s turned out to be one of the handiest gadgets I have, and I really do use it fairly often. I’m glad I got the Knit Picks Ball Winder because, aside from selling at a great price, it gave me a chance to experiment with the clamp and the fixed handle. I discovered I’m a fixed handle kind of gal, so much so that I didn’t try the clamp until today as I was preparing this post.

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