Yarn Winder – Loops & Threads / Darice

Darice_yarn_winder

So I bought a yarn winder that arrived over the weekend! I’d been seriously thinking about buying one for a couple weeks and ended up getting the Darice yarn winder (which is the same as the Michaels brand Loops & Threads yarn winder).

I’d been looking at different styles and brands. I found this post which talks about different yarn winders and picking the right winder for your needs. I was actually thinking about Windaze knockoff or a Lacis yarn winder, but since my budget was limited and I couldn’t get the jumbo Lacis that I would’ve wanted, at the last minute, I decided to get the Darice / Loops & Threads yarn winder from Amazon.

I looked at a few youtube reviews and tutorials like this one. Initially, I was worried about the winder because there were a few negative reviews on the Michaels website. But after looking at youtube reviews and tutorials, I was fairly sure of what to expect and how to make the winder work for me.

Yarn winders operate similarly to the way a bobbin winder works on a sewing machine. There’s a tension guide that you feed the yarn through and you have to wrap your yarn around the shaft of the yarn winder a couple of times and then you just crank it and the little metal yarn holder/tension guide moves back and forth until the yarn fills up.

To use this winder, you need to 1. Put your yarn through the notch on the plastic brim of the winder. 2. Wrap the yarn around the shaft a couple times 3. Feed it through the metal holder/tensioner and then hold the yarn in your hand either up at an angle or parallel to the machine and let your hand control the tension (see the tutorial link above to get a visual example).

You’ve got to crank the yarn at a decent speed. In that respect, I agree with Laura Felicia’s review, where she says that the key to using this machine is managing the speed and tension so you don’t have floppy yarn. You want to go at a good clip, not too slow.

The Darice / Loops & Threads machine will hold about 4oz of yarn. It comes with a metal clamp that you slide into the back and then clamp onto a sturdy table. The clamp secures and stabilizes the machine as you’re winding.

I was able to make four yarn cakes on the machine and it was a lot of fun!! In the picture below, you can also see the little turquoise ball I made from leftover yarn.

Note: since this yarn winder holds 4oz, you cannot fit a large skein of yarn into just one cake. You will have to make two (more if you’re winding a one pound skein). The purple ombre yarn was too big to fit the whole thing on the winder, so I had to hand-wind the last bit of yarn. It was a partial skein, so if I was winding the yarn from the beginning, I would’ve made two balls of yarn.

Some people like to use the smaller 4oz yarn winders just for leftover yarn. Others prefer to wind entire skeins into cakes or balls so that it’s easier to use while knitting so they don’t have to worry about knots or unwinding a skein from the outside. The winder makes center-pull cakes.

The Darice winder is relatively small and portable and doesn’t have a lot of confusing parts. You don’t have to “assemble” it apart from sliding the clamp through the slot in the back so that you can attach it to your table. The box is relatively small too, so you could save the box it comes in for easy storage.

Note: the winder is not quiet. It makes a sound very similar to a sewing machine when it is running. The sound is not an issue for me, but it might be an issue if you have an infant or if you like to do your knitting late into the evening when family members are asleep.

Overall, I’d recommend the Darice / Loops & Threads yarn winder. You can find it at Michaels for around $29-$32 (less if you have a 40% off coupon). Amazon has it for around $23.

I’d give it 4.5 stars for ease of use out of the box and the sturdy quality of the machine. I wish it could hold more yarn, but overall, I’m happy with my purchase.

For those that don’t have the budget to spend on a yarn winder, but who want center-pull yarn balls, I did see this tutorial on how to use a hand mixer and a paper towel roll to make yarn balls. I’m not sure I’m brave enough for this one! 🙂

Happy Looming!

If you have a yarn winder you love, tell us about it in the comments.

 

 

Loom Review – KB Loom Knitting Basics Kit

KB-Loom_Knitting_Basics-Kit

About a month ago, I bought the Knitting Board Loom Knitting Basics Kit. I got it on a whim at JoAnn when I bought my KB Super Afghan Loom. I’ve fallen in love with this little loom!

The kit is designed for beginners. Inside the kit, you will get:

  • 32-peg small gauge knitting loom
  • Loom Knitting Basics booklet
  • Knitting hook / knitting tool
  • 5mm crochet hook
  • Small stitch markers
  • Tape measure

The booklet covers single knitting and double-knitting basics. You’ll learn e-wrap, u-wrap, flat knit stitch, and purl stitch and a few double-knitting stitches: stockinette (knit), rib, and figure 8. You’ll also learn casting on and binding off methods, including the chain cast on and the crochet bind off (which both use the crochet needle).

The book also includes a few other techniques, such as closing off/binding hats, increasing and decreasing stitches, cable knitting, seaming (sewing pieces together), knitting sock heels and toes, and instructions for how to do the kitchener stitch with double-pointed knitting needles. Note: the kit does not include knitting needles.

To get an idea for what the instructions in the book look like, you can see some examples here on the Knitting Board website. Many of the written tutorials on their website are also in the booklet.

I found the knitting instructions to be helpful with learning to double-knit and decrease stitches.

The loom is well-made and has a wooden base with plastic pegs. I believe they are nylon, but I’m not sure. You can see a close-up of the loom below. This loom seems durable and made of quality materials. Which is pretty much what I’ve come to expect from KB. You might spend a bit more on these looms than say buying a set of Boye or Loops & Threads looms, but the quality is superior.

So, what can you make on this loom?

Scarves, hats, amigurumi (little knitted animals), washcloths, cords, water-bottle holders, headbands, baby booties, and blankets if you knit in panels or do the 10-stitch blanket.

The book cover says it has 4 patterns: a hat, scarf, baby blanket, and a washcloth. Only 3 patterns have actual written instructions. I didn’t see the hat pattern in my book, though it does tell you how to bind off a hat. You might be able to find the hat pattern online somewhere if you want to make that exact one. I did not see it on the KB website.

I think this is a great kit for anyone who is a beginner/intermediate loom knitter or who wants a small, portable loom to take while traveling. It has pretty much everything you need except the yarn!

I made my first double-knit stockinette scarf on this loom and I have to say that it was so easy and I am ready to tackle more double-knit projects!

You can find this kit via the Knitting Board Website, JoAnn, Amazon or eBay. I’ve heard some JoAnn stores are putting KB looms on clearance right now, so if you’re planning to buy it there, get it quickly while supplies last. It is still regular price on http://www.joann.com but I’m not sure if they are discontinuing the KB line at JoAnn or if certain stores are downsizing their loom knitting products.

For those who just want the loom itself: Knitting Board does sell a somewhat similar 32-peg loom on their website for $10.99. The 10″ loom is a little longer than the one in the kit and it has spacers that can be adjusted. The Loom Knitting Basics loom is not adjustable at all.

I’d give this loom kit 4.5 stars out of 5. The only reason I’m knocking it down is that you cannot make an adult-sized hat on this loom without seaming panels together, so the picture on the cover is a little deceiving. And the pattern for this hat is not even in the book!

If you want to make hats on this loom, keep in mind that if you are knitting in the round, you’ll be making an infant-sized hat.

I checked the KB website, and if you look at this hat project for the 10″ loom, it says that the hat has to be done in two pieces; you need the 54-peg loom in order to knit in one piece.

Apart from the issue of making hats, this is a great loom and I think it is useful for times when you want to knit away from home and you don’t want to lug around a big loom. This is small enough you could fit it into a medium/large purse. I would also recommend it for teens and older children.

The double-knit scarf I made came out so neat and pretty. I look forward to making more with this loom. The double-knit scarf is a thinner scarf. If you want a wide scarf, knit in single-panel.

Hope you like this loom as much as I do!

Do you have the 32-peg loom or the tadpole loom? If so, how do you like it?

 

Knitting hooks & Tapestry Needles – For Beginners

Today, I’m going to talk about knitting hooks (sometimes called knitting tools) and tapestry needles. These are the essential tools you need to loom knit, apart from the loom itself. Most looms you buy will come with a knitting hook and a tapestry needle.

The best way to start, is by using whatever came in your kit, but as you begin adding more looms, you start to become discerning about which hooks and needles are going to be the most useful and which to give away or use as a backup in your tool box.

I have over 15 looms at this point, so I have a variety of knitting hooks and needles. At first glance, the knitting hooks look the same, but there are definitely differences in the size and angle of the needles across different brands. I’ll post a few here so you can see some of the differences and why I have certain tools that I prefer.

Knitting Hooks

This picture gives a good comparison of the knitting hooks, though it doesn’t include my favorite hook, which I’ll post about below.

One thing to notice is that the Boye knitting hook and the Loops & Threads hooks are much duller than the wooden KB knitting hook. Generally speaking, I find Knitting Board brand hooks to be sharper than other brands. It may be because they use narrow gauge looms and the sharper hook makes it easier to catch the yarn and pull it over the rounded peg heads.

The advantage of the duller knitting hook is that it is less likely to damage your loom over time. I’ve seen pictures of looms that have been heavily used where the plastic grooves on the pegs are frayed and scraped from long-term use. (Though I have to say that the quality and workmanship of the KB looms is far superior to the cheaper looms out there, so their plastic pegs are probably more durable).

I can’t remember for sure if the blue knitting hook was a KB hook or a second Loops and Threads hook, but I believe that was a KB hook.

Here is a close-up picture of the red Boye hook.

My first loom (the Boye medium round loom) came with a red hook that had a flattened center, which is for your thumb to rest while you’re using the knitting tool. Overall, I like this concept, and for a while, I really enjoyed using this hook. My hands weren’t overly stressed and I could loom knit for hours, unlike crochet (when I crochet, I have to use ergonomic needles and wrist braces or I’m in a lot of pain).

The only drawback for me with the Boye knitting hook is that it is short. I didn’t notice this at all when I started using it, but compared to the one I use now, there is a noticeable difference.

My second loom was the Knitting Board Adjustable hat loom, which came with the wooden knitting hook (you can see it in the image above). I also purchased the KB Ergonomic Knitting Tool, which is the one I use the most. I’m not a big fan of the wooden KB hook because it’s not comfortable for me to hold. The pros of the wooden one are that it is lightweight and has a long, sharp hook which can be helpful for picking up the yarn. Thus far, I’ve only seen the wooden hook in kits like the KB Adjustable Hat Loom and the Knitting Basics Kit, not with the stand-alone looms.

The Loops & Threads green hook worked pretty well. It wasn’t uncomfortable to hold and it is something in between the dull tip of the Boye style and the pointy tip of the KB hooks. I would definitely use this if I needed a backup or if I was traveling and didn’t want to risk security throwing away my favorite hook because of the sharp tip.

My favorite though is the KB Ergonomic Knitting tool! It’s larger, has a rubberized handle, and the pick is sharp and angled to make it easier to pull the yarn over the loop. It’s very well made and you can get it fairly inexpensively at JoAnn, especially if you have a coupon.

The Ergonomic tool makes it easy to knit for hours and puts less strain on your hands and wrists. It does what it says. If you have severe pain when knitting, you may also want compression gloves or wrist braces, but this tool definitely does help with minimizing carpel tunnel/tendonitis pain.

If you do not like the knitting hooks that come with your loom, another alternative, aside from the KB Ergonomic Knitting Tool, is buying a hook and pick set (the kind you’d find at a hardware store or automotive shop). Here’s an example. I know some knitters like using these. They are inexpensive and there are many brands that make them. I’ve seen them anywhere from $4-$25.

Tapestry / Darning Needles

Another essential tool for loom knitting is a tapestry needle (or a darning needle). Generally, looms come with little plastic needles which you’ll use to close the top of a hat or to sew panels together.

Here is an example of the tapestry needles used for looming.

I mostly use the Super Jumbo Clover Tapestry Needles. There’s an obvious reason why. If you look at the size of the eye of the various tapestry needles, the Clover brand needle is 2-3x bigger than the other ones. This is very helpful when you are knitting something that requires a bulky yarn. It is much easier to get the yarn through the larger eye. The crooked tip of the needle also works well when you’re making hats and you want to angle the needle up the groove of the pegs.

I bought the Susan Bates needles because I’d seen a LoomAHat video recommending them. I think they are a good alternative if your loom comes with a flimsy needle and they definitely have a longer eye than the Boye ones, but they aren’t as large for bulky yarns.

I don’t remember for sure, but I believe the purple needle at the bottom was from one of my KB looms. It does have a nice-sized eye, so I’d probably use that as a backup for my Super Jumbo Clover Tapestry Needle. Clover also has a different “jumbo tapestry needle” which is yellow or gold but I haven’t tried it yet, so I’m not sure of the size difference between the jumbo and the super jumbo size.

I also have metal tapestry and darning needles, but I bought these more for attaching embellishments or for embroidering onto the projects as the eyes are pretty small for using yarn and the tips might scratch up my loom pegs.

Another tool/accessory that many loom knitters use is a crochet hook. They are handy for finishing touches, working in the tail end of a yarn, fixing mistakes in your knitting, and for making decorative edges around a piece. You can also use them to do a chain cast on or a crochet cast on (two slightly different techniques using a crochet hook).

There are various other accessories you can get, like stitch markers, but the knitting hook and the tapestry needle are the two most important tools you’ll need – aside from the loom itself.