Yarn ball winder: Manual or Electric? What’s the difference?

Winders yarn-ball-winder-info

In my research I came across these knitting necessities – a yarn ball winder and a yarn swift. I did not understand the difference between them at first, but I understand now. In this post I would like to share with you what I learned about them. I’ll just do the yarn winder for now. Then deal with the swifts in another post, okay.

Yarn Ball Winders

Firstly, there are two types:

  • Manual
  • Electric

Both types are made in plastic, metal, wood or a mixture of these material.

They are available in different sizes as well:

  • Small
  • Medium
  • Large/Jumbo/Heavy duty

So what is a yarn ball winder?


I could give you a dictionary definition. But then you can always google that right? So I’ll give you my version: a yarn winder is simply a device or a tool used by knitters and spinners to wind their yarn into balls that can be easily pulled and knitted into garments and other knitted items.

Price Range

The price range varies with the brand. also, within a brand, it varies with the size

Manual Winders – Pros and Cons


  • cheaper
  • more control over speed of winding and tension of yarn
  • easy to use
  • soothing/ therapeutic for some
  • winds more yarn (depending on the size of winder)
  • can assemble and dismantle and take/ use anywhere
  • available in smaller sizes which is ideal for some knitters


  • time consuming
  • arguably slower than electric winders
  • requires more physical effort and therefore tiring for some
  • in the absence of a swift, might need extra hands to hold the yarn while you wind
  • winds less yarn (depending on the size of the winder)

Electric Winder – Pros and Cons


  • quicker to wind yarn if you have a swift to use with it
  • easy to use for people with joint problems or physical disabilities
  • has adjustable speeds to take care of tension and speed of winding
  • good for knitters that buy yarn in hanks
  • does not easily tangle if used properly
  • can wind bigger hanks of yarn


  • more expensive than manual winders
  • not necessarily faster than manual since tension is still manually controlled
  • takes a bit of getting used to
  • requires a power outlet to use, not as portable as manual winders

Manual v Electric – a summary

Manual winders are generally cheaper than electric winders. They allow knitters to have more control over speed and tension. Manual winders are sturdy and less likely to break. They are portable and can be carried anywhere. However, the yarn wound from manual winders is more stressed and tighter than that wound from an electric winder.

An electric winder is more expensive, is not necessarily faster than manual and takes a bit of getting used to. However, it is easier for people with joint problems or physical disabilities and has adjustable speed dials/knobs to take care of tension and speed of winding. Therefore it gives an even tension which avoids the yarn stretching too much. It is also good for knitters that have a lot of hanks as opposed to skeins. It does not easily tangle if used properly.


All in all, both have their advantages and disadvantages. Your preference will obviously depend upon a number of factors including:

  • time it takes to wind
  • ease of use
  • cost
  • quality and durability
  • enjoyment or relaxation
  • frequency of use
  • a mixture any/all of the above and more

There you have it folks – I hope I have helped you to decide which is better for you.

You can check out what my recommended electric yarn winder here. Also click here to see my recommended manual yarn winder.

If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below and I will be happy to respond. yarn-ball-winder-smiley

Happy knit stitching!

Knit Stitcher


  1. Kurtis Quick says:

    For someone who is just learning do you suggest manual or electric? I am new to this and I’m not sure where to start

    Do you have a personal preference for which one you use? or it is just all about the particular project you are working on?

    I’m looking to do something simple like make a lap blanket for my grandparents. Which style would work best for this?

    • admin says:

      Hi Kurtis, thank you for your question. As a beginner I would recommend not thinking too much about getting one of these as yet unless you’re dealing with alot of yarn and are having some problems with managing it all while knitting. Alot of knitters find winders in general a helpful tool just so that they can keep their yarn together in cakes and balls and not have to worry about unravelling them while knitting.

      But if you are seriously considering getting one, I would recommend starting off with a reasonably priced manual winder like the one from Knit Picks which is about $20. The last time i checked, that was the price. I read alot of great reviews about it and Im sure its quite easy to set up and use. All the best and happy knitting!

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