Every crafter knows the frustration of a tangled mass of yarn. The good news is that there’s a tool that can help preserve your yarn and your sanity: the yarn swift.
A swift, also called a yarn winder, can make your hobby time enjoyable again—and we’re here to help you choose the one that fits your needs.
Why Use a Yarn Swift?
Yarn can come in a ball, a skein (oblong shape) or a hank (loosely wound large circle that’s been twisted). Skeins can lose their shape as they’re used and become more at risk of tangling; this can be avoided by winding them into a ball first. Hanks will always have to be wound into a ball prior to use.
You already have tons of crafting supplies, so why add a yarn swift to the mix? The short answer is that winding your yarn with this tool ensures perfect balls—no more tangles. Plus, when you’re ready to start winding, you can go it solo (no spare arms required).
What to Consider When Buying a Yarn Swift
It seems like a simple device, but there’s a lot to think about when buying a yarn swift.
Materials and Finishes
You can find yarn winders in a range of materials and finishes. Common materials include both wood and metal. Wood finish winders are usually just as smooth as metal to prevent yarn from snagging.
Some wood swifts are treated with a varnish that could come with a strong odor. Avoiding toxic fumes is a must, especially if you knit often. You should also consider how the varnish could affect both your yarn and the finished product.
Style and Type
The main types of yarn swifts are umbrella and Amish. Umbrella swifts come in a few different styles, and they can be metal, wood, or even plastic. These get their name from the way they collapse into an umbrella-like shape. The size and shape lend this unit to storage in a cabinet or drawer, and the pop-up feature makes reassembly simple.
An Amish-style swift takes up more space on a tabletop than other styles. But the simple construction and adjustability are favorite features for those who crochet. Usually, you can take apart an Amish-style winder for storage and reassemble it in a few moments with ease.
Both types of yarn swifts can require a bit of hardware, but it’s also common to find Amish-style ones with no metal whatsoever. If a streamlined appearance and functionality is important to you, this might be a straightforward choice to make.
On the other hand, umbrella swifts are easily portable, collapse quickly, but also use hardware to keep everything operating smoothly.
Aesthetics and Extra Features
The appearance of your yarn swift might not matter much when it comes to everyday use. After all, performance is the most important metric. Still, aesthetics can count for a lot when it comes to your enjoyment of your craft.
While we don’t recommend choosing a yarn winder based on looks alone, picking one that’s pleasing to the eye will make your hobby even more rewarding. You may also, if you’re fussy like me, want to coordinate your equipment with your décor!
Level of Assembly Difficulty
Putting together a yarn swift shouldn’t be difficult. And yet, some products are nearly impossible to put together, whether due to poor instructions or overly complicated components. Decide how comfortable you are with assembly—or a unit you need to collapse to store—and shop accordingly.
If you’re new to yarn swifts in general, check out the below video from Stanwood Imports that illustrates how to use an umbrella swift. Then, read on for details on which swifts we recommend (including those from Stanwood Needlecraft).
Ease of Storage
If you have a dedicated hobby room or space in your crocheting area for a standalone swift, that’s ideal. But many of us crafters need all the square footage we can get for other projects. Which means the yarn winder needs to stow easily when not in use.
Think about whether you have room to leave your swift standing, or whether a collapsible model—or just a smaller one—is best. For example, umbrella swifts are easy to stow when you’re not using them because they fold down.
Where You’ll Use It
Before buying a yarn swift, think about where you’ll use it or, more specifically, what surface it will rest on. Some products have non-slip pads to keep them in place, while others will need some weight to stay upright on smooth surfaces.
Reliability and Replacement Parts
Being able to source replacement parts for your equipment is crucial. Then again, being able to rely on your yarn winder without worrying about breakage is also nice. Choosing a swift from a reliable company can help ease concerns over breakage. But a big-name company is also likely to offer replacement parts and customer support if you have a problem.
Compatibility with Your Equipment
Many yarn swifts are compatible with different sized hanks, while others aren’t suitable for every bit of yarn in your collection. Knowing whether you can use skeins with a yarn winder will also affect your purchasing decision.
Need to know more about yarn? Check out our ultimate guide to yarn, which features all the details you need whether you’re crocheting, knitting, or creating amigurumi crafts.
Our pick of the best yarn swifts
Now that you know what to look for, it’s time to check out the best yarn swifts on the market. These are our top five recommendations.
Stanwood Needlecraft’s Amish-style wooden yarn swift is a solid wood option with few technical specs. There is no metal hardware, no plastic parts, and no finishes or varnishes.
The tabletop-style swift takes up quite a bit of space, so you’ll need a surface area to suit. At 2.5 feet across, you have plenty of room to make adjustments, too. The pegs can be adjusted to suit your project; just slip them into the right hole and you’re set. Being able to work with different sized hanks is a bonus with this product.
At the bottom of the swift are non-slip pads to keep the device in place. But you won’t find any rough spots elsewhere on the swift; it’s sanded with extra-fine sandpaper to achieve a smooth look and feel. Of course, you may hit some snags—literally—with the pegs, as they are not as polished as the rest of the system.
Overall, if you want a classic look and feel that’s very bare-bones, Stanwood Needlecraft’s simple construction will likely appeal to you. Especially if you wind yarn infrequently, being able to store the winder flat and set it up quickly is a perk.
- No tools necessary for assembly
- Easy and intuitive to set up
- Comes apart to store flat
- No plastic, metal, or other extra pieces
- Size adjustment is simple: peg and hole
- Tabletop style maintains its balance
- Occasionally creates a bit of a squeak
- Could benefit from a washer or spacer to prevent wood-on-wood rubbing
- Connected pieces use glue, which can fail
Stanwood Needlecraft’s medium umbrella yarn swift might be the best option if you need to attach your winder to a surface. The clamp allows you to position the winder on the back of a chair, on a table edge, or anywhere else that’s convenient.
The umbrella style means there is interior hardware, which some users note tends to loosen up over time. You can expect to wind thousands of yards of yarn before encountering a problem, however.
And while there are metal components inside the winder, the clamp is wood, so you don’t have to worry about marring any surfaces. A smooth finish (the swift is birchwood) and an all-wood screw mechanism makes the winder easy to handle and unlikely to catch your yarn.
One highlight with the Stanwood Needlecraft umbrella swift is that it can accommodate up to a six-foot skein.
- Holds up to a six-foot skein
- Clamp-on base works on a range of surfaces
- Smooth exterior without hardware sticking out
- Arrives assembled (just insert the wood screw for the clamp)
- Easy to collapse and store
- The wood-on-wood clamp is subject to tightening based on moisture in the air
- The clamp only fits edges up to 1 ¾ inch thick
- Interior wires mean some irreparable breakage could occur
Especially if you’re new to the U-nitt yarn winder design, it can seem a bit intimidating. But the perks of all-metal construction and lubricated gears are exceptional speed and the ability to wind up to a ten-ounce skein.
At the same time, you don’t need any tools to assemble it, so the U-nitt model is easy to get started with. Of course, if you need replacement parts at any point, you’ll have to contact the manufacturer for help. Parts aren’t easy to find in-store. However, U-nitt includes a one-year warranty with your purchase, which is a highlight.
You can attach the wing nut clamp to any table or surface in a snap, though the lack of cushioning could mean it mars the surface. Still, this means it stands sturdily on its own, and you’ll only need to guide the yarn while the winder works.
- Winds up to a 10-ounce skein
- All metal construction is durable
- No tools required for assembly
- Can secure the winder to a table or another surface up to two inches thick
- The potential for breakage (given so many parts) is high
- There’s a bit of a learning curve
- You’ll likely need to guide the yarn while winding
If you routinely need to wind larger skeins, Stanwood Needlecraft’s large yarn winder might be the perfect fit. It can hold skeins up to 8.5 feet while spinning smoothly. Being able to use various sizes of yarn hanks is also helpful.
That said, this large swift handles both large and small skeins equally well. Quick and seamless operation is a highlight. Of course, after lots of use, you can expect that the interior wires might begin to loosen. Fortunately, replacement parts are readily available.
The unfinished wood is a perk because you won’t have any overwhelming odors or toxic materials. At the same time, sanded wood tends to squeak a bit, so some users apply a bit of oil to reduce the noise.
Overall, finding a yarn swift that’s big enough to handle larger skeins for everyday winding can be a challenge. Stanwood Needlecraft’s umbrella model is an excellent solution, especially when you need to break it down for storage.
- Holds skeins up to 8.5 feet
- Accommodates multiple hank sizes
- Ideal for both large and small skeins and size variations
- Doesn’t have any varnishes or finishes that could let off fumes
- Only clamps to surfaces up to 1 ¾ inches thick
- Interior wires can loosen and might require replacement
- A bit of squeaking can occur as the wood is unfinished
If an umbrella swift is a bit too daunting, you can’t go wrong with the traditional Amish style swift. While the Chiao Goo winder comes from China, rather than an Amish workshop, it has the right style and features you need for winding yarn at home.
You can use the adjustable pegs to suit different hank sizes, though the smallest setting might not be trim enough for some projects. Over time, the pegs can also become smoother, meaning they might slip or wobble. Fortunately, it’s easy to put a bit of wax in the holes to keep everything operating properly.
Storage is simple since the swift comes apart into a handful of pieces. There are no tools necessary, though some users choose to add a washer in the center to reduce the wood-on-wood friction (and subsequent noise).
As long as you’re only using skeins under 62 inches, the Chiao Goo winder might be the perfect fit. The smooth wood design makes it even easier to store than many foldable umbrella options. That said, there are budget-friendlier options on the market if you don’t want to invest a lot.
- Adjustable pegs accommodate different sized hanks
- No-tool setup and breakdown
- Easy to store and reassemble
- Holds skeins up to 62 inches
- The central dowel tends to stick
- Wood pegs can smooth down more over time, causing slippage
- Tends to wobble a little
Final Thoughts on the Best Yarn Swift
Choosing the best yarn swift for your needs depends on how much space you have, what type and size yarn hanks and skeins you’re working with, and how comfortable you are with the various types of winders.
If you’re a beginner looking to learn how to wind yarn more quickly (instead of enlisting the arms of another person for hours on end), we recommend the Stanwood Needlecraft Tabletop Amish Style Wooden Yarn Swift. It’s easy to assemble, breaks down for storage or transport, and doesn’t need any maintenance the way that umbrella swifts can.
On the other hand, if you’re hoping for a bit faster and more streamlined winding experience, an umbrella option could work great—and it can clamp onto surfaces to make your winding time more comfortable. Especially if you’re working with larger skeins, you’ll love the large Stanwood Needlecraft Wooden Umbrella Swift Yarn Winder. It’s as portable as other options but can accommodate bigger skeins.
However, if you’re looking for faster and more seamless yarn winding, a better option for more experienced crocheters is the U-nitt ML702 “jumbo” winder. It looks more intimidating, but the addition of well-oiled gears means you can wind yarn faster and more precisely than ever.
While choosing a yarn swift depends on your comfort and experience levels, you can’t go wrong with any swift on our best-of list.