It's a week before Halloween and I'm conducting mad scientist experiments! DH got me a Royal New Wool Winder as either a late birthday present or an early Christmas present. Needless to add, I promptly assembled the gadget and put it to work. In the name of Yarn Science, of course.
Here's an informal comparison of some center-pull balls wound by hand versus center-pull balls wound by gadget. Sorry about the dim photo, it's cloudy today roundabout Exit 151.
Left to right, they are Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock, Green Mountain Spinnery Mountain Mohair, Noro Iro, Cherry Tree Hill Baby Loop Mohair, and some leftover Cherry Tree Hill Supersock. All were full hanks wound off a swift, except for the Supersock, which was wound by gadget from the remnants of a hand-wound ball.
The hand-wound balls are all a bit sloppy, but very soft and compressible; they seem light for their size and the yarn is almost as relaxed as it is in hank form. Variegated yarn looks pretty much the same as it did in the hank. The balls do not roll; they stack reasonably well.
The gadget-wound balls are neat, compact, and dense. When first off the winder, the yarn seems under considerable tension; after 12 hours, it relaxes a little. Variegated yarn looks less the way it did in the hank and a bit closer to the knit fabric. The flat cakes stack perfectly.
It's said mohair, boucle, chenille, and most novelty yarns can't be wound by gadget. The Baby Loop, a mohair boucle, wound up nicely. It remains to be seen if it will feed nicely. DH thinks this experiment was most unwise, muttering something about self-felting. The gadget does create a fair amount of lint (not towels-in-the-dryer quantities, more like well-groomed-shorthair-pet-on-contrasting-sofa amounts), which indicates friction, but I'm hoping the ban applies to machine knitting, but not to handknitting.
In my opinion, the great advantage of gadget winding over hand winding is blazing speed; however, I consider the extra tension in the yarn a significant drawback. I wonder if there's any way to reduce it. Erica mentions pulling yarn off the swift before winding or winding 2-3 times... perhaps winding without a swift might work, at least for a handknitter. Hm. There would seem to be room for additional hypothesis formation and testing.
While I ponder that, here's an amazing motorized ball winder made from Lego parts. The parts are hard to find and cost four to five times more than a regular ball winder – the sheer genius leaves me agog.
Moving from the mysteries of yarn science to plain old mystery, my first Socktoberfest project is finished. It's a surprise to be revealed next week.
Shh! More pix to come soon!