I wrote earlier about how Andrew broke my ball winder, so I had to get a new one. Well, I saw that Knit Picks had one for sale that was much cheaper than the Royal one that I used to have. After using it, I now know why the Royal is worth every penny. This one from Knit Picks is terrible - its absolutely just a cheap knock-off of the Royal that lacks the little details that make winding a ball of yarn a joyful act done in anticipation of the start of a new and glorious project.
The first thing I noticed was that the clamp is quite fiddly when you try to attach it to the actual winder, and it doesn't even fit snug once it's attached; it shifts around if you're not careful. But, I managed to get it more or less the way I wanted and decided to give things a go. As soon as I tried to attach it to my table, I noticed another thing that was different compared to the Royal. The Royal has nice little 'stops' on the bottom clamp that allow you to position it in perfect alignment with the winder on top. The Knit Picks version does not, and it takes a bit of concentration to get everything lined up properly. Still, not a deal breaker. As I kept going, I noticed another little annoyance: the wire yarn guide doesn't snap into position after you swing it out. I found this more troublesome than the lack of stops on the clamp as the guide would move while I was winding. I ended up holding it in place with my free hand, which was at the same time guiding the yarn off my swift. Can you see how things are adding up to create a very frustrating experience?
The real difference, though, comes when you actually start winding the ball. I don't know what to call it exactly, but let's just say that there is something wrong with the 'balance' of the whole thing. However they have positioned the centre column/spool thingie or angled it, or something, it doesn't guide the yarn to the bottom of the winder, so you end up winding your yarn just on the top portion of the spool. I couldn't even wind an entire skein of sock yarn on it! And then the yarn would slip off the yarn cake being formed, tangle underneath it, and basically create a mess which has to be removed from the winder, and rewound. I must've wound that skein about 6 times before realizing that I just wasn't going to be able to finish it, so now it sits half done at my craft station waiting for me to return this winder, and get another Royal. I'm additionally incensed because I will have to pay shipping again to send it back. Grrrr!!!
Lovely knitters out there, I know the Royal looks expensive, but don't be fooled by cheap imitations like the one Knit Picks sells. Save yourself the hassle and frustration, and get a good quality winder.