Thursday, 17 January 2013

Essential gizmos or are they?

(pic from

This rather strange looking object on the left got me thinking that nowadays there are so many so called labour saving devices that we seemingly can't do without.  This device is a skein ricer or squirrel caged swift or in other words a wool swift for skeining yarn.

Swifts come in many shapes and sizes from the umbrella swift, which rather unsurprisingly looks like and umbrella without the covering, windmill swifts either upright or horizontal both of which come in either metal or wood.  My grandmother would have been completely bemused as to why anyone would want/need a device like this.  She used her arms and taught me to do the same.  Likewise the Niddy Noddy, when I came back to knitting and took up spinning were a complete unknown, I balled yarn from skeins using my own two hands - despite Mr S offer to hold up his hands as he had done many times in the past for his mother!
Does modern technology negate the need to learn these old skills?  Lovely as these two skein swifts are, they aren't very portable, neither are the umbrella and windmill yarn swifts - both are not exactly what I would call carry around items - but everywhere I go I have my hands and arms - case proven perhaps?  Not that I haven't got a yarn swift and a niddy noddy and very useful they are for measuring the yardage and I have to admit that I can't hold my arms at exactly a yard circumference!
 Another seemingly essential piece of equipment is a ball winder, check out this for the ultimate ball winding set up - looks fab, but you can't relax when winding yarn on such a set up.  I like to sit and wind my yarn into balls while either watching, listening or reading, thus accomplishing two tasks in one.  This method does mean that I need yarn bowls to stop my lovely round balls of yarn from bouncing of across the floor!  Here Mr S comes into his own, by turning the most gorgeous yarn bowls
But then ball winders are quicker, but I find that unless they are put on a yarn caddy you are apt to get tangles!
So another example of one labour saving device requiring another to make it work.....
One piece of equipment that I find essential is the Lazy Kate, but they have been around for centuries, so isn't a gizmo as such.................but again it isn't necessary to spend a fortune on fancy designs, back in the summer and away from in the caravan I improvised a lazy kate from a wine box and two knitting needles (the first picked up from the supermarket free and the other bought for 50p from a charity shop) - job done!
The moral - hands came before machinery, are cheap and always with you!


  1. A lovely post, thanks for your thoughts. I agree with you so much - it's a person who makes a lovely project, not the equipment.

    I don't think spinning suffers from 'gear freakery' as much as some hobbies. (Though maybe the day will come!) Photography is a good example and I've often thought that Lord Lichfield could take a much better picture on a disposable camera than many of us could take using the most expensive kit.

    Having spun the yarn for two of my projects last year by drop spindle, it's honestly more rewarding the more 'hands on' you can be. You can almost feel the connection with our first ancestors who improvised a spindle.

    But usually without a handy fella around, I have to say that an umbrella swift makes easy work of what is a knotty nightmare without - I haven't yet found a way to improvise a pair of helping hands!

  2. I couldn't agree more - I too feel the connection to all those women who spent all day spinning just to keep the menfolk in work!


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