Maintaining my Antique Wool Winder

Maintaining my Antique Wool Winder

A few years ago I adopted this Antique Skein Winder at one of our guild sales.  Originally there would have been a mechanism that would count the rotations and pop once a full skein was reached.  But that part of the tool is broken on this one.  However, it is still quite usable for winding up skeins of yarn.

I noticed that mine was looking quite dusty and the wood was quite dry.  Winter in Ontario can be quite cold and dry so this is no great surprise that my skein winder was looking a bit tired.

Dusty Antique wool winder with dry wood
Antique wool winder before cleaning

I dug out my bag of wood cleaners and assessed the problem.  I decided to use the Home Hardware Outdoor Furniture Wax.

Wood cleaners and conditioners
Wood cleaners and conditioners

Before I started to use the wax I wiped down the skein winder with a damp rag to remove the surface dust.  Then I added a dollop of furniture wax and started rubbing it in.  This wax is nice to use because it is very wet and easy to spread around.  I also find it very nourishing to the wood.

Wood skein winder with a splat of wax polish on it
Splat of wax polish

When the whole skein winder was waxed the wood grain was showing really nicely and the whole thing looked amazing.  It didn’t take long to clean and maintain my skein winder and it was very satisfying to do because the results are so impressive.  Having tools that work properly is wonderful.  Having tools that are also beautiful makes them even more enjoyable to use.

Clean wooden skein winder
Clean wooden skein winder

I do a lot of spinning and therefore this tool gets used all the time.  I went to the Chesterville Spin In on Feb 4th and bough this lovely braid of Superwash Merino combed top from Karberry Farm.

Braid of wool roving in blue, rust and white
Braid of Superwash Merino Combed top from Karberry Farm

After I spun it up I decided to take a few photos showing my skein winder in action.  To get started I move my spinning wheel off to the left and release the brake tension on the bobbin.

Majacraft Rose Spinning wheel on left and Antique skein winder on right
Majacraft Rose Spinning wheel (left) and Skein Winder (right)

Next I attach the end of the yarn to one of the arms of the skein winder and start winding.  (I use an elastic hair tie on the arm of the winder and simply tuck the end of the yarn under the elastic to secure it, and then I start winding.)  The yarn flows off the bobbin on the spinning wheel and onto the skein winder.  I do hold the yarn as I am winding so that it winds on evenly and with a bit of tension.

Yarn being wound off the spinning wheel bobbin and onto the skein winder
Winding yarn off the spinning wheel bobbin and onto the skein winder

After I have wound up the yarn onto the skein winder I have a nice neat bundle of yarn.  (In this next photo you can see where I attached the initial tail of the yarn using a hair elastic on the left arm of the skein winder.)

Top view of skein winder with yarn wound onto it
Skein winder with yarn wound onto it

Next I use scrap yarn to tie four figure eight ties on the skein, spacing them out around the skein.

Figure eiight tie on the skein using scrap yarn
Figure eight tie on the skein using scrap yarn

I also like to secure both ends of the yarn into the nearest figure eight tie.  I take the yarn end, flip it over the nearest figure eight knot, and then tie a light knot.  This allows me to always find one of the ends of the skein later because I know it will be in one of the four figure eight ties.

Yarn tail flipped over the figure eight tie and knotted lightly
Yarn tail flipped over the figure eight tie and knotted lightly

Once the four ties are knotted and the ends of the skein are secured, it is time to remove the skein from the yarn winder.

Front view of yarn winder with skein of yarn on it with four yarn ties
Front view of yarn winder with skein of yarn on it with four yarn ties

My winder has six arms.  One of the arms has a neat elbow joint that has can be bent.  When I bend the arm to the side this releases the tension on the skein, making it easier to remove the skein off the winder.

Front view of yarn winder with one arm bent to assist with taking the skein off the yarn winder
Elbow joint bent to assist with taking the skein off the winder

After removing from the winder I twist the skein into a neat bundle for storage.  This skein of chain plied yarn will go in the pile of recent handspun waiting to be washed.  After it is washed and dry it will be ready for longterm storage or for use.

Twisted skein of yarn sitting on the base of the yarn winder
Twisted skein of yarn


And just for fun, I’m going to end this post by including the before and after photos side by side.  I love how it went from drab to fabulous with a tiny bit of elbow grease.  This handsome Antique skein winder deserved the TLC.

Dusty Antique wool winder with dry wood
Antique wool winder before cleaning
Clean wooden skein winder
Clean wooden skein winder


16 thoughts on “Maintaining my Antique Wool Winder

  1. You did a great job on the wool winder! It is much nicer to use equipment that looks good but treating it as you did will also preserve it for many years to come.

    Your skein of wool is a pretty combination of colours 🙂

  2. That’s a very attractive piece of equipment you have there. I was wondering how you got the skein off the winder/swift as I could see there was a knob on the end of each arm. My sister’s husband made hers but I can’t remember how he got round that problem. He made all her spinning equipment, apart from the wheel and ball winder, which must have been a labour of love as he hated getting what he called wood swarf all over his lathe – he’s an engineer and normally only works in metal.

    1. Hi, I don’t weave or spin, I love making felt. I also love wood and I think you have a beautiful wool winder, if only they could talk what stories they could tell. It’s a lovely object.

    2. Some wool winders have tapered heads on the end of the arm so that you can slide the skein off them by pulling towards you. I haven’t seen many winders with an elbow joint like mine has. I must say I love the elbow. It makes removing the skein really easy. Your sister is lucky to have a husband who makes tools for her.

    3. She was lucky some of the time – he made her a 4 shaft loom, but being himself he made as much in metal as he could – it was very difficult to lift!
      He did make us both large niddy noddies which would give a skein 1 yard wide, so that it was easy to count the length of your yarn. I really must get back to spinning soon.

  3. What a great job you did preserving your wool winder. It looks like it has a new lease on life. Thanks for explaining how it works too. I haven’t used one before so it’s nice to see it in action. Lovely yarn you created too!

    1. Thanks! I do love to spin. Having the right tool makes it even more enjoyable. Before I got a winder like this I was using a swift to wind up my skeins and it was really hard. As a result I tended to wait to do that job which delayed the entire process of making yarn that I could use. (After you make yarn you need to wash it. This removes dirt, excess dye and sets the twist. The best way to wash yarn is to have it in a skein to prevent it from tangling.)

  4. I’m a bit jelly, that skein winder is lovely, even without the original “extras.” I’d love to have one of my own. Completely unrelated, where exactly do you live? 🙂

    (Jokes aside, I’m definitely keeping the name of that wax for future reference!)

    1. I hope you can find a skein winder to add to your tools. I live in Ottawa, Canada.

  5. What a beautiful transformation of a well loved piece of equipment. You have made it your own. Great post!

    1. Thanks! These old pieces have so much skill and finesse in them. It is lovely to keep using them. (Even if this one does not count rotations.)

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