The reviews on Ravelry about the ball winder seem ok. Some people were having trouble with the yarn getting tangled on the base, but it seems that they weren't extending the metal arm that the yarn feeds through (I made the same mistake with my winder from JoAnn's).
If you've never used a ball winder before KP has a helpful video:
They say you have to use a swift if you are winding a hank, but I don't. I just wrap it around my knees while in a seated position.
I would love to get the blocking mats, because they are so white and pretty. But I already have somes, **sigh**.
Mine are from KMart. I got them during the holiday season for $5 a pack and they work great. I can reconfigure them to fit the project I'm blocking and break them down to store them when not in use.
I do plan to get some of those lace blocking wires. Blocking wires can make blocking lace a lot easier and creates straighter edges on your lace projects.
If you don't have 20 bucks to spend on blocking wires I read that you can use welding rods:
"Since I find this site so helpful to me with my projects, I’d like to give back and share a very money saving tip as alternatives to lace blocking wires which, if ordered from a yarn source, can cost alot of money: You need to go to your local hardware store or a welding supply store and simply tell the nice man there that you want ”welding rods for tig welding, the size of a strand of spaghetti.” They come in 3 feet lengths, I bought six of them for a little over $4.00. More money for yarn :) They are stainless steel, make sure they are uncoated (I guess some of them come coated with something). Honestly, there’s no excuse for not wire blocking with a deal like that!!! Have fun, enjoy. If you are already familiar with blocking wires, they work every bit as nice as those “expensive” ones. :)"
-prairiesu on Ravelry
I'm a little too intimidated by the thought of picking out welding rods. So I'm gonna spend the extra bucks and get KP wires.
Warning! The following pics don't have anything to do with winders, blocking accessories, knitpicks or knitting. They're of my baby niece, so if you don't like babies stop scrolling!