How to Hand-Wind Yarn Into a Ball, Hank, or Skein
If you've immersed yourself in the world of hand-spun or hand-dyed fibers for knitting or crochet, you've likely purchased your yarn in beautifully twisted skeins. Skeins are those snakelike coils of yarn that have been tied and twisted tightly upon themselves. You know, the ones that call out to you at craft markets—rich in color, beautifully spun, and worth their weight in gold?
The shape of a skein is important as it keeps the yarn tight and tidy, but before it takes that shape it needs to be first wrapped into what is called a "hank." A hank is coiled yarn that has been tied in a few areas to keep it together. Hanks can be any size, but are commonly sold in 200- to 300-yard lengths. The best way to dye yarn is when it is in a hank. It allows for color to seep all around the yarn so that it can be dyed evenly, which could be prohibited if bundled as a skein. If you've purchased undyed yarn in a skein, all you need to do in order to dye it, is simply untwist the yarn into the large coil and you're ready to go. However, if you find yourself in a situation where your yarn is in a ball or has just become a giant knotted mess (or needed to recycle yarn or substitute your yarn mid-project), it's simple to wind it back into a hank and start over without tools. (All you need is an armchair.)
Once you're ready to start your project, it's easiest to wind your yarn into a ball. The process of winding a skein into a ball from a hank can be a mindless but enjoyable task, allowing you to get a good feel for the yarn between your fingers before embarking on your project. Once wound into a ball, place into a yarn bowl to keep it from rolling all over the place and you're ready to begin stitching.
How to Wind Yarn Into a Ball
Most knitters like to take some time with their yarn before starting projects so they can get a feel for the weight or how it will move in their hands while working, and winding it into a ball by hand is a fantastic way to do this.
Ball: Step 1
Winding yarn into a ball by hand is very simple. You'll want to start by winding it around two or three fingers. Do this 10 to 12 times, then carefully slide the yarn off your fingers.
Ball: Step 2
Fold the yarn in half over itself and continue to wind the string tightly around the tiny ball. It may look a little messy in the beginning, but as you continue to wind and turn the ball of yarn, it starts to take shape beautifully.
Ball: Step 3
As you wind the yarn, be sure to twist the ball around to evenly distribute the yarn.
How to Wind Yarn Into a Hank
A hank refers to yarn that has been looped into a coil. This is how you'll often find yarn that is waiting to be hand-dyed. It is also the first step of the process in twisting yarn into a skein. To hank yarn, you can ask a friend to lend a hand (preferably two) or, if you're on your own, you can use the back of a dining chair.
Hank: Step 1
There are a few simple steps to winding a hank, the first is to simply wind and overlap all your yarn around the front and back of a dining chair. Keep the coil tight enough so it doesn't slip down the back of the chair, but not too tight that it will stretch out the yarn. Once you've wound all the yarn, tuck the end into the coil.
Hank: Step 2
Keep the hank together by tying two to three "figure eight ties" around the length of the coil. If you want your ties to blend in with the yarn you've just hanked, cut a cut about a foot and a half of yarn from the end of the coil. You want your figure eight ties to be very loose, so cut a length of yarn longer than what you think you'll need as it’s always easier to trim away excess.
Hank: Step 3
Using one hand, part the coil into two halves with your index finger. Use your dominant hand to run the string through the middle to the inside of the coil, bring it up and over the top, back down through the middle, and finally back and under the bottom. If you get confused at any point, just imagine drawing the number "8." Join the ends in a knot, keeping in mind that they should be tied loosely so they can be removed with ease once you're ready to use the yarn, and trim the tail.
Hank: Step 4
Most hanks have at least three figure eight ties, so just divide the coil up into thirds and add the remaining two ties to finish the hank.
How to Wind Yarn Into a Skein
A skein is essentially a twisted hank. It is often how you'll find beautifully handmade, or hand-dyed yarn for sale at craft markets and yarn shops. To take shape as a skein, yarn is first coiled into a hank, dyed, and after it dries it is then twisted into a skein. This shape keeps the yarn tidy, while showcasing color and gradiaton.
Skein: Step 1
To begin shaping your yarn into a skein, hook your hank of yarn around each hand, widening your arms so the hank is taut, but not tight. Using one hand, begin to twist the hank around by making a circle with your wrist until the yarn cannot be twisted anymore.
Skein: Step 2
Quickly bring your hands together. This motion will allow the yarn to snake around, forming a skein.
Skein: Step 3
To secure the skein, transfer the yarn looped around one hand over to the other, pulling the yarn from that hand through the loop.
Skein: Step 5
This secures the loose strand in the skein.