You’ve seen hanks, skeins, cake, and balls of yarn, but what’s the difference?
Choosing the right kind and color of yarn is critical to the success of a project, but the shape of your yarn can impact the way you use your yarn. This Foundations article shows the kinds of storage and use methods available for yarn, so you can create in comfort.
It is important to note that shape has nothing to do with yarn content. Yarn of any material can come in any of these examples listed, but knowing the difference between these can help you better store and use your yarn.
A skein of yarn is one of the most common kinds of wind you’ll see at big box craft stores. It can be used as is by pulling from the center but does not maintain its shape well when used. Most skeins you’ll see are machine-wound and are associated with synthetic or other easy-care materials.
Skeins are compact for the amount of yarn they hold and easy to store long-term. Because of how much yarn they contain (skeins are often sold by the pound or greater), winding them into a cake (we’ll cover these later) is preferred to keep your yarn clean and tangle-free during the length of your project. If you don’t want to wind your yarn or don’t have a ball winder, you can keep your skeins in place by putting them in a plastic or pest-proof bag while you knit. This way, the yarn stays contained and there’s a smaller chance it will tangle as you use it.
Hanks are most common among small-batch, luxury, and indie yarns. Hanks are loose rounds of yarn held together with one or two ties. Hanks are convenient to use during the dye process because their shape allows colors to reach the entire length of yarn.
This long loop is then twisted in on itself with some pretty gorgeous results. These handsome lil’ things can easily be stored vertically to enjoy as decor and functional storage. Another perk of hanging your yarn means you can not only see what you have, but you can easily keep your stash out of the hands of little ones and pests. I like to wind my yarn before storing it on a pegboard. I have multiple pegboards because, like any knitter, my yarn stash is completely out of control.
Hanks can be a little fussy, as they need to wound into a cake before use. If they’re not, you’ll quickly end up with a tangled mess. That’s no good, especially considering the price tag for hard-earned luxury yarns. Most local yarn shops will wind your yarn once you purchase it. If you buy yarn online or don’t plan on using it for a while, we would recommend keeping the yarn in the hank until it’s ready.
Cakes are the result of winding a ball, hank, or skein of yarn into a neat round that pulls from the center. Having yarn in cake form shows off the tonality of a yarn, helping you see speckles or hue shifts you otherwise wouldn’t.
When you’re planning a project, you can also stack “layers” of cake, to see how colors work together without knitting a complicated swatch.
It’s important to note that cakes can slightly stretch yarn depending on how tightly they’re wound. While it’s nothing significant, it can cause yarn to loose it’s elasticity over time. This is important for projects that need stretch like socks, or where gauge is important, like sweaters or stockings. If you don’t plan on using the yarn within three months, we would recommend leaving it in its original form. Bulky weight yarns or synthetic fibers aren’t affected by this.
Balls of yarn are often used for lighter weight or luxury yarns. They can be stored as is, with no worry about stretching out the yarn. Balls show off the delicate character of finer yarns and are very photogenic.
Balls can be used by pulling the yarn from the center, but the fine weight of the yarn can cause it to tangle quickly if you’re not careful. If you prefer not to wind your yarns or don’t have a winder, you can use a yarn bowl to keep your precious balls in one place while you craft.
Do you have a preference, want to suggest a post, or have a good dad joke? Let us know by leaving a comment below