How to Unwind a Hank of Yarn

  • 01 of 05

    Meet Hank

    Hank of yarn
    Dezene Huber / Getty Images

    A lot of knitting yarn comes in perfectly manageable packages like balls and skeins. All you have to do to get started knitting is pull the end of the yarn from the outside (or center) of the ball or skein, cast on and go.

    Not so with knitting yarn that comes in a hank. A hank is basically a big loop of yarn. When you buy a hank of yarn, it’s usually twisted into a yarn pretzel for easier shipping. But when you unfold it, you’ll see that what you’ve lot is a big loop or doughnut of yarn.

    You can’t...MORE knit with it the way it is. Trust me. You’ll make a huge mess and lose a good deal of sanity trying to make it right. The good news is, it’s completely easy to convert a hank of yarn into a ball of yarn. Here’s how you do it.

    Continue to 2 of 5 below.
  • 02 of 05

    Unfold the Yarn

    An unfolded hank of yarn.
    A hank after it is unfolded. Sarah White

    As mentioned before, when you buy a hank of yarn, you’ll usually find it all twisted around itself. This is a fine way to store hanks of yarn until you are ready to use them.

    When you’re ready to make a ball of yarn from the hank, simply untwist the yarn. You’ll be left with a big oval loop of yarn. Place it on a table or other flat surface.

    Remove the manufacturer’s tag.

    Continue to 3 of 5 below.
  • 03 of 05

    Finding the Ends

    The ends of a hank of yarn.
    This close-up shows the ends of yarn wrapped around the hank. Sarah White

    The ends of a hank of yarn are often tied around the loop of yarn to keep the ​hank together. Sometimes a contrasting thread is used for this purpose.

    If the yarn itself has been used to tie the yarn together, you’ll want to gently untie those knots. If you find this impossible, trim the yarn as close to the knot as you can.

    If a contrasting yarn is used, you can either untie the threads or cut them, making sure you don’t cut your working yarn in the process.

    Continue to 4 of 5 below.
  • 04 of 05

    Getting Ready to Wind

    A hank of yarn on chairs.
    A hank of yarn stretched over two chair backs. Sarah White

    You’ve probably seen a scene in a movie where someone is winding a ball of yarn and the hank is being held between someone’s (usually the knitter’s suitor’s) outstretched hands.

    The old-fashioned way is a great way to deal with a hank of yarn. If you don’t have a friend handy, do what I do and turn two dining room chairs back-to-back. Put them close enough together so that the yarn stays up when stretched over the backs of the chairs.

    If you have a hank of yarn with a small circumference, you...MORE could probably wrap it around just one chair back.

    I’ve also successfully rolled a hank while leaving the yarn spread out on the floor, but it did get a little messy toward the end. If you want to get really wild, you could hold the yarn with your feet.

    Or, if you want to be fancy, you can buy a yarn swift, an adjustable, umbrella-like device that holds the unrolled hank firmly in place as you wind.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Starting a Ball

    The beginnings of a ball.
    The start of a ball being made from a hank of yarn. Sarah White

    Making a ball from a hank of knitting yarn is exactly the same as making a ball from any other yarn. Start by picking an end to work from and winding the yarn around your fingers a few times.

    Slip the yarn off your fingers and continue wrapping the yarn around and around, moving the ball as you go to make a nice, even ball. Don’t wind the yarn too tightly.

    As you wind, you'll work your way around the yarn on the chair. You shouldn't have any tangles using this method, but it's always...MORE possible the strands of yarn can get caught up in themselves, so wind slowly and carefully. Enjoy the yarn and the process.

    Keep winding until you reach the end of the ball. Enjoy!