How to Unwind a Hank of Yarn

Hank of yarn
Dezene Huber / Getty Images
Project Overview
  • Skill Level: Beginner

A lot of knitting yarn comes in perfectly manageable packages like balls and pull skeins. All you have to do to get started knitting is grab the end of 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 pretzel-like shape for easier shipping. When you unfold it, you’ll have a big circle or doughnut of yarn.

You can’t knit with it the way it is. You’ll likely make a huge mess and may lose your sanity trying to make it right. The good news is, it’s pretty straightforward to convert a hank of yarn into a ball of yarn.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Two chairs with backs


  • Hank of Yarn


  1. Unfold the Hank

    When you’re ready to make a ball of yarn, untwist the hank. You’ll be left with a big oval loop of yarn, strands tied together at one or more places around the oval.

    Place it on a table or other flat surface. Remove the manufacturer’s tag.

    An unfolded hank of yarn.
    Sarah White
  2. Find the Ends

    The ends of a hank of yarn are often tied around the strands of the loop. If the yarn itself has been used to hold the oval 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 those threads or cut them, making sure you don’t cut your working yarn in the process.

    The ends of a hank of yarn.
    Sarah White
  3. Get Ready to Wind

    Turn two dining room chairs back-to-back and drape the yarn over them. Put them close enough together so that the yarn will stay up when stretched over the backs of the chairs.

    If you have a hank of yarn with a small circumference, you may be able to wrap it around just one chair back.


    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.

    Turn the loops of yarn so they are not twisted around themselves, leaving at least one of the ends on the side facing away from the chair backs.

    A hank of yarn on chairs.
    Sarah White
  4. Starting the Ball

    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 be unwinding your way around the yarn oval on the chair. You shouldn't have any tangles using this method, but it's always possible the strands of yarn can get caught up in themselves, so wind slowly and carefully.

    The beginnings of a ball.
    Sarah White