How to Unwind a Hank of Yarn

Meet Hank

Hank of yarn
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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. When you unfold it, you’ll have a big loop or doughnut of yarn.

You can’t knit with it the way it is; 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.

Unfold the Yarn

An unfolded hank of yarn.
Sarah White
  • 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.

Finding the Ends

The ends of a hank of yarn.
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.

Getting Ready to Wind

A hank of yarn on chairs.
Sarah White
  • 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 could probably 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.

Starting a Ball

The beginnings of a ball.
Sarah White
  • 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 possible the strands of yarn can get caught up in themselves, so wind slowly and carefully.