How to Wind a Ball of Yarn Into a Skein

Getting Ready to Wind Your Ball Into a Skein

Ball of white yarn tied to a chair.
Sarah E. White / The Spruce

Knitters don't commonly need to wind a ball of yarn into a hank (sometimes also called a skein). Typically, they're more interested in turning a hank into a ball so that they can knit with it.

If you spin your own yarn, you might need to make a ball of yarn into a hank for dyeing or other purposes, and if you recycle yarn from an old project or a thrift store sweater you'll likely want to turn your balls of salvaged yarn into hanks so that you can wash them to relax the fibers.

The first part of this tutorial shows how to wind yarn from a ball into a hank using the back of a chair to assist you. The second part shows the same basic procedure done with a yarn swift. This is handy if you have one, but not that much faster.

To start winding a ball of yarn into a hank on a chair back, take the end of the yarn and loosely tie it to the chair. If your chair doesn't have slats, you could tape it instead.

Winding the Yarn Around the Chair

White yarn wrapped around the slats on the chair.
Sarah E. White / The Spruce

Start winding the yarn around the chair back.

You want to wind the yarn tightly enough that it stays up on the back of the chair, but not so tightly that you're over tensioning the yarn. It should still look a little wavy as it sits on the chair.

You can hold onto the ball of yarn as you work if you like or just let it roll around in the chair. It will likely fall to the floor at some point, but that's no problem unless you have cats around.

Tying off the Hank

White yarn wrapped around the chair back.
Sarah E. White / The Spruce

Continue winding the yarn from the ball onto the chair back until you come to the end of the ball.

Untie the end of the yarn that is attached to the chair.

Using another length of yarn—which can be the same yarn or a contrasting yarn, as shown here—tie the hank strands together in at least a couple of places to secure the ends. Make sure the yarn doesn't tangle when you take it off the back of the chair.

These strands should be tied tightly enough that they hold the hank together but not so tight that they won't allow the fibers to move around, which is essential if you're planning to wash the yarn after skeining.

Finishing the Skein

White yarn wrapped in circle and secured with gray pieces of yarn.
Sarah E. White / The Spruce

Take the hank off the back of the chair. If you like, you can add a couple more ties at this point.

Another way to handle the ties, rather than just circling the whole skein, is to divide the yarn on each side of the hank and tie it into a figure eight, with the thread that you're tying with going through the center of the yarn before being tied. You'll often see professionally done hanks tied in this way, but it isn't critical.

Setting up the Yarn Swift to Wind a Hank

Yarn swift set up o table with one length of blue yarn wrapped around it.
Sarah E. White / The Spruce

If you have a yarn swift and are just looking for an excuse to use it, you can also wind a ball of yarn into a hank with the help of this device.

It is a little bit faster to wind a skein this way because the swift has a bigger circumference than the back of a chair, meaning your hank will be longer as well.

To begin winding a ball of yarn into a hank using a swift, take the end of the yarn and drape it once around the swift, catching it in the middle indented part of the swift. You can also drape the tail end of the yarn inside the swift mechanism as shown if desired.

Winding the Skein

Person winding blue yarn over the yarn swifter.
Sarah E. White / The Spruce

Use one hand to slowly spin the swift so that the yarn from the ball feeds onto the swift. If it's not going into the right place on its own, use your other hand to guide the yarn so that it goes onto the swift properly.

Again you want to wind relatively loosely​ so that the yarn stays where you want it but isn't too tight on the swift.

Finishing the Skein

A finished and tied hank of blue yarn on the yarn swift.
Sarah E. White / The Spruce

Once you have the rhythm down of how to wind the ball onto the yarn swift, it should get a lot faster and easier. Just keep going until the yarn ball runs out.

As before, you'll want to tie the hank of yarn together with a few pieces of yarn to help hold it together. Remember to tie the yarn together before you attempt to take the hank off the swift.

Removing the Skein From the Swift

Finished skein of white yarn.
Sarah E. White / The Spruce

Loosen the bolt that regulates the umbrella action of your swift to make it easier to slide the hank off the swift.

If desired, you can add more ties at this time. Otherwise, you've got a perfect hank of yarn that's ready to be washed or otherwise processed for your project.