All Wound Up

We love yarn!

Yarn comes in all shapes and sizes. Several terms describe the presentation or put-up of yarn.


A hank is a loop of yarn in a continuous circle, secured with ties. There are several different types of hanks.

Twisted  ~ a hank twisted, folded in half, and secured by interlocking the ends.

Folded ~ a hank folded over and banded with a label.

Braided ~ a hank braided, either singly or together with multiple hanks.


The term "skein" is often used generically. Twisted hanks may also be referred to as a skein, but the term commonly describes elongated machine-produced shapes.

Pull Skein ~ a log-like shape.

Bullet Skein ~ a shorter and fatter version of a pull skein, commonly encountered with sock yarns.


The term "ball" is also used generically, and the large machinery that produces pull and bullet skeins is called a ball winder, which only adds to the confusion.

Round ~ usually achieved by winding a hank into a ball by hand, although occasionally encountered with commercially available yarns such as Zauberball.

Donut ~ machine-wound balls frequently found throughout a yarn shop.

Hard Core  ~ yarn wound around a hard or foam core, often used with slippery yarns that won’t stay together in a donut ball.


A Cake is created when winding a hank into a ball on a hand-winder, although some commercially manufactured yarns are put up in cakes, often to spotlight gradient yarns.


Yarn may also be put up on a cone.

What determines a yarn’s put-up? Several factors go into this decision. The type of equipment available to the manufacturer is an important factor. Smaller companies and indie dyers often do not have to access large and expensive commercial ball-winding equipment; therefore, their yarns will usually be found in hanks. Manufacturers with more resources will choose the best put-up for a particular yarn, considering factors such as shelf stability and aesthetics.

We like hanks! They are less likely to come apart while often presenting the texture, hand, and colors in a better light than pre-wound balls of yarn. Hanks will need to be wound to a ball before use. They can be wound by hand, but a ball winder and swift are very nice to have on hand and form center-pull cakes.

If you only can purchase one piece of winding equipment, get a swift. It is what holds the yarn. Otherwise, you must use the back of a chair, your knees, or a friend’s outstretched arms. The swift is the necessary part of this equation!

Check out this video to learn more, including how to use a ball winder and swift, and shop our selection of yarn-handling equipment!

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