12 ways to name your yarn

Have you seen my previous post about the different type of yarn and their characteristics? It’s that way!


For a long time, fiber was either 2 things: balls or skeins.

Even if the looks were different, I used those 2 terms ↖.

Let’s say my vocabulary was not very extensive. As a scientist 👩‍🔬 I like to be precise and it was time to get some education!

So welcome to the world of cones, balls, and others knots. Each type of conditioning has a reason to be either for presentation, for easy transporting or just drive you crazy, most of them to be prepped in order for you to knit or crochet your yarn.


You might already saw this article by Lisa Shroyer from Interwave. I find it really well made and I love the illustration because it shows all the ways fibers can be presented.



I have seen the 12 types of balls shown; however, they are either a skein or a ball. There was no in between. Welcome in this new journey of learning !

Wool conditioning has two purposes: to enhance the color or the fibers used and to transport it without becoming entangled or damaged.


#1 & #2, Hank

I went to Wikipedia because I had no idea what a "hank" is.


At first a hank is a measuring unit where the length depends on the fibers used.


Great, that’s not really useful isn’t it?


The article goes on explaining: a SKEIN is a 1/6th of a hank, which gives you 7.5m of cotton.


Yep... Still not helping... So here goes my thought 💭💭


I think that at one point the terms "hanks" and "skeins" were mainly used for mercerized cotton used in embroidery (and then in Brazilian bracelets).

We agree that it is impossible to knit anything with 7.5m. But in embroidery, it is possible and besides here is a detail of a tablecloth with embroidery typically Malagasy, ordered by my grandmother more than 20 years ago and transmitted by my mother some time ago 💖.


Embreoidery, woman carried by 4 men. Madagascar circa 1990
Typical Malagasy Embroidery circa 1990

I’m still a big fan of friendship bracelet, I have been making them since I was 8 and I still have some cotton at home. See the picture bellow ? Those are 2 "pullskein" of 10m. Being 1/6th of a hank, the hank will be 60m! I also think that I some point the industry decided it was easier to make 10m skeins than 7,5m...


2 pullskein of mercerized cottton
2 pullskein of mercerized cottton

Back to wikipedia - In the knitting/crocheting world a “hank” is a weight unit corresponding to 50gr and in which the length change.

It’s true that a really thin thread (such as lace) will have a lot more yardage in 50gr compared to a sport or bulky thread (400yds versus 275yds or even 80yds for the thicker products).


The #1 format is privileged by indie dyers.

Most of them are going to receive the naturel fiber in cone or in unfolded hank (#1).

If they use the cone, they will create the hank with the weight of their choice, put some security thread to keep everything in place.

The fiber is then dyed, all the threads are accessible by the water, the dyes and the air for the fiber to dry.



#2, folded hank

This format is not very common, it is mainly used when the thread is thick (bulky type) and when a characteristic of the yarn want to be shown.

I have often seen conditioning # 2 when the wool is very thick or when the fiber is left in a more natural state at the end of carding – single strand.

It is more common for mercerized cotton used in embroidery or Brazilian bracelet.

The pullskein picture could come here too.

In all cases, the yardage of these skeins is small.


#3 & #4, the twisted skeins

Once the wool is dyed and dried, the dyers twist #1 hanks into #3 or #4. This format prevents the wool from getting tangled or damaged, it is also more convenient to store and present.