Today’s discussion will tell you what you need to know about yarn hanks. As you may know, yarn comes in all shapes and sizes. What you may not know is that, while the yarn’s size doesn’t affect how you work with it, the yarn shape definitely does.
In this blog post, you’ll learn what a hank of yarn is, discuss a hank’s meaning, and talk about its primary shape. You’ll discover why it has this shape, and learn about the different finished forms you can find.
Overall, I’ll tell you what you can expect from a hank of yarn so you feel comfortable shopping for and knitting with it.
Let’s begin by discussing the meaning of hank.
What Does Hank Mean?
Historically, a “hank” is a unit of measurement commonly used in the textile industry. It stands for a specific length of yarn or fibers which make a single strand and can vary by fiber type and origin.
According to Dictionary.com, a unit of yarn is “a length of 840 yards (767 m) of cotton or 560 yards (512 m) of worsted yarn.” Certainly, these units of yarn are on a slightly larger scale (no pun intended).
Conversely, individual yarn hanks are determined by weight, not by length. This is true of yarn designated for fiber crafts like knitting or crochet. Let me give you an example why this is important to know.
Love knitting baby blankets?
Think of the many times you’ve heard the phrase “buy enough yarn for your knitting project”. Obviously, this applies to patterns that require more than one hank of yarn, like baby blankets, sweaters, or knit ponchos. Well, the reason for this warning is this:
Since the method for measuring yarn is weight (mass),
the length of a hank of yarn will always be an approximation.
It’s safe to say, you can’t trust ballpark figures, not when it comes down to required amounts. This is true not only of hanks but also of yarn cakes, yarn balls, and yarn skeins.
So, remember this tip, or you might end up playing yarn chicken. Alright, now let’s talk about the shape of a hank.
The Primary Shape of Yarn Hanks
When we talk about the shape of a hank of yarn, we’re talking about how it’s more widely known. That is to say, it’s a loop or circle of yarn that’s fastened together with knotted ties.
In the above image, you can see an open circle of yarn that has various tie knots placed around the circle. The arrows point to where the knots are on this hank. You can’t tell from the image but there are two main types of yarn knots on this hank, each with their own purpose. Let me explain.
On a hank of yarn, you’ll find smaller yarn knots (see below) which keep the yarn from tangling in the dye bath. Every hank will have at least one yarn knot, but sometimes you will find more. In this particular hank, there are three.
These yarn knots are most useful during the hand dyeing process. They’re less necessary afterwards, but dyers usually leave them on until the hank is ready to use.
The other kind of yarn knot is the most necessary one. This knot ties the two ends together with an additional strand of yarn. The image below shows that it’s a larger knot which has four strands of yarn tying it all together.
Now that we’ve covered the standard shape and yarn knots found in a hank, let’s discuss the three different types.
Different Types of Yarn Hanks
The first type of yarn hank is the one we just finished talking about. This type is available in its natural color and state, with a few exceptions like mercerized, superwashed, or undergoing another chemical process. Then the undyed wool yarn is packaged as yarn hanks, shipped, stored, and/or sold.
How did it come to be this way? I suspect, somewhere in history, someone decided to wind yarn into a hank and discovered that this way was very functional. Perhaps it was someone familiar with spinning yarns who discovered this is the best form for hand looms.
It’s also useful for yarn dyeing as the strands are less restricted and, therefore, more permeable to the dye. Plus, having a ready to dye hank form is a real time-saver for indie dyers. This translates to lower costs for knitters, crocheters, or yarnies who love to purchase hand dyed yarn.
Shop our line of hand dyed yarn from Wayback Yarns.
Now, when you go shopping for yarn online or in your local yarn shop, you may find either of the following two types of hanks.
The Folded Hank
The second type is a folded hank, which is less prevalent, looks just as it sounds. The hank is folded in half, wrapped with a yarn label, and sold to fiber lovers. This usually occurs after the yarn’s dye process, though some are kept as natural wool yarn.
Folded hanks are more often used with bulky and super bulky yarns, and/or novelty yarns. This form allows you to really see the hand dyed yarn’s colorway and character more clearly.
The Twisted Hank
The third type is a twisted hank and is the most common one you’ll see. In the image below, you’ll notice that the yarn hanks twist like a pretzel or a soft coil. Whenever you see a twisted hank of yarn, it’s a sure sign that it’s a hand dyed yarn.
The hank’s twist helps it to hold its shape and keeps the yarn from tangling. Some spinners like to wind their handspun yarn on a niddy-noddy into a yarn hank for safekeeping.
The twisted hank doesn’t require a yarn label, but one is usually added for other reasons. You can learn more about How to Read a Yarn Label here.
Overall, the twisted form makes yarn hanks easy to store and keep your yarn stash organized. They also look pretty darn appealing this way at arts and crafts fairs and at your local yarn stores.
Now, let’s talk about a common confusion many have when it comes to shopping for yarn.
Hank VS. Skein
While “yarn hank” and “twisted hank” are the correct names for these forms, they’re commonly referred to as “skeins.” Even though a yarn skein is a different shape altogether (shown below), it still falls under this umbrella.
Shown above are:
While we’re on the topic of generalities, it’s also important to know that some yarnies refer to yarn fiber as “wool” regardless of its fiber content. This is more a regional thing, but it’s still pretty prevalent.
So, words to the wise, “skein” and “wool” are used quite interchangeably within the creative community of fiber lovers.
Now, let's move on and talk a little about hank weights.
What is the Weight of a Yarn Hank?
As we’ve already discussed, you can find hanks of all weights, lengths, and sizes. Still, there are some sizes that are more available than others. The following are the most common yarn skein weights you’ll encounter:
- 10 g = micro skeins
- 20 g = mini skeins
- 50 g = half skeins
- 100 g = whole skeins
- 150 g = a skein and a half
Micro and mini skeins are most often used in yarn bundles and yarn kits for knitting sock sets. Mini skein sets are great for knitting projects where you want to add a small pop of color.
Regarding micro skeins and mini skeins, you should know this. Despite their yardage and weight differences, micro skeins are often referred to as “minis”. So if you see a pattern calling for a mini skein of yarn, be sure to check the yardage requirements first.
Try this mini skein set:
Do I Need to Wind a Yarn Hank?
Before you start any knitting or crochet project, you must wind the yarn into a ball. There are a couple of ways to do this. You can hand wind the yarn into a ball or yarn cake, or you can wind yarn with a swift.
Stay tuned until next time when I’ll teach you how to unwind a skein of yarn.
We’ve covered a lot of ground today. You’ve learned what a hank means, the three different hank shapes, and what they look like. More importantly, you’ve learned why they have their shape, and what to look for when you’re shopping.
I hope you now feel more comfortable about selecting and knitting with yarn hanks.
Next up, learn all about yarn cones here.