A Field Guide for Yarn – Part 1

The Shape and Behavior of Yarn

When you’re out in the wilds of your LYS, you may hear yarn referred to by its shape – a skein or a hank.



What are they? A skein is basically an oblong ball of yarn. It’s less likely to roll away (sorry, kittens). Sometimes they’re unwound (see hanks, below), but most often they’re wound systematically with a center pull.

What do I do with them? Pull the yarn from the inside or outside. If you pull from the center, your yarn is less likely to flop around or unwind. However, it can cave in on itself and possibly tangle, although tangles are rare. No big deal – just wind it into a ball and keep going!

The biggest disadvantage of center pull from a skein is finding the end and dealing with the dreaded yarn barf. [link to yarn barf video]
I loathe center pull – the deflated skeins, difficulty gauging how much yarn is left, the tangles… no thanks! But I’m in the minority, I think.

Gradient Yarn


What are they? A hank is a large coil or loop of yarn that has been twisted and folded on itself. Independent dyers pretty much always sell their yarn this way, but so do some yarn companies. Why? Well, you can really appreciate the colorway and the hand (or squish) of the yarn when it’s in the hank. It also looks fancy. Really!

Sometimes hanks are also called skeins, but you will know at a glance which one you’re working with.

What do I do with them? DO NOT try to knit or crochet from the hank. It will only lead to disaster and despair. You’ll want to wind it up into a ball or a cake (more on that later) before you use it.

We offer free yarn winding for purchases from Tink & The Frog and only charge a small fee to wind yarn purchased elsewhere. So if you don’t want to deal with winding your hank – no problem!

Ball and Donut Skeiins

Balls and Donut Skeins

What are they? A ball is yarn that is wound up into… well, a ball! They can be purchased this way, or they can be hand-wound from a hank. Donuts work similar to yarn balls, but are often wound this way by yarn companies because they are less likely to get caught and tangle compared to other methods (ahem, mohair silk).

What do I do with them? Pull the yarn from the outside only. Keep away from kittens!

Kitten with Yarn


Cake Skeins

Although you can technically eat a yarn cake, I recommend that you don’t.

What are they? A cake is a cylinder of yarn that has been wound with a swift and winder or nostepinne. You can buy them pre-wound, like Wonderland Yarns Blossoms or you can make them yourself from a hank. Pre-wound cakes allow you to see long color repeats, so you’ll see them most often with gradients or large self-striping patterns.

What do I do with them? You can pull the yarn from the center or the outside of the cake while you work. If you pull from the center your yarn is less likely to unwind; however, the cake eventually caves in on itself and can sometimes tangle. If you pull from the outside, it can sometimes roll around.
Like with skeins, I prefer to pull from the outside of the cake, but I’m probably in the minority.

Next time you’re in the LYS wild, you can hunt for your next project with the confidence of knowing about the different shapes of yarn and what do with them once they’re caught!

Get Inspired!

Check out our friends' projects and share your own
Tag your photos with #tinkandthefrogsamples on Instagram to add your project to our growing showcase!

Sample time!

Spring is just around the corner, and this adorable Kelsey Dress is the perfect knit for the little girl in your life! Michelle used one just one skein of Recycled Tweed by @queenslandcollection for the smallest size and had leftovers! Sized for ages 12 months - 6 years, this cute little dress is perfect for spring or paired with a shirt and leggings on chillier days. Recycled Tweed is a DK-weight yarn made of 100% recycled materials, making it an earth-friendly and pretty choice.

We have lots of choices that work with this great little pattern. In addition to Recycled Tweed, Michelle recommends Malabrigo Arroyo or Plymouth Dreambaby.

#tinkandthefrogsamples #yarn #knittedsample #knitsample

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The Mountain Town Cowl by Elizabeth Doherty @bluebeestudio in Baby Alpaca Worsted EC by @plymouthyarn is the softest thing ever! One skein of this machine-washable (really!) 100% alpaca yarn is all you need to create this fun and beautiful knit. Squish it for yourself in the shop! 😊

#tinkandthefrog #yarnlove #knittingaddict #knittersofinstagram #lys #knittersgonnaknit #yarnaddict #knitsample #tinkandthefrogsamples

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Sample time! Have you seen our sample socks by Michelle in NEW Calzasocks? Even #vanillasocks look fancy. 😉 We have the full collection in stock.

#tinkandthefrogsamples #calzasocks
@adriafil_filati_made_in_italy #knittingaddict #knitsample #yarnlove #yarnaddict #sockknittersofinstagram #sockknittingaddict #sockknitting

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