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Crochet Tips & Tricks Video Tutorials Yarn Basics 101

What is the Difference Between a Hank, a Skein, a Ball, and a Cake of Yarn? | Yarn Basics 101

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It is just a ball of yarn…right? Wrong! This post will uncover different methods and terms for how to wind yarn. Yarn comes in various winds, and each style has a unique name. You may ask yourself, what is the difference between a hank, a skein, a ball, and a cake of yarn?

Technically, there are about 12 styles. This post will teach you about the seven most common ways to wind yarn and identify them in the local craft stores.

7 Ways to Wind Yarn

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It’s no secret, yarn 🧶 comes in all shapes and colors. If you are new to crochet, it can be confusing reading patterns or blog posts that say “hank” or “cake” of yarn. Like, what the heck is that…right?

I know I was confused when I heard all the different words used to describe a “ball” of yarn. I thought they were all just called a skein, you know, like my grandma told me.

Little did I know there were so many ways to twist these fibers! Let’s get down to business!

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7 Ways to Wind Your Yarn

There are quite a few ways to package and wind yarn, so let’s dig deeper into why they are incorporated differently. Are you curious about winding your yarn from a hank and turning your bullet skein into a cake? 

I cover how to do this in this post, and this video tutorial includes a step-by-step guide to using a yarn swift.

Yarn Ball

The classic ball of yarn is perhaps the easiest one to remember and perfect for using with yarn bowls. Kittens also love this yarn ball because of course, they can bat it around the room. Don’t worry though! You can use your yarn swift and winder to neatly turn it back into a pretty center-pull!

I have not discovered a way to create a yarn ball from a skein or cake yet, except for good old-fashioned winding it by hand.

ball of yarn

Twisted Hank

A twisted hank (as pictured) is also referred to as a skein by some crocheters and knitters. However, twisted hank seems to be the professional term for a yarn that is looped, tied off and twisted. A regular “hank” is a loop of yarn that is not twisted (like the one seen on the yarn swift in this post)

twisted hank of yarn

Cake of Yarn

A cake of yarn is called a cake because it sort of looks like a cake of yarn. These are usually center-pull and formed using a yarn swift and yarn “ball” winder – as seen in this post.

A cake usually has a flat top and bottom, and sits flat – so unlike a traditional ball of yarn, it will not roll around. Cakes are great to use in yarn bowls too!

cake of yarn
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Cone

Cones of yarn are somewhat of an outcast in the crochet world, but they are worth discovering because they are inexpensive. Cones provide a bulk factor, giving you a bang for your buck.  

Typically, cones can be set on a spindle or yarn lazy susans, making it easier to crochet faster to your heart’s desire – win!

As you can see from this cone available on Knit Picks, you get 750 yards of worsted weight yarn for just $12.99! That’s a good deal.  

cone of yarn

Bullet Skein

Okay, so the bullet skein is probably the most common type of yarn you’ll find in the local hobby stores. The bullet skein is a shorter, rounder version of the pull skein along with the pull skein.

These are great for stacking and storage because they fit together perfectly! Most are center-pull, but we’ve all experience YARF! You know, yarn barf! When we try to find the center yarn strand and end up with a pile of tangled mess?

The tangled yarn barf is where the yarn ball winder comes in handy to get that mess under control.

bullet skein of yarn

Skein

I usually use the word skein to describe my yarn ball. I know, as a “professional” yarn 🧶 artist, I should use proper terminology, which is why I created this post!

According to Interweave, the experts say a yarn loop is a hank; then, when it is twisted, it becomes a twisted hank. Others refer to the same twisted hank as a skein.

The various types of skeins are bullet, pull-skein, and then there is the one pictured below, which looks like our most common skein found in stores. Very similar to the bullet skein, it is shorter than pull-skein and wrapped with a label.

skein of yarn

Donut Ball

Oh, this one is a doozy, and I’m not sure if I like them – at all. I purchased some of these at Hobby Lobby, and although they look beautiful, I had to wind mine into a cake to make them easier to use crocheting.

They are somewhat fancier wound, but the yarn tends to slip off the ball more often than a bullet skein or pull skein.

donut ball of yarn

I hope you enjoy learning about the various ways to wind yarn and the terminology used to describe the infamous “yarn ball.” If you want to learn more about yarn and like all the free patterns – join the stargazers mailing list at the beginning of this post – hope to see you there!

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