All Twisted Up: Dealing With Skeins

Let’s talk about skeins. This is a skein:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASometimes yarn is sold in skeins (instead of pre-wound balls).  Skeins are looser than balls, which allows you to see the texture and color of the yarn more accurately.  It’s also less work for the dyers and spinners, so often if you find fancy-pants yarn from some small fiber company, it’ll be sold in a skein.

But, skeins are a pain in the butt for knitters.  You get home from the yarn store with your brand-new purchase, and instead of starting to knit right away, you have to spend a half hour rolling the yarn into a ball first.  Infuriating!

But, have no fear.  Skeins are easily dealt with, as long as you exercise a little patience.

First, unloop the ends of the skein from one another.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen carefully tease apart the skein until it lays nicely in a big ring, being sure to keep the strands from tangling.  I like to do this step on the floor to give myself plenty of space to work.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADepending on the brand of yarn, the skein will be held together by one or more (usually between 2 and 4) bits of scrap yarn.  You can cut or untie the scrap yarn, whichever is less scary to you.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen, I to loop the whole skein over the back of a chair, my knees, or around my husband’s hands (if he’s in a helpful mood).  This will keep the big loop of yarn from tangling as I roll it into a ball.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Go slowly and be patient, and if something weird happens (like loops of yarn start flying around) stop immediately and put the loops back around the chair.  If you start getting a tangle, if you keep going it will only get worse.

Next week we’ll talk about how to roll yarn into the perfect ball.

**And a note on Swifts:  If you are a moneybags, there is a tool called a yarn swift that is specifically designed to hold your skein of yarn (instead of a chair back) while you wind it into a ball.  Some people swear by them, but I have never had an extra $65 to spend on a swift (not when I could buy yarn instead!)

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