How To Wind A Hank Of Wool

malabrigo worsted

It’s time to start a new knitting project, which means ordering more wool. On this occasion, Malabrigo Worsted, a super-soft wool though with a tendency to felt.

Many of the smaller wool manufacturers supply their wool in hanks rather than balls. As far as I can tell, this is for two reasons:

  • Scale of enterprise – winding balls of wool takes expensive machinery.
  • Aesthetics – hanks of wool are pretty!

Please let me know if there are other reasons.

Hanks do need winding into balls of wool. Don’t try to knit straight from a hank. You’ll end up with a knotted bird’s nest of wool that could prove impossible to unravel.

There’s equipment out there to help you wind your ball of wool, but so far I’ve winced at the cost. For now I rely on my hands!


  • Hanks of wool
  • A pair of scissors or snippers
  • Two chairs
  • That’s it!

Unloop your hank of wool with a gentle twist.

hank unfurled

Snip or unknot the series of thread loops keeping the hank together.

snipping wool

Don’t try to start winding this into a ball with the hank of wool resting in your lap. Won’t work. You need tension to keep the strands of wool cleanly separated. Enter the chair backs of most chipped magnificence!

hank of wool

Turn on the telly, place a glass of wine within reach, find a loose end of wool and start rolling. That’s it!

start rolling

I need five hanks of wool for my current project, but I’m not morphing them all into balls in one session. Why not?

  • I lose the will to live.
  • There’s a theory that ball tension starts to stretch the wool if it’s hanging around for too long, waiting to be used.

tension square ii

A tension square is knitted, blocked, pinned and measured. (Always knit a tension square. They make nice mug coasters!)

knitted coaster

And then it’s time to begin knitting. Preparation is everything, in knitting as in life. Actually, preparation and coffee. They’re everything. Actually, coffee. That’s everything.

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28 Responses to How To Wind A Hank Of Wool

  1. francescapia says:

    Ball tension stretches the yarn only if you wind tight. Your yarn will definitely end up stretched if you wind it the way you’re holding it. You need to wind over a couple of fingers and then always keep a couple of fingers under the yarn as you wind – that leaves your ball loose enough not to stretch out whilst it’s waiting to be knitted….

  2. jackallcraft says:

    I always wind around a cardboard tube. The tube is easy to hold onto whilst winding and I cut a notch in the card to hold the end of the yarn in place, so I can find it easily for a centre-pull-ball once it’s wound. When I’ve finished winding, I take out the cardboard tube (you can use the same one again) and give the ball a squish, which I think relaxes at least some of the tension.

  3. Ann Warner says:

    Lovely yarn, would love to know what pattern are you going to knit, I always look forward to your blog posts and what you’ve made,

  4. debs2748 says:

    I have an Amish Skein holder and a wool winder, as with hand winding if is very difficult not to stretch the yarn.

  5. Jo says:

    Look on Amazon for an amish swift and the wool winder – much, much cheaper than at Loop, but equally effective! Winding skeins into balls becomes a very speedy pleasure!

  6. Christine Taylor says:

    You can also just put both your arms through the hank, resting it on your forearms, and wind the wool from there, it’s by far the easiest method and you can watch a film or the tv or have a conversation at the same time.

  7. Claire says:

    My Nanna taught me to wind yarn into a ball but over two fingers to release tension. Loving the idea of using a card tube as mentioned above.

  8. Ivy says:

    The cardboard tube method…leave a tail of yarn folded into the tube, and wind the yarn on a rotating diagonal as you go (think of what the yarn looks like when it is wound on one of those winder machine thingies). When you’re done, pull the tube out, and start knitting from the center of the ball, just like with the commercial ones, and your yarn won’t roll away as you knit.

  9. La Vonda says:

    If the yarn store winds it for you on a swift do those stretch out as well?

    • LinB says:

      No, the staffers at the yarn store are quite adept at regulating tension while winding yarn. The key is to pull the yarn only as much as you would pull it while working with it — just enough to make it move, not enough to stretch it.

  10. LinB says:

    Hints about how to hand-wind balls of yarn and string, that I have learned in my long life and now feel compelled to pass along to others:

    Put the hank over a large lampshade — large enough that the hank won’t fall off the bottom of the shade. Loosen the finial so that the shade will spin freely, but not fall off the harp. Wind your yarn from the hank: As the shade spins, it is easy to feed the yarn from the hank to your ball.
    Start your ball by winding over two fingers, spread slightly apart. Close your fingers and slip them from the center of your start, then wind the rest of the ball GENTLY.

    Leave a long tail from the center of your ball, and wind your ball quite loosely — then you can pull from the center of the ball and it won’t roll around like a demon-possessed thing while you are knitting/crocheting/knotting.

  11. carly927 says:

    I typically buy yarn at the local yarn store which has a winding machine. It’s so much fun to watch the yarn go round and round.

  12. Lots of great suggestions above, I’ll add that this is where you grab a friend/child/significant other and let them hold the skein while you wind (over your fingers to make a squishy ball). Lots of world problems can be solved while doing this. 😊

  13. Meg White says:

    Hanks are also better for shipping and storing the yarn. Having worked in a yarn store, I can attest that balls are likely to unwind and get tangled. I agree that the Amish-style swift is my favorite, like this:

  14. redsilvia says:

    Funny, I’ve never used chairs but use my knees instead. I consider it a form of exercise (with wine). I do have a swift and ball winder but have to clear off my desk in order to clamp them on so enter the knee method…Will love to see what you’re making with the lovely squishy yarn.

  15. the chairs are genius! As a child I spent many hours hands stretched out as my mother wound balls, until she bought a ball winder that my brother and I loved using!

  16. Rachel says:

    Beautiful wool! I wind mine over the central cardboard tube left over from kitchen towel rolls. Once I’ve wound the ball I take the tube out and then release the tension in the wool by squidging (technical word 😃) the ball of wool. The ball is left with a whole in the middle. Make sense?
    Happy knitting!

  17. Kathy M says:

    I hang the skein around my neck which means that is more portable than using chairs etc. it means that I can get up and down to get a drink or let the cat/ dog in or out or back in again!

  18. Anne says:

    Wool in skeins is often too delicate to use an industrial machine wind it into balls. Gorgeous cardigan.

  19. twotoast says:

    There is only one way to do this – a ball winder and a swift! This will give you a lovely cake of yarn that you can centre pull. If the cake seems a little tight or hard, rewind again from the centre. You don’t want the yarn to be under tension whilst it is waiting to be knit up.

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