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Ask Amanda: Should I wind all my hanks right away?

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This has happened to me suprisingly frequently: I’ve picked out yarn for a new sweater, and I’m standing at the yarn shop counter with my wallet in hand when the yarn shop employee asks, “Would you like your yarn wound?” I have a tendency to freeze and start overthinking in situations like this… The convenience of having everything wound up for me immediately is very appealing, but there are some other things to think about. How long do I anticipate this project to take? Is it good for the yarn? Can I return an extra hank to the shop if I don’t use it all?

It really shouldn’t be such a confusing question for me. Compared to the amount of hemming and hawing that comes when I choose a yarn, this should be the easy part! But nonetheless, it seemingly always requires extra thought. If you struggle with this decision, too, here are a couple of considerations to keep in mind before you wind yarn:

Does the shop have a return policy for unused skeins? 

In a pattern, the recommended number of skeins is a suggested estimate. It’s a tricky business, because it needs to account for potential variations in each knitter’s gauge.  At Berroco, we make a point of being quite generous with the amount of yarn recommended, in an effort to help the knitter avoid running out of yarn. For that reason, it’s entirely possible that a knitter may end up with an extra hank of yarn at the end of his or her project. I always ask about the shop’s return policy on yarn when I’m preparing to purchase materials for a sweater, since I often end up needing less yarn than what’s called for in the pattern. Many shops will happily accept unwound hanks (as long as you don’t take years to finish your project). If that’s the case, I’ll only wind up three or four hanks to get me started.

What type of yarn is it?

Winding yarn into a ball can have an effect on it. If it’s a springy yarn with a lot of elasticity, being wound into a tight ball for a long time can stretch it out and it will lose some of that spring. If you know that you won’t be finishing this project quickly, it might be wise to resist winding everything right away. When you do wind it, it’s a good idea to keep the tension of the ball nice and loose, to minimize stretching the yarn too tightly.

Alternatively, if the yarn is very smooth and slippery, leaving all the balls together in a bag might end up creating some crazy tangles. Hanks don’t unravel and won’t get snarled, so it might be wise to store them as hanks and wind each ball as it becomes necessary.

If you know you’ll need every hank and you’ll be finishing the project quickly, go ahead and get everything wound. However, if this project could take a while, or you may not need every hank, it might be smart to hold off on the winding for a bit.

For a quick refresher on how to wind a hank of yarn into a ball, check out our video demonstration:

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. Thanks for these great tips!

    May 27, 2013
  2. Lydia #

    Can you send me the pattern for Alder #407 from Berroco design please.
    I love to knit it very soon. Thank you!

    June 4, 2013
  3. chelleincal #

    Thank you for this post I also agonize whether or not to have hanks wound in balls or not, so your suggestions on to wind or not to wind will make deciding much easier (and quicker)!

    June 15, 2013
    • Thanks! I’m glad I’m not alone when it comes to making these decisions!

      June 17, 2013

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