Not So Rigid Weaver

Musings on weaving on a Rigid Heddle Loom and beyond

Dealing with hanks of yarn

The first time I tried to use a hank of yarn, I didn't realize that they need some special attention, just started pulling, and quickly ended up with a tangled mess that I spent the next 3 evenings untangling and winding into a ball.

Example of a hank turned into a tangled mess

Hanks are a style of yarn that you'll almost always see for anything hand dyed from a small supplier, and sometimes from bigger suppliers as well. It's basically a big loop of yarn that's then twisted and folded around itself. This format is very convenient when dyeing the yarn, and it looks pretty. Many people will refer to this style as a skein, but apparently a skein is a different style of oblong ball that can be used directly. Some places use the term "twisted hank" to distinguish between the round loop and the twisted bundle.

Twisted and untwisted hanks

The basic thing with hanks is that you need to unwrap it into the loop, untie anything that wraps around the loop, and then support it with something while you wind it into a different format. The proper tool for this is called a yarn swift; there are a few different styles, but it's basically a thing that can support the hank and rotate. I've seen improvised yarn swifts involving a lazy Susan and something that can expand to support the yarn. Other options include include your knees, or, two chairs back to back.

Hank supported between two chairs

I have done direct warping from a hank directly onto my loom, while supporting it with two chairs. This worked ok for a short-ish warp; I'd unwind a few turns, drape it over the chair, pull my loop through the heddle, realize I hadn't unwound enough, and gone back and unwound a bit more. It's hard to say if it would have been faster to manually wind it on to a ball first, but it wasn't a complete disaster like the first time. I have seen photos of warping from a yarn swift and I think that would work well. I've also wound directly onto my stick shuttle for weft, and this works much better.

The chair approach is nice because you can easily just leave it, but it's easier to wind it on your knees. This is perfect if you want to wind some balls while watching TV or chatting.

There's many videos on Youtube demonstrating hand winding yarns, here's one:

I'm currently working on a sampler with a bunch of different colors from hanks, and what I've done is wound a bit onto a shuttle and then tied it back up and twisted it again. We'll see if I have regrets later but so far it seems fine!

I don't necessarily love dealing with hanks, but, definitely preferable to keep them from tangling!

Check out Not So Rigid Designer, my online weaving software for rigid heddle loom weavers!