What is a Skein of Yarn? Difference Explained Skein, Ball, Hank, and Cake

You may have yarn in your stash called a skein, ball, hank, or cake and wondered what do all those names mean. What are the differences between hanks, skeins and balls of yarn? Find out below!

If you’re new to crocheting, you may have heard many new terms, such as skein of yarn. But, now you are probably scratching your head, wondering what the heck a skein of yarn exactly is.

A skein of yarn refers to one of the shapes in which yarn is sold. A skein of yarn is rolled into a longer oblong shape, and not into a tight ball. A skein of yarn is excellent for beginners, as you don’t have to re-roll the yarn before crocheting. However, you must roll the remaining yarn into a ball once the skein loses shape.

For a new crocheter, it is essential to learn the meaning of these new terms. It will help you to understand how much yarn you need and what you can use a skein of yarn for.

In addition, you should know the pros and cons of a skein of yarn, so that you can choose the best yarn shape for your next crochet project.

What Does A Skein Of Yarn Mean?

A Skein of Yarn

Skein, pronounced “skain“, refers to the shape that yarn is formed into before being sold. A skein is rolled into a long, oblong shape. While not as fancy as some other shapes, a skein is an extremely practical shape that is perfect for beginners.

A skein of yarn is easy to work with and suitable for many types of yarn, ranging from thin yarn for crocheting to medium-thickness yarn more suitable for knitting.

When you find a new crocheting pattern, you might notice that the pattern tells you how much yarn is needed for that project. While some patterns give you the amount of yarn measured in weight, others will indicate how many skeins are needed.

In this case, you can consider a skein of yarn as a unit. For example, if the pattern calls for 3 skeins of yarn, you know that you will need to buy three units. Although skeins may differ in length, the average skein will have approximately 360 feet (110 m) of yarn. You can also use this measurement to determine how many skeins you require to complete a project.

You may wonder why there isn’t only one shape into which yarn is formed when it is made. Well, that’s because different artisans have different personal preferences. In addition, each rolling method has its uses, pros, and cons. You’ll often find a skein of yarn, though, and they are easy to identify by their oblong shape.

Although you won’t have difficulty finding skeins of yarn, you may wonder if this is the best shape to use, especially as a beginner at crocheting. So what are the pros and cons of using a skein of yarn for crocheting?

Skein of Yarn Details

A skein of yarn is almost always wrapped in a label. This label will describe the total length of yarn in yards and meters, its yarn weight, preferred gauge, care directions, and colorway information. It is important to know how to read a yarn label.

How much yarn is in a skein?

The amount of yarn in a skein can vary depending on the brand, weight, and type of yarn. Skeins can range from as little as 25 yards to over 300 yards.

Typically, a skein of yarn for knitting or crocheting will contain around 100 to 200 yards of yarn. However, it is important to check the label of the specific skein of yarn you are working with for accurate information about its yardage.

The Pros And Cons Of A Skein Of Yarn

A skein is one of the most common of the three primary shapes in which yarn is sold. However, does this also mean it is the best shape for you to use? The perfect shape of yarn mainly depends on your personal preference. However, there are some pros to working with skeins when you first start crocheting.

The Pros Of A Skein Of Yarn

The first advantage to buying a skein of yarn is that this shape is widely available. In addition, you can find many kinds of wool rolled into skeins to suit your needs. Another advantage of using skeins of yarn is that they are easy to work with. You don’t have to unroll the yarn and reroll it into a ball before you can start crocheting. Instead, you can find the end of the yarn, cast your stitches, and get to work.

Because of the ease and accessibility of skeins of yarn, this shape is ideal for beginner crocheters. Many crochet patterns also call for a certain number of skeins, in which case you don’t need to do any additional measurements before starting a project.

The Cons Of A Skein Of Yarn

Unfortunately, we cannot only discuss the pros of skeins of yarn. If there are any cons, we must mention them too. There is only really one con of using a skein of yarn. As you unwind the skein, the yarn will lose shape. Later, you will have one shapeless heap of yarn that can quickly become tangled.

At this time, expert crocheters will recommend you unwind the yarn and roll it into a tangle-free ball before continuing your project. Although the rerolling will take some time, it is worth the effort if you don’t want yarn tangled up. Therefore, a skein of yarn isn’t the most time-efficient shape to work with.

What Other Shapes Does Yarn Come In?

Considering the pros and cons of a skein of yarn, you may wonder if there are other shapes worth considering, and what these shapes of yarn are used for. In fact, there are 5 main shapes of yarn. These shapes are balls, cakes, skeins, cones, and hanks.

Balls of Yarn

Balls of yarn come rolled into different-sized balls. Sometimes, they have a flat top and are then called cakes. Other times, they have a hole in the middle and are referred to as donuts. You also get center-pull balls of yarn, where the end you must start with is in the middle of the ball.

Balls of yarn are also easy to work with, and you don’t need to do any rerolling before you start to crochet. However, if the ball is too big or heavy, you’ll notice that the yarn keeps winding up. Therefore, you will spend more time unwinding the yarn to prevent tangles.

A Cake of Yarn

Cakes of yarn is wound on a ball winder into a cake that sits flat nicely and shows off the range of colors. It has a shape that is similar to a ball, but it can be worked from the outside or from the center.

A Hank of Yarn

Hanks of yarn aren’t as common as the other two shapes, but they look much more interesting. A hank of yarn is shaped like a braid or a pretzel. These shapes are visually appealing, but require a lot more effort before you can start crocheting.

Hanks of yarn tend to be more premium product lines. This is because after the yarn is done drying from its dye dip, most boutique creators will simply twist up the yarn into a hank rather than running it through a machine to reroll it.

You cannot use a hank of yarn as is. Instead, you must first unroll the entire hank and reroll the yarn into a ball before using it for crocheting. This is also time-consuming and is the biggest reason why hanks of yarn aren’t as popular as balls or skeins.

A Cone of Yarn

Cones of yarn are built with a plastic or cardboard tube or cone in the middle, of which the yarn is wrapped around. Cones are mainly used for weaving and other applications where the yarn needs to spin out of a stationary location.

What Is The Best Shape Of Yarn For Beginners?

As a beginner, you’re likely interested to know the best shape of yarn for you to begin crocheting with. Well, that would be a ball or skein. Both these shapes are easy to work with, and likely won’t cause you too many problems when crocheting.

You can choose your favorite yarn in either a ball or skein and use it to start your crocheting project. Then, as your skills and confidence progress, you can try using a hank of yarn for crocheting if you wish. However, they aren’t as easy to work with and require more time.

Ultimately, we’d recommend getting a skein of yarn to start crocheting, as this shape is the easiest to work with and won’t wind up as much as a ball. Then, when your skein loses shape, take a break from crocheting and reroll the remaining yarn into a ball. Thereafter, you are ready to continue with your project.