About a week ago I got a great question from Mary, one of my students and customers. She wrote, “How do you unravel a twist of yarn? Made a mess and I am sure there is a correct way but I’m not privy it and I have three more to go….Mary.” When Mary was talking about a twist of yarn, she was talking about a skein. And this can be quite puzzling if you’ve never dealt with yarn stored this way.
I thought it was a great question, so I’ve put together a tutorial about it. Since it’s a fairly picture-heavy post, I’ve put the rest of the post behind a cut so the photographs won’t slow down the loading time on the website.
But first, why is yarn stored in skeins, and not pre-wound for customers? There are a couple of different reasons. First, it’s generally agreed that keeping your yarn wound into balls for long periods of time can stretch out the yarn, especially if the yarn is wound up tightly. Keeping it in a skein allows the yarn to breathe a bit more. Second, it’s easier for yarn companies to ship their yarn in skeins: they take up less space, squish better, and lie flatter in boxes. Yarn that is in balls tends to be hard for LYS’s to store – I used to call a couple of different balled yarns “tribbles,” as they seemed to jump off the shelves whenever my back was turned. Finally, for hand-dyed yarns, gradients and a few other yarns, skeins allow customers to see all the colors in the skein better, so they’re not surprised by a “mystery color.”
So that’s why you often may get your yarn in skeins from a Local Yarn Store. Most stores offer balling services if you buy the yarn in the store or if you pay a small fee. But do expect to wait – often sales clerks have to fit in the winding of yarn around their other duties!