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I am still trying to learn knitting terms and wonder why yarn comes in a hank that has to be wound when it could come that way from the beginning? There must be a reason...  And what is the difference between a hank and a skein?


What is the meaning of worsted weight, lace weight and fingering weight?  It's all a bit confusing. Or where can I go to find out?  I looked in the glossary to no avail.

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Comment by cherylbwaters on May 16, 2011 at 1:27pm

Oh, my, that pattern was mailed quite awhile ago, wasn't it? I know what you mean about having learned as a kid and then picking it up again as an adult. I learned from my mom and when she passed away almost 15 years ago, I took up the needles again because I didn't want her beautiful handknit Christmas stockings to end with her passing. I have become obsessed.

You might want to check out the Knit Alongs, Spin Along, Crochet Along, and Dye Along. There are lots of friendly people willing to give all kinds of help.

Please note that worsted is a spinning method and it is also a yarn weight. So please feel free to ask questions and we will do our best to answer.

Comment by Kathy Koch on May 16, 2011 at 7:27am

Thank you so much. This has been very helpful. Worsted = wool, hmmm.

I have been adding to my glossary list as I come across new and interchangeable terms, and it is growing.

It surprises me at how my "mind set" is changing now that I have picked up knitting again (still a beginner, though) after learning at my grandmother's side. It's a bit nostalgic for me since I have gathered all her knitting needles, notions and patterns. There is a pattern she ordered which was mailed to her from Buffalo, N.Y. with 2.8 cents postage on the envelope!

Comment by cherylbwaters on May 15, 2011 at 11:39am

Kathy, you have to remember that knitting terms have developed all over the world and when it has been interpreted into other languages, the terms often become integrated and so more than one term can really mean the same thing. Terms are often regional and you will often find yourself preferring the term you learned first. For example, Americans call it stockinette and the English call it stocking stitch. Some say "bind off" while others say "cast off". Americans use yarn as a generic term for what we knit. The English use the term wool for a generic term. Also, it only within recent history that there have been attempts to have standards.

Typically when shopping for yarn, a ball of yarn is shaped like a ball. Sometimes it is shaped like a "flat" ball and looks like a little cake. Balls can either be pulled from the outside of the ball and some can be pulled from the "inside". If it can be pulled from the inside, it is called a center pull ball and won't roll away from you easily like a ball being pulled from the outside.

A hank is usually loops of yarn that are wound and then twisted into a figure eight. It is believed that a hank originally was a specific yardage. The yardage depended on the kind of yarn being wound. For example, some say a hank of cotton would be 840 yds and a hank of worsted [read that as wool] would be 560 yds.

Now a skein is sometimes thought of as the commercially produced oblong shaped yarn you find. But sometimes it is used as a smaller "hank". Today skein and hank are very interchangeable.

So as you see the terms can be interchangeable.

This is also true with knitting abbreviations and techniques. You can find many abbreviations and techniques interchangeable.

Why a manufacturers might decide to use balls, skeins or hanks is a mystery to me, though I agree with Jenny, there isn't as much stress on yarn kept in a hank as in a ball.

Here is an additional link that may help you with terms and abbreviations:

Comment by Jenny on May 10, 2011 at 2:18pm

Hi Kathy!


This page here on the Knit Picks Tutorial page has a really good overview of all the different yarn weights, what it means as well as what kinds of projects are appropriate for each. Another thing to get a good understanding of is when yarn or patterns refer to gauge - there is also a section on the Knit Picks Tutorial page here.


A skein or hank is when the yarn is twisted up and needs to be wound into a ball before use, like you mentioned. It is good to keep your yarn in a skein up until you want to use it, keeping it wound up in a ball can stretch the yarn out a bit. Sometimes, yarn comes in skeins depending on how it is dyed.


Hope this helps a bit! The KP knitting community is also a wonderful place to ask any questions, everyone is always more than happy to help :)

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