Yarn Arrangements and Their Differences: Skein, Hank, Cake, and Ball - Darn Good Yarn

Yarn Arrangements and Their Differences: Skein, Hank, Cake, and Ball

Written by Kate Curry

Yarn comes in many shapes and sizes - all of which we love! Cakes, skeins, balls, hanks! So many options for our favorite fibers to come in. If you’re new to the yarn universe, all these phrases can be a little confusing and overwhelming. What’s the difference between them? Is one better than the others? What is a skein?

What Is A Skein Of Yarn?

Three skeins of different shades of blue yarn on a white background.

The most common way of keeping yarn neat for business is to machine wind the yarn into puffy oblong shapes called skeins. When working with these skeins, you will find the yarn cannot be pulled out from the center and the tail will be loosely wrapped around the body and tucked in somewhere on the skein. This can make finding the end of the skein a little bit of a hunt.

All types and weights of yarn can be skeined and it is easily done by machine, so it is the most common choice for many big box yarn stores. Many people refer to cakes and hanks as skeins and it is often used as an umbrella term or any old lump of luscious yarn!

What Is A Hank Of Yarn?

A hand holding a twisted hank of periwinkle blue lace weight silk yarn.

The most common way of keeping yarn here at DGY, a twisted hank is essentially a hank of loose yarn that has been twisted into a braid. These hanks are a great way to store yarn, since there’s no way for the hank to become unraveled and all skanky!

Twisted hanks are great - they don’t take up a ton of space and they’re the best way to keep your yarn if you plan on dyeing it!

What Is A Cake Of Yarn?

12 cakes of worsted weight silk yarn in multiple colors, organized on a white background in the shape of a heart.

I love cakes…and normal cake too, but we’re focusing on yarn here! A cake of yarn is made by spinning yarn on a ball winder. It’s a nice flat sided wheel that is perfect for storage, stacking, and showing off! You can find the end of a cake by finding the working yarn along the side OR by pulling from the center. I love cakes because you don’t have to ball them like you have to with hanks!

What Is A Ball Of Yarn?

A wooden yarn bowl holding a ball of blue and tan sparkle lace weight silk yarn.

Ahhhh…the blessed ball! The glimmer in every cat’s eye. Very rarely will you find yarn for sale in stores in ball form. Balls can easily be unwound and aren’t great for stacking and storage. Certain yarn like hemp yarn you’ll often find pre-balled, but those types of yarns are rare. If you want your yarn balled, you’ll have to do it yourself! Many crafters, myself included, like to ball their hanks for ease and comfort!

Need help on balling your yarn?

Meet the Author

Profile picture of the author, Kate Curry, wearing a dark red Nanda Poncho sitting on concrete stairs in front of brick wall.

Kate has been on the Darn Good Yarn team since 2018.

They have their degree in Creative Art Therapy & Psychology - and like crafting and animals a little too much.