How to Unwind a Hank of Yarn By Hand (Chair Method)

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Learn how to roll a ball from a hank of yarn. You can roll a skein of yarn without a yarn swift or ball winder by using some simple supplies from home.

When you order some types of yarn, often hand dyed yarn, it comes in a twisted loop. Before you can crochet or knit with the yarn you will need to roll it in a ball, or wind it in a cake.

Some hand dyers, or your local yarn shop will cake the yarn for you. If you have hanks of yarn please don’t try to work with them without winding or rolling it first. You will have a tangled mess on your hands.

Two balls of hand rolled yarn from one hank of yarn.
Skeins of yarn that come in a twisted loop are called hanks.

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The Yarn

In my search for the best yarn to create a soft, comfy summer chemo cap many people suggested Berroco’s Modern Cotton DK yarn. Check out the free pattern for this crochet hat here.

It’s a light weight, #3 yarn which makes it ideal for crocheting a summer chemo cap. The different colors I chose were Chepstow, which is the brown, and Point Judith, which is the mauve color.

Large pink yarn ball wrapped from a hank.

Berroco Modern Cotton DK is a blend of pima cotton and modal rayon, a great combo that won’t irritate the scalp. You can visit their website for more details on this gorgeous yarn. Now on to the yarn balling tutorial.

I’ve worked most often with acrylic worsted weight, #4 yarn, so this yarn is just delightful to touch. It’s shipped in a hank, which is looks a bit like a twisted pretzel.

To be able to crochet with it, you’ll need to roll it into a yarn ball. While this is fairly simple, it can be intimidating if you’ve never worked with yarn in a hank.

Some yarn is in the form of a cake, skein or ball. They can have a center pull skein or you have to pull from the outside.

I like using my yarn cake winder, but for this tutorial we’ll just use our hands!

Golden brown hank of yarn next to yarn bowl of pink and brown yarn.

A ball of yarn also fits nicely in a yarn bowl which protects your yarn while you crochet.

In this tutorial I show you how to unwind a hank of yarn by hand. The best way to keep the twisted yarn secure, while you wind it is with your dining room chairs.

If you have a yarn winder and yarn swift then you can use these tools instead.


A hank of yarn (this is the twisted skein or loop before it’s been caked or wound into a ball).

Two chairs with backs. The easiest way to keep the loop from getting tangled while unwinding is by using two chairs.


Once yarn is unwound, you’re ready to work with it. Then you’ll need your crochet hook / knitting needles, tapestry needle and pattern.

Scroll down to learn how to unwind a hank of yarn.

Two chairs back to back with a pink hank of yarn between them.

How to Unwind a Skein of Yarn

Yield: 1
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Active Time: 30 minutes
Additional Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes
Difficulty: Easy
Estimated Cost: $1

Learn how to unwind a hank of yarn and roll it into a ball using supplies from home.


  • You'll need your hank of yarn.


  • Two chairs.


    1. Position the back of a chair to touch the back of a second chair.Two chairs back to back with a pink hank of yarn between them.
    2. The first thing to do is remove the yarn label, and untwist the yarn hank into a big loop of yarn. Untwist the hank.
    3. Lay it around the chair backs, pull them apart until the yarn loop is securely held (not too loose). I think the traditional way is for someone else to hold their arms out and hold your hank while you wind it!
    4. In several places around the loop of yarn there are small pieces of yarn securing it together. Hank of yarn tied.Untie & remove those.Untie the knots.
    5. Two of the places where the large loop of yarn is tied will be the ends of the yarn. End of yarn from hank.
    6. To hand wind: Once your yarn is untied and you’ve found the outside end of the yarn, wrap it around two fingers a few times.Wrap yarn around two fingers.
    7. Slide it off your fingers. This will be the center of the ball. Begin wrapping the yarn around itself. Pull the yarn from the large circle on the chairs.
    8. Rotate the yarn around itself, creating a ball as you go.Slip the wrapped yarn off fingers.
    9. Wrap & rotate your yarn ball as it grows.Small ball of yarn wrapped up.
    10. Be sure your loop of unwound yarn stays on your chairs as you pull the yarn up. It can still get tangled if you’re not careful. A small ball of yarn from the hank.
    11. Keep rolling your ball until all of the yarn is on it.Large pink yarn ball wrapped from a hank.

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