Guide to Yarn Put Ups (aka How yarn’s wound.)
Walking through the aisle of your favorite yarn or craft store, you may’ve noticed that the way yarn is wound, packaged and/or displayed varies. The reason may also vary — from brand, yarn weight, or fiber type. The general term for the actual way the yarn is presented (assuming it’s not in an unwound pile) is called, “put up”. Yarn can be put up in different ways. The above image gives you a visual guide to put up types and names, but I thought I’d also give a little explanation for each.
Hank: A hank is created but looping yarn (think, wrapping around your palm and elbow), then loosely twisting it into itself. Generally this is the choice for higher-end yarns which consist (at least in part) of a natural fiber, because it allows for the fiber to “breathe”. This is the only put up of the bunch that cannot be knit or crocheted directly from, as their isn’t enough structure to keep the strands from becoming tangled as it’s pulled from.
Cake: If a yarn store employee has ever asked you if you want your yarn (hanks) wound before you leave, the result is most likely a cake. A cake is the satisfying little bundle that’s created when yarn is wound by a winder and swift. It can be made center or outer pull. In my opinion, it’s the cutest of the put-ups, because you can stack multiple cakes and take pretty pictures for Pinterest or Instagram. But I digress.
Skein: This is the most tightly wound version of the bunch, and is great for high-yardage yarns. This is also the easiest put up to get uniformity from, so it’s great for craft stores with limited real estate for each yarn line.
Ball: This is the term that’s up for the most interpretation. With the exception of a hank, you could use “ball” to describe any of the other put ups, and even though not technically be right, still not be wrong in the general sense. A basic ball, is the sphere-version that you probably associate with string. If you were winding by hand, without any special technique, this is what you’d get. The fancier version is a center-pull ball (high-end yarns when not in hanks, are in this put up), that’s loose(ish), and not very spherical. They often resemble more of a donut shape, in which the brand’s label is folded through the center.
**Cone: This one isn’t on my info-graphic, but should at least get a mention. This put up is when yarn is wound around a cone. You’ll see this packaging method most often (but not exclusively) with yarn intended for weavers or machine knitters.
So there’s the scoop. Everything you need to know should you ever be in a name-that-yarn-presentation death match! You’re welcome.