What Do You Call It?

While watching knitting podcasts, reading blogs and talking to knitters and crocheters, I have noticed that when we refer to various types of yarn preparations we use different terms. This can be confusing.  Recently, a phone caller asked me “Can I knit from the centre of a ball of yarn?” I cautiously asked the caller to describe her ‘ball’ of yarn.

In “The Principles of Knitting” by June Hemmons Hiatt, there is an illustration of various types of yarn preparations including a cone.  The caption under the picture reads “Balls of yarn in different shapes”.

With all this confusion, I decided that I would ask you “What do you call it?”  The following is my way of referring to the various yarn preparations.


The yarn in the photo above, I call a hank.  It is usually 50 grams or more in weight and must be wound into a different form in order to be able to knit from it with ease.


This photo is of mini-hanks, which are often referred to as mini-skeins. They usually weigh less than 50 grams and are available in gradient sets.

In the yarn labeling system, ‘balls’ of yarn come in different forms.


First is the skein. You can knit from the outside of a skein but the skein will bounce and fly around the room.  After wrestling it from the claws of your cat you will want to pull the yarn from the centre of the skein while it sits at your side and Kitty naps quietly at your feet.

Of course, the skein will eventually collapse upon itself but with any luck at all you can continue knitting from it.  Alternatively, with most of the yarn already knitted, you can find the outside end of the yarn and wind it into a ball, much to the delight of your cat.


Mini-skeins, like mini-hanks, are simply smaller versions of a skein, weighing less.

Next up is what seems to me, could be described as the food category.


The donut allows you to knit from the inside or outside of this preparation but, once again, it is recommended you pull the yarn from the centre of this preparation in order to disappoint your cat.


The cake, with its flattop and bottom, looks more stable than the donut.  But do not be deceived.  It is best used as a centre pull ball.


When hand winding your own ball of yarn, with practice you can create centre pull ball.   If however, you do wish to knit from the outside of any of your ball type preparations, you can use a yarn bowl which will help to contain the yarn and yes, allow your cat to sleep peacefully.


With the sock blank, there is no confusion as to its name.  It is knitted, often by machine, and then dyed.  The prepared blank is then knitted up as you unravel it. Knitting directly from the sock blank allows it to sit tranquilly by your side, your cat at your feet.


And last but not least is the mill spun yarn stored on a cone.  These cones come in various sizes.  The large cones hold greater quantities of yarn and are often used by machine knitters, weavers and hand-dyers.

So what do you call these yarn preparations?  Please share your thoughts in the comments section below and help to clarify the confusion.  I want to know what you think.


Until next time,

Rhonda Kellett


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  • Well that was very informative. I just call it yarn and never have had to be more clear than that but this blog will allow for more clarity in my descriptions. Thank you Rhonda, I’m h’evephorically educated now.

    Roxanne * * *