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What is a Skein of Yarn?

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If you’re an avid knitter or crocheter, you’ve likely come across the term “skein of yarn” at some point. But what exactly is a skein of yarn? And how much yarn is in a skein?

 In this comprehensive article, we’ll answer all these questions and more, so you can feel confident the next time you go yarn shopping.

What is a Skein?

Let’s start with the basics. A skein of yarn is a unit of yarn, wound into an oblong-shaped, center-pull bundle. 

Skeins can vary in size and shape, but they’re typically around 50 to 450 grams in weight and contain anywhere from 50 to 1000 yards of yarn.

Skeins are a common way to package yarn, and they’re popular among knitters and crocheters because they’re easy to store and transport. 

Note: Sometimes, people use the word “skein” to refer to one “unit” of yarn, no matter how its wound or packaged. For example, you might hear, “This pattern uses 6 skeins of yarn,” even if that particular yarn is sold in hanks or donuts.

How Do You Pronounce Skein?

One question that often comes up when discussing skeins of yarn is how to pronounce the word “skein.” The pronunciation of this word can vary depending on where you live and your regional accent.

In our experience, the word “skein” is typically pronounced with a long “a” sound, as in “skayn” (rhymes with rain). This pronunciation is confirmed by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, which lists the primary pronunciation as “ˈskān.” 

However, you may also hear people pronounce it with a long “e” sound, as in “skeen,” or with a long “i” sound, as in “skine.”

How Much Yarn is in a Skein?

The amount of yarn in a skein can vary depending on a few factors, including the weight of the yarn (aka the thickness of the strand) and the weight of the skein (measured in grams or ounces). 

Typically, a skein of yarn will contain anywhere from 50 to 450 grams of yarn, with most skeins falling somewhere in the middle.

As for, “How many yards are in a skein?” That will depend of the yarn weight. A skein of fingering-weight yarn may have as many as 450 yards of yarn, while a skein of super-bulky weight yarn may have as few as 45 yards of yarn.

Finding the End of a Skein of Yarn

When you first get a skein of yarn, you’ll need to find the ends so you can start using it. You can find the yarn end on the outside of the skein or the center of the skein.

Finding the yarn end on the outside of the skein is relatively easy. Remove the yarn label, and look around for the loose end. If you don’t see it right away, it might be tucked into one of the ends of the skein. 

Finding the yarn end in the center of the skein can be trickier. But, many people prefer to pull from the center as it can keep the skein neater. To find the yarn end in the center of the skein, insert your thumb and index finger into the end of the skein and feel around for the loose yarn end. Once you think you’ve found the center, pull it out. Some extra yarn (“yarn barf”) may come out with it, but you should be able to find the end. 

How to Pull Yarn from a Skein

Once you’ve found the end of your skein, you can start pulling yarn from it. There are two main techniques for pulling yarn from a skein: the outside pull and the center pull.

The outside pull method involves pulling the yarn from the outside of the skein. This method is easy to do, but you’ll have to deal with the skein rolling around while you unwind it.

The center pull method involves pulling the yarn from the center of the skein. To use this method, find the yarn end in the center of the skein, and start pulling the yarn from the center.  

Once you use up most of the yarn, though, the skein might collapse on itself. At that point, you should rewind the yarn into a ball to prevent tangling.

Other Ways Yarn is Packaged

In addition to skeins, there are a few other ways that yarn is commonly packaged. Each type of packaging has its own unique benefits and drawbacks.

4 skeins of yarn in a wire basket


Hanks are another way to store and package yarn, often used for hand-dyed and other specialty yarns. 

To make a hank, the yarn is wrapped in large loops and secured with small ties to prevent tangling. The loops are then twisted upon themselves to create an oblong-shaped bundle.

To use a hank of yarn, you’ll first need to wind it into a ball or cake. To do this, you can either wind the yarn by hand or use a ball winder or swift.


Cakes are a type of yarn packaging where the yarn is wound in a short, cylindrical shape with a flat top and bottom. Cakes are a popular way to package yarn because they’re easy to store and transport and don’t roll around like traditional balls of yarn.

To use a cake of yarn, you can either pull the yarn from the center or the outside, depending on your preference. 


Balls are one of the most traditional ways to wind yarn. They’re typically hand-wound – you won’t often see balls of yarn for sale in a store.

Balls of yarn are easy to use, but they can be prone to rolling and tangling. To use a ball of yarn, you’ll pull the yarn from the outside. You can store it in a yarn bowl to keep it from rolling around.

balls of yellow yarn


Donuts are similar to cakes in that they’re wound in a flat, cylindrical shape. But, they’re usually wound a bit more loosely than cakes. Because of this, donuts can be a bit prone to tangling, so some people rewind them into a cake before using them.

To use a donut of yarn, you can either pull the yarn from the center or from the outside, depending on your preference. 


Cones are a type of yarn packaging typically used for industrial or commercial yarns. They’re tall and cone-shaped and often used for yarns that are sold in large quantities. Cones can be a great way to get a lot of yarn in one package.

To use a cone of yarn, you’ll pull yarn from the outside.

Learn More about Yarn

Find out even more about our favorite craft supply with these related posts.

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