skein is a unit of yarn, in which an elaborate amount of yarn (often 100-200 yards) is first looped around an object (usually a yarn-swift) numerous times, until there are several dozen loops or spirals of yarn around the arms.  This is then twisted around several times, and then twisted around itself several times, before being tucked into a compact shape that fits easily onto the shelf of a yarn shop. Skeins do not as a general rule, roll or run away from the knitter.IMG_5287.JPG

If you are not careful, though, they easily become a tangled mess. Like this one did.

The only solution is patience, and time.  If you don’t want to give up the yarn, then you have to sit patiently, picking apart the knots and tangles.  This can take a long time; some people don’t believe it’s worth the trouble.  Some people would rather take scissors to the whole thing and churn out two piles of yarn:

  • “bits long enough to work with”
  • “string too short to save”

I belong to the third category of yarn-workers, which demands patience and time while the skein is brought to a new category of order, the yarn ball.

IMG_5288.JPG The yarn sometimes loses a good deal of the sheen and luster that attracted you to it in the yarn store as you do this patient work of untangling. Your partner will roll eyes at you as you do this work, and even tut-tut at you as you nearly scream in frustration at it.  But sooner or later — given enough time, and enough patience — all of the knots and tangles will be removed, and you will have a yarn ball.

It is imperative that all skeins be turned into yarn balls before you start knitting with them.  Under no circumstances should you attempt to knit from a skein, not even “for a few stitches” or “for a few lines of purl” or what-have-you.  ALWAYS take the time to untwist the skein before you knit with it.  Your patience will thank you.