Tips for tangled yarn???

YugiDean's picture

When I got the alligator scarf kit in the mail, the yarn was just unwound hanks. I don't have a swift or anything, so I was hand-winding the yarn and now one of the skeins is unfortunately tangled beyond recognition. The second hank, I laid out neatly in its big circle and have just been knitting slowly from it, only that doesn't seem to be staving off tangles either. What the blippity hell am I supposed to do to avoid and/or remove yarn tangles? Honestly, I'm kicking myself for not going down to the LYS and asking them to wind it for me. *sigh*


PhilNmtl's picture

After a major nightmare with

After a major nightmare with tangling on a merino cashmere blend for my buddy's scarf, I broke down and bought a swift. Someone gave me a ball winder some time ago. I LOVE the swift and don't regret a cent that I paid for it. It was even great for helping to salvage a hank in the stash that I tangled a year or so ago and ran out of scotch before I finished sorting it out.

kevyoga1970's picture

If you have a good

If you have a good relationship with the staff at your LYS, bring the yarn in and offer to buy some needles or yarn if they'll help you get your skeins wound--I've done it myself, and they gladly obliged. We actually had a good laugh and great cup of coffee about the whole mess. If you're a regular customer, I don't think it should be a problem.

terrye's picture

I've never used a swift, or

I've never used a swift, or a ball winder. I put the yarn directly from the bobbin (or store if bought) onto the back of a chair, and then wind CAREFULLY from there. It's doable, and yeah, I've gotten myself in trouble a couple of times, but mostly because I've tried to go to fast.

Knitting Editor

Tallguy's picture

The reason the yarn comes in

The reason the yarn comes in a hank is to keep the liveliness, the bounce, the elasticity in the yarn. It's softer and more responsive when working with it. You leave the yarn in the hank until immediately before you are ready to use it. When the yarn is wound into a ball, it is under tension, and even for a relatively short period of time, it will stretch out, and lose the elasticity.

If you find a ball of yarn in your grandmother's stash, wind it into a hank, give it a bath in warm water, and hang to let dry. Make into a ball just before use.

The hank needs to turn while you are making the ball. The best, of course, is a swift. These can be easily made from plans available on the net. The lamp shade is quite perfect. Then you also need a ball winder. Winding a ball of yarn by hand is not good -- you will be removing or adding some twist with every revolution. Sometimes the yarn just can't tolerate that and you will have trouble knitting with it.

The skein (hank) must rotate as you unwind it. The ball must be created by being turned, rather than winding around the ball. Ideally, the ball should be placed on some sort of holder so it unwinds (rotates) as it is being used. Ideally.

I've said it before, but the two essentials every fibre person needs are the swift and the ball winder. I can't tell you how often I have to use them! Best investment I've ever made.

grandcarriage's picture

Don't get me wrong, I agree

Don't get me wrong, I agree with you, but one of the first things I learned was to wind a proper ball that didn't stretch out the yarn. I think most modern ball winders and swifts do a pretty good job, if the person winding is paying attention. (I got my wooden umbrella swift for free: The store was out of them but for one that had a couple of the wooden sticks that make the frame the yarn rides on were broken. I took it and made replacement bits out of (wait for it) YARN and have put many many miles on it.

YugiDean's picture

I'm thinking of adding these

I'm thinking of adding these items to my Christmas list! LOL

MMario's picture

Of the two items I consider

Of the two items I consider the swift to be the more valuable of the two. Mine has made winding 800 to 1600 yard balls ***MUCH*** more pleasureable, not to mention reducing the time from multiple evenings (with all the attendent problems of finding a place to put the half wound ball, hank and rigging where family and animals wouldn't disturb it) to practically nothing.

And there is a lot to be said for hand winding your own balls; (There isn't any way to say that "right", is there?) rather then just turning a crank.

StuartWS's picture

Another idea is to use a

Another idea is to use a large lampshade with the finial loosen to let the shad spin. et Voila! Swift on the cheap!

as for the "hopelessly" tangled skein... you could always send it to a friend who likes untangling yarn (like me!) for a small payment of some hand knitted item or other fair trade.


YugiDean's picture

Thanks for the tips! The

Thanks for the tips! The chair-back worked perfectly on the hank I was knitting with. I'm afraid the other hank is too far gone for that and I may have to pull a QueerJoe and bunker down and start untangling it by hand.

"Men can starve from a lack of self-realization as much as they can from a lack of bread." --Richard Wright

grandcarriage's picture

Untangling yarn. I learned

Untangling yarn. I learned this from "The Shipping News" by Annie Prioux, and IT'S ALMOST FUN! First of all, don't pull on the yarn. You want the tangle LOOSE AS POSSIBLE. Find the end and start rolling it into a ball, following it's path trough the tangle~ a game of follow the leader, the ball being the rabbit and the tangles being rabbit holes (that's what I told a young person who was helping me)... gently ease apart any snags not big enough to push the ball through. You will eventually get to the point where it gets easy and the whole bit of yarn is wound into a ball. I once had a LEAF BAG of tangled yarn: a basenji had gotten into it and made a huge mess. By this method, I got the whole thing untangled in 3 knit nights (with the help of a 8 year old girl.)

For skeining. I got a niddy noddy for cheap, so I use that: Put the ball of yarn in a large pot so it can unravel and not travel all over the apartment. The back of a chair works fine, or wrapping it around one's knees if no chair is available...You can do the palm to elbow method, but that makes for a shortish skein. Good luck.

QueerJoe's picture

I'm answering two

I'm answering two questions...the explicit question of what to do with a tangled mess and the implied question that folks have been answering...what to use as a substitute for a yarn swift/ball winder.

First on the tangled mess. I am a very persistent bugger. I will not let a tangled mess get the better of me. Keeping things as loose as possible, I slowly try to work out each and every tangle and progressively get the yarn wound on the ball. There is no easy way to fix this that I know of, other than to either throw it out and buy new. The best tip is to lay it out on the largest floor space you have and untangle sections at a time. I usually find that at most, I have three or four sections of yarn being untangled at any one time...eventually, they all merge together into one neat ball.

As far as balling hanked yarn (did that sound dirty to anyone but me?)...I usually find that the back of a swivel chair works best. If the hank doesn't fit relatively snugly around the top of a rotateable desk chair, I bulk up the top of the chair with coats or heavy sweatshirts (I'm usually doing this in a hotel) until the hank fits snugly. Then I start winding my center-pull ball, allowing the chair to turn while I wind. It's not the best but it beats using my two knees as yarn holders while I wind.

teejtc's picture

I use a chair too, although

I use a chair too, although I never thought of a swivel one.. you're so smart! I will next time. I did use a rear-view mirror while waiting for my wife to get off of work, a while ago, and that turned out just fine :-)

Grace and peace,

asgalbraith's picture

I just posted the same thing

I just posted the same thing to my blog recently! ( So far the only suggestions I have received is to get a yarn winder or put the hank on the back of a chair. Next time I am going to try the back of the chair method and see how that goes.

MMario's picture

Two chairs placed back to

Two chairs placed back to back with the skein between them actually works a little better (kitchen type chairs) though the Gramma-in-law used to have this overstuffed wing schair that worked pretty well on it's own., unless the Pomarainian decided to "help"

MMario's picture

I can't even being to

I can't even being to imagine trying to knit from a hank. Until very recently I would use a chair back (or drawer, or lampshade, or someone else if I could talk them into it) to hold the hank and wind it into a ball first. Tangles have to be carefully sorted out and un-tangled; unless of course you use the Alexandrian solution to the Gordion knot - but then you have a bunch of joins in your finished yarn-ball.

I used to use these methods

I used to use these methods too until I made a deal. Basically it's 'hold the yarn or you don't get the sweater'.