Know More About Your Medium

This is the fourth post in a series, in which I’m sharing lessons learned as I progress on my yarn art journey.  To see the complete list of posts in this series, please visit the Guess what, yarn art newbie? page.

Lesson 4:  A Little More About Yarn

Today I’m picking up from where I left off in this previous post about yarn.  We briefly touched on the fact that there is a difference in yarn weights, a difference in materials that make up yarn, and that there is a difference in yarn value (economical vs. specialty yarns).  I’m going to expand a little more on what I’ve learned about yarn over the past few years, but again, I’m no expert, and there’s way more to learn about yarn than what I cover in these posts!  Part of the fun, by the way, is learning the nuances of yarn for yourself as you progress in your own yarn art journey. 🙂

It’s a what, now?

So if you’re new to yarn arts, (as I assume, since you’re reading the series for yarn art newbies), you might find yourself confused by some of the terminology and yarn jargon.  No doubt you learned at an early age what a yarn ball is.  Yeah.  It’s a ball of yarn.  But really, you probably don’t want your cats playing with it.

(Aside:  There’s no rule or etiquette about that, but it’s my personal opinion that you should try to keep your yarn away from pets, if possible.  You never know who might be allergic [if you have pets, it’s a good idea to ask before making something for someone], or if your pet might inadvertently transfer bugs or dirt to your yarn or project.  That said, it seems like a rather large number of yarn artists do have pets and many of them are enamored with photographing their finished projects over, around, under, or otherwise in some physical contact with a pet.  I’m not sure if it’s for scale, or if they’re just obsessed with their animals, but I can’t imagine that’s very helpful if you decide later on to sell your project or give it away to someone who may not “appreciate” your pets the way you do.  Just my $.02 as a fellow pet-owner; something to think about).

You know about yarn balls, but what is this “cake,” “skein,” and “hank” we speak of?  Well I’ll tell you, I don’t really understand why there must be a different name for all of these, other than to perhaps let you know what you’re getting yourself into.  Even ball-winders result in – get this – not a ball, but a cake. :-p  Clear as mud?  Here’s a brief video from VeryPink Knits that might help clear things up:

A ball-winder is pretty self-explanatory (other than the fact that, as we’ve established, the end result is a cake of yarn… maybe they should be called cake-winders?).  But did you notice that she also used the word “swift?”  A swift is an amazing must-have tool if you decide to own a ball-winder.  Can you wind yarn without a swift?  Yes.  I did for quite a while, actually.  But it makes the process quite long and tedious.  A swift makes a world of difference, and if you find yourself frequently purchasing yarn in hanks, a ball-winder and a swift are a great investment.  The two types of swifts I’m familiar with are:

Umbrella Swift
Tabletop/Amish Swift

I’ve not personally used the umbrella swift, but I have a tabletop swift and I love it.  It’s very self-explanatory, easy to assemble and disassemble for storage, and it makes winding cakes SO much easier than how I used to.  Here’s another VeryPink Knits video about using an umbrella swift:

Your Yarn Stash

You may not believe me when I say that you’re going to acquire a yarn stash in this game, but once upon a time, I too was a young and naive yarnie.  In fact, my sister was as well, and she and my husband used to think my yarn obsession was unusual to say the least.  People who are not yarn artists will not understand, but there will come a moment when you begin making real things with your newfound yarn art skills.  And when you discover that you have the power to transform string into stuff, you will feel a little bit like you’ve become Rumpelstiltskin spinning straw into gold.  A well-stocked room full of straw will yield unimaginable wealth.  You’ll find that as your creativity begins to spiral into an insatiable desire to knit, weave, or crochet all the things, you’ll want to ensure that you’re prepared for any possible yarn-art emergency.


You may begin to notice yarn skeins, balls, and hanks randomly showing up in every corner of every room.  You’ll find yourself spending increasingly long periods of time in the yarn section of your local chain store because, omg, they’re carrying Bernat Alpaca now.  Little things on social media will begin to catch your eye and you’ll find yourself following 51 pattern designers, 24 yarn brands, 38 independent yarn dyers, 6 different supply makers, and 16 yarn art magazines.  This, naturally, will lead you to lose count of the gorgeous hanks of multi-colors and self-stripers that find their way to your front door in need of the kind of home and purpose only you can give them.  You’ll store them all together without recognizing the danger of those naughty little freshly-wound cakes multiplying inexplicably.  Before you know it, you’ve accumulated more brightly-colored garments-to-be than you’ll probably ever be able to actually, realistically turn into things.


Don’t feel bad.  You’re absolutely not alone.  But for the sake of your home’s square footage limits and the health of your budget and bank account, do recognize when it’s time to curb your enthusiasm for purchasing physical incarnations of color.  And when you do recognize what that time is, please be sure to relay that information on to your fellow yarn addicts, because I fear it’s a feat that few of us have quite mastered.


And just like there’s never enough yarn, there will never be enough posts about yarn on this blog! ^_^  In my brief years as a fledgling yarn artist, I’ve come across several independent yarn dyers that I’d love to share with you.  Some I’ve purchased from, and some I haven’t yet but reeeeally want to!  So stay tuned because that post will come soon, and I’ll create a resource list with links of the companies and products that I have used or recommend in case you decide to check them out.  If there are any you’d like to share, please comment and let me know about them!




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