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To Wind or Not to Wind: How to Store Yarn

It begins innocently enough. You become interested in knitting and collect a little basket full of yarn that hangs out by your couch. But as your love of knitting or crochet grows, so does your yarn collection. Before you know it, the producers of Hoarders are calling you at home, begging to feature your yarn stash on the show.

Ok, maybe it’s not that bad.

But if you’ve moved beyond that basket of yarn, you probably need some tips on how to store your yarn for knitting and crochet. And you’ll want to keep that stored yarn in tip-top condition for the next time you use it, which leads us to a question we were recently asked by a Bluprint member:

“I’ve been reading conflicting information about yarn storage. Some say that you must not wind a hank of yarn into a ball until you’re ready to use it. Is that true?”

Loose Balls of Colorful Yarn

Photo via Bluprint member FlowerMoon

Hanks vs. yarn balls

It’s really fun to use the ball winder at your local yarn store, isn’t it? And it’s so much easier to wind it at the store than to take the hank home, drape it over the back of a chair, and wind it yourself. But if you don’t plan on using that yarn in the near future, resist the urge to use that ball winder in the store.

It’s best to store yarn exactly as you purchased it — still in a hank, for example — when storing it for a long period of time. Sometimes we find a good deal on a yarn we love and have no immediate plans for it. If that’s the case for you, don’t wind it into a ball until you’re ready to use it. Here’s why:

Think about what happens to the yarn when you wind it into a ball. First of all, the fibers closest to the inside of the yarn are wound more tightly and are squished in there, while the fibers on the outside of the ball are not wound so tightly. In fact, there’s no way to wind the ball consistently, especially if you’re winding it by hand at home. This can cause the yarn to stretch out in random places. Winding the yarn into a ball and leaving it on the shelf or in storage over time can also affect the elasticity of the yarn, which changes all kinds of important things like the yarn’s gauge and the drape of the yarn.

Next time you’re tempted to use that winder at the store, ask yourself if you intend on knitting or crocheting the yarn soon. If the answer is no, resist winding the yarn for now.

Looking to expand your yarn stash? Don’t forget to check out Bluprint’s awesome collection of the prettiest yarns out there. You can even shop by color!

If you want to get even more into the nitty-gritty of yarn, add Deborah Robson’s Know Your Wool class to your Bluprint classes (it’s FREE!). Learning about different types of wool can help you determine the yarn’s drape, which can also help you organize your yarn stash.

Do you wind your yarn into balls before storing them?


Gillian Sutherland

Over here (Ireland) the shops do not offer a wool winding service, which is why I have a winder of my own. I find it saves me lots of hassle time – it drives me crackers having the ball jump about all over the place (I know that there a untold numbers of ways to hold the ball in place, but they still have a life of their own), so to get the thing into an orderly and steady shape I use a winder. The ball not only sits still, but you take hold of the end from the middle of the ball, which helps for a smooth playing out of the yarn/wool as you knit. As a bonus for me, the shape of it allows me to sit it onto my recycled kitchen towel roll holder which I use to keep the wool/yarn in place. (The holder can hold several balls at a time – very handy for colour knitting, or for having the next ball handy when the first one is due to run out.

Marilynn Newman

I use a ball holder made from a used 3 liter soda bottle. It keeps the yarn in place and tangle free. Myself, I prefer to store yarn in garment bags in my closet. The arrangement works perfectly as I tend to purchase yarn by color, and then organize the clear garment bags according to the colors of the rainbow. I’ve always been a visual person, and if I cannot see it, then it is not there. I have limited space, so the garment bags do two things for me, they allow me to see my stash vertically as well as horizontally, they keep the yarn off the floor and out of boxes under my bed. When I want to start a new project, before I go to the store, I can simply review my yarn stash and use it first.

Lois M Stevens

How long do you know yarn last in skeins. My deceased brother had skeins of yarn stored in suitcases. They have been in there since the late 90’s. Are they still good? They look good some ify.

Marion Gibson

If I was over zealous and wound all my hanks when I bought them is it too late to rewind them into hanks once again or is the damage already done?


Hi Marion, it depends on how long you’ve had them wound. When I discovered that winding stretches the yarn, I just started leaving any new hanks that I purchased unwound and didn’t go back to unwind the old ones. Just something to be aware of for future yarn purchases — especially if you’re like me and hold onto the yarn for a long time before you use it!


Also, being aware of this a long time ago, I’ve always wound any yarn I did wind (such as project left overs, not new skeins) VERRRY loosely, so as to not stretch them.

Have been trying to delicately suggest this to my mother for a long time now, but hasn’t taken. She’ll still wind things so tight, they’ll bounce … so, I’ve sometimes grabbed her tennis balls/baseballs, etc, and quietly REwound them very loosely (funny how a former “tennis ball” becomes softball size or more), and hope the damage hasn’t already been done, and that the yarn can have some time to “RELAX” before being used, and thus have its elasticity back. 😉

Jane Marple

When I buy new yarn, I leave it the way it comes from the store. If I am recycling yarn or the hank it bought has become tangled, I wind it into a ball.. I also wind center pull skeins into balls because I don’t want to have to deal with the tangle mess that happens when you get to the end of the center pull skein.


I learned the hard way not to try to knit from a skein with a center pull . If I can’t start from the outer start point then I wind it into a ball. Luckily the store did let me exchange for a new skein on 2 that became so tangled I couldn’t use them.


I have “2” yarn winders, one upstairs, one down. I “prefer” to wind my yarn (backwards on first wind to counteract the fwd wind of manufacturer. I don’t wind it tightly, so it keeps the yarn fibers soft I like to have the yarn “cakes” in my craft bag. They stack up better than skeins. Plus, if you’re winding a “shank” (a big circle of yarn with secured ends, buy a “swift!” They hold the yarn in an adjustable circle, & rotates as you wind yarn [& here’s a good time to use a winder WITH the swift.) No chairs, or friends to hold the shank!


I will take any suggestion on to wind my yarn better. I have a winder, and it is not the easiest.


My question is, how long is “soon”? Are we talking months, weeks, days? If I buy yarn today for a project I probably won’t get to for a few weeks, should I skein it? Or is it okay for a month in a cake? I’m sure there is no real set rule, but I just know that “soon” can mean a LOT of different things. Thanks!


My mother taught me to wind the ball onto a folded square of paper , and we always ended up with squarish balls. I never understood why, when you can just make a ball with it. But I think I see, the square pattern kept things uniform.


I’m curious, does this only apply to natural yarns or does it apply to acrylic yarns to? I can’t use natural wool yarns due to allergies so I mostly get acrylics I see this concern a lot but I’ve never seen it explained if it applies to all yarn


How long would it take for the yarn to lose elasticity? Does this apply to acrylic yarns?


If your yarn has been balled for quite some time, you can restore it easily. Put it back in a skein and tie on the 4 ‘corners’ with figure 8 ties. Then soak it in warm water and wool wash for half an hour, rinse and dry flat.


In Australia, the yarn always seems to come balled- I’ve never seen or even heard of having to ball it in the store! I’ve just purchased my first yarn from America so I guess I’m about to learn all about it!

Leviticus Bennett

I like your point that the best way to store the yarn is exactly as you purchased it. I’m going to be purchasing some serging yarn for carpet pretty soon. In the past I’ve put all of my yarn into balls as soon as I’ve purchased them, but I wouldn’t want to stretch it out or affect the elasticity like you mentioned.


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