Note: you can click on any of the yarns below to learn more about them.
Mmmmmmmm, cake. Wait, I’m getting off topic.
Why is some yarn called a cake? Or a hank, ball, skein, cone, or donut?Why are there so many different names for yarn?
Yarn is yarn, all of these other names are simply the way the yarn is presented to you, the buyer.
Each name refers to a different configuration of the yarn you are buying. Here is a visual breakdown:
Flat on the top and bottom and round in the middle, just like a cake. Usually, these are made from winding your yarn from a hank on a yarn winder. However, some companies (like Caron above) are marketing the yarn in cakes where you can see the color changes better.
You can either work from the center or outside tail of the cake as is.
Many independent yarn sellers offer yarn in this form. Unwinding it produces a big loop, which is how they work with it to dye it. It’s most cost effective for the dyer to leave it in this form when selling.
You cannot begin a project from yarn in this form. It will become a tangled mess. You must first wind it into a cake or ball. I have a video on how to do this here.
We’ve all seen a ball of yarn. It’s rare to see them sold as such (the awesome Zauberball above is an exception), but we’ve all wound up leftovers from projects.
Unless you are winding a center pull ball on purpose, you normally can only work from the outside tail of a yarn ball.
Pronounced skeyn, this is how most big box yarn companies sell their yarn. It is wound on a machine and forms a fat oblong shape.
You can either work from the center or outside tail of the skein as is.
A cone is yarn in a cone shape and usually has a cardboard core. These come with mass amounts of yardage to be used for knitting machines mostly. However, they come in handy at home with a yarn bobbin holder for larger projects.
You will only have access to the outside tail on a cone.
My favorite yarn (Chroma by Knit Picks pictured here) is sold in donut form. Like its name, the yarn is shaped like a donut: round with a hole in the middle. The donut helps to show the different color changes on self-striping yarn.
You can either work from the center or outside tail of the donut as is.