Friday, July 19, 2013

To Rehank or Not to Rehank, that is the question.

Dyers debate the merits of rehanking (aka reskeining) a lot. Many are for rehanking. Many are against. Most are somewhere in the middle. Me? I prefer rehanking, except when I don't. Read on!

What is rehanking? 

Rehanking is taking a dyed hank of yarn and winding it up again at a different circumference. Here's how it works.

Yarn comes off the spinning machines in cones.

Folklife Festival Wales Yarn
Folklife Festival Wales Yarn by Mr. T in DC, on Flickr. Shared under a Creative Commons License.

Then the mill or the dyer will wind big loops of yarn off of the cones. This big loops are tied off and become hanks (or skeins). In the picture below, the machine on the left is winding hanks of yarn off of cones.

Woolen Mill near Golan, North Wales
Woolen Mill near Golan, North Wales by net_efekt, on Flickr. Shared under a Creative Commons License.

The hanks are then dyed and look something like this. See how the colors are in chunks? You can see, roughly, how the dye was applied. There is some orange, and some brown, then some more orange, and a gold with maybe a little more brown.

Hidden Tiger
The dyed yarn is then put back on a swift and rewound at a different circumference to redistribute the colors, like so:
Yep, still Hidden Tiger. Same yarn.
Pros and Cons of Rehanking

Former club colorway
"Unbirthday" rehanked
  • Rehanking neatens up the hanks. Dyeing is rough on a hank of yarn. Even when you add a lot of ties to keep the hank under control, a loop of yarn may "snag" during the dyeing or rinsing process and great a large, loose loop like in the top picture. Rehanking evens everything out again. 
  • Rehanking redistributes the color so you get a truer picture of the dominant color. In the top picture, the skein reads brown. In the bottom picture, you can see that the brown recedes and the golden brown is the more dominant color. 
  • Rehanking gives you a better idea how the individual colors in the hank will look together. As a yarn seller, it helps me sell the yarn. The color below below and to the right did that to me. Straight out of the pot, I liked it ok. Then I rehanked it and fell in love. It's the same yarn, but rehanking lets me more easily imagine how well the colors go together. 
  • This is a debated point among yarn sellers, but I think rehanked yarn sells better for the reasons I listed above.

Former club colorwy,
"Unbirthday" not rehanked
  • Rehanking is expensive in terms of time and labor costs, especially when this step is not strictly necessary.
  • Rehanking breaks up the colors, making it harder to figure out how it was dyed. A lot of people like to see how much of each color was used, how often the color breaks are, etc.
  • Some people think that rehanking hides "mistakes" such as stray specks of color. That's a whole 'nother blog post. Long story short,  some people consider stray specks of color to be mistakes. It is only a mistake if the dyer did not do it intentionally. I often use a process that encourages speckling because I like it.

My Thoughts

Sometimes I rehank. Sometimes I don't. Some bases look great straight out of the dye pot. Some bases need an hour of detangling regardless of how well I tied it to begin with.

For the most part, I rehank yarns I am selling direct to the customer. Sometimes I won't rehank if I'm short on time, if the hank is particularly lovely, if the hank is not messy from the dyeing process, or if I just plain don't feel like it. I seem to sell more rehanked yarns direct-to-consumer. Update 08/2016 - This was true in 2013 of my online customers, but my in-person customers always went for the non-rehanked. As of 2016 I rarely reskein for either demographic and it doesn't seem to have had any effect on sales.

For the most part, I do not rehank yarns that I sell wholesale. Sometimes I will rehank if a yarn is particularly messy, or if the client requests it. My non-rehanked yarns sell better to clients and their customers, thereby proving that people who prefer rehanking and the people who prefer yarns as-is are split pretty much down the middle.

A customer once tried to argue, quite loudly, that these three hanks of yarn were not the same yarns. They are the same. How do you like your yarn?
The color is CMY


  1. I tend to prefer hanks of yarn not reskeined. I like the blocks of color, and I think I am fairly good at envisioning what a yarn might look like knit up. Maybe that's the spinner in me? I think spinners are often forced to envision how colors will work together, as well as making plans for it.

    That being said, there are some colorways that only call to me from a reskeined form. Fate, PhD was absolutely one of those for me. I needed to see the colors working together before I became completely convinced.

    In the end, as long as the skein is tidy, I doubt it makes a huge difference. I suppose if I were dyeing, I'd reskein one of a batch for photograph purposes and call it good. But, I am kind of lackadaisical like that. Which is probably also one of the many reasons why I am not a dyer.

    In the end, as long as I know it has the deep saturated colors I love, I am going to be happy.

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. You know I will always have those deep, saturated colors. :)

  2. I also prefer them unskeined. I'm very particular about handpainted yarns because I don't like color pooling or short color repeats. So when I see them in their natural form, I can envision how the striping will work up. Once the yarn has been reskeined, although it does looks so much prettier and professional I hate to say - I can't tell anything about how the yarn is going to work up. I'd rather know from the beginning than find out mid-project.

    1. Thanks for sharing your perspective. It is interesting how preferences are divided so evenly.

  3. I prefer reskeined yarns. As a dyer, I would rather deal with messy hanks myself and not pass the mess onto someone else. As a yarn shop employee, yarns that haven't been reskeined are a pain. It isn't fun to have a customer waiting for yarn to be wound and have to deal with the knots and tangles. Having to stop and deal with it seems to invite the phone to ring and lines to form.

    1. Luckily, with enough ties, the non-rehanked yarns don't get too messy. I remember from working at a yarn shop how there were some brands that always tangled no matter what, while other non-rehanked yarns always wound like a dream.

  4. I don't care as long as you have a picture of the reskeined one. The only problem I can see is that you will be having long email conversations with people who cannot understand that it's the same yarn.

    1. I will never get over that woman yelling at me that the 2 yarns were not the same thing. She was so mad that she thought I was lying to her! :)

    2. Women like that are just plan unhappy people. Shame really.


  5. To reskein or not to reskein ,that is the question? I dn't think it makes one bit of difference as long as it gets in my hands. Because ,you see I have to wind it into a cake anyway.So my cake will then look like it does with reskeining-which in my mind is a waste of time and money.

  6. And people wonder why yarn is so expensive! There you go.

    THEN, when you "cake" it, it looks different yet again. The only way to really tell what it will look like is a swatch, which I would love to see from sellers, but jeeze, the time THAT would take.

    To me, any-which-way if fine if I love the dyer, which, in this case, I truly do. :)

    Great post and keep up the great work.


  7. Thanks for this post--super informational and helpful for us knitters buying indie dyed yarn!


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