Convenience versus ability to touch the yarn. That is the question.
After a mad weekend of dying yarns and rovings I am fondling the results and once again begging the question what is best? Yarn cakes or skeins. From a production point both are labour intensive. From a marketing point I like to know that what I see is what I can expect when I knit. When a skein is dyed, I can paint over the entire product, dunk one end at a time or totally immerse the yarn for a more even overall effect. I can also use any or all combinations of these methods until the resulting combinations meet my satisfactions.
When a skein is finished the dye process, often what comes out of the pot is pooled or a blotchy, less than attractive and sometimes knotted mess. This is the part that I love best about the re-skeining process. By enlarging or making the skein smaller the blotches move around and are no longer on top of each other. It is like magic. Suddenly something that was not in the least bit attractive, has movement, subtle colour change and in the case of sock yarns more represents what will happen with the final product.
Yarn cakes are incredibly convenient and let’s face it, a ball is eventually where it is going to end up. This too better represents the final product especially when making a sock.
What is missing however is the feel of the yarn. All tied up the yarn is simply convenient coloured string. One also needs to worry about how tightly the ball was wound. If you are using a commercially made yarn winder, you have a better chance of ensuring that the yarn is not “stretched” as it is rolled up. If you hand wind it, depending on your patience and attitude (mine isn’t always good when I hand wind because it usually means that there are too many tangles to go from the swift to the ball winder) one can pull too tightly on the string. Ever have a knitted item seem to get bent out of shape in odd ways when you go to block it? This is likely what has happened. There is tension in you winding and over time the yarn will keep that tension until you throw it in the wash or go to block it and release the stored up tension. Now you have a different problems.
The other side of the coin of course is the way a skein feels. It tells you a lot about what to expect from the finished fabric (provided that you have the right tension and gauge). As important to me is the way the yarn feels in my hands when I am trying to knit.
So, although I am drawn to the convenience of the yarn cake, I consistently reach for the skein. Decision made. Do you agree?