When I was at knit night a few weeks ago a friend (who is a brand-new knitter) said, "I bought a skein of yarn and I tried to knit straight from it and it got all tangled up!" All of the other knitters jumped in to explain that you need to wind the skein into a ball before you can knit with it. This is all a little new to me, being a fairly young knitted mouse and all, so I was happy to watch the process, and thought I would walk you through it now that I have seen it.
First, you start with a skein or hank of yarn that looks kind of like a double number eight:
Then you need to open the skein into one big loop like this:
Next you need to stretch it onto something. You can make a yarn swift like the one pictured here: (here is a link for a neat tutorial, thanks Crafty Diversions)
Or you can simply find a friend who is willing to help like this:
Make sure you find the ties on the skein, remove the short ones as you untie them, one tie will be the beginning and the end of the yarn!
Now it is time to start making a ball of yarn. You can buy a ball winder (like this) or you can simply do this by wrapping the yarn around your hand like Mother does here:
Now you just keep wrapping and gradually turning the baby ball to make it nice and even. It helps to wrap it a little loosely so as to not stretch out the yarn too much. I got to try a little bit, too:
Mother kept wrapping and wrapping (and wrapping- this is a 50g skein of 440 yard laceweight yarn!)
Until the end of the yarn. All ready to knit!