My favorite yarns always come in unfriendly hanks that require winding and I don't have a swift. Plus I have just been recently told that winding a skein too early is bad because it stretches and warps the yarn. What to do! This all came to a head when I recently bought a hank of SUPER fine yarn from Habu (if you have never checked them out, they sell lust-worthy luxury yarns). I wondered why it was that yarn came off a swift into a winder so easily but doesn't when a hank is unwound by hand....
Finally, I came up with a super easy technique to knit directly with a hank. Hooray!
All you need to do is stretch the hank between your knees and unwind loops by hand. Most hanks come in just the right size to be stretches over both my knees like below and when I need to unwind, I just put a little tension on the hank so it's stretched out by my knees - this magically prevents most tangles from happening just like when a hank is unwound from a swift! Tension is the key! (see photo #1 below)
This is slightly more time consuming than knitting from a skein, but it only takes a few second to unwind a few long loops from hank and this avoids the issue of stretching out your yarn improperly. Try it yourself! It's a lifesaver for me.
Another tip is to keep to position the hank so the non-working end of the yarn is near you between your knees like below, this way if the non-working end tangles you up, it's easy to figure it out.
Yarn coming off the hank - easy! You don't have to keep the hank stretched out the whole time, just when you unwind.