After suffering through days and nights of wrestling with tangled messes of blue yarn on my lap, breaking fingernails picking apart tight knots, turning my hands indigo and listening to the many well-intentioned but condemning suggestions to "maybe give up and start over", "wouldn't it be faster?", and finally the eye-rolling and "good luuuck" said in that singsong tone of incredulity...a month and a half later after the yarn was revealed to be a hot tangled mess, we finally, finally managed to untangle it.
There were, as with all miserable experiences, some lessons to be learned from this ordeal. The number one being patience. Had I been more patient and double-checked my work when tying the hanks to begin with, they might have remained in the neat, organized loops the hanks were designed for. Had I just been patient and waited to put the yarn on a swift, instead of trying to comb through it with my hands on a table and getting inner loops tangled onto outer loops, we might have been able to prevent the knots that formed. And finally, in untangling the yarn once it's on a swift, one cannot rush it by by tugging on the yarn, which inevitably causes overlapping yarns to tighten on themselves. Nor should one attempt to follow the yarn through loops that are seemingly in the way, as that unintentionally threads a new knot where there wasn't one before.
Because there was no actual knotting occurring in this yarn, at least at the outset. No actual yarn ends crossed over and under each other. Rather, certain looser yarns had fallen over other yarn loops and then been tightened until the yarn at the very bottom couldn't move, though they were all still running parallel. Instead of tugging or dodging a loop whenever the yarn hit a blockage, all one had to do was lightly shake the yarn at the center and lightly loosen the other yarns lying on top to release their hold. Once loosened, the yarn would continue to move along the swift, unwinding as it went along, without causing any disruption in the orientation of the other yarns.
For us, because one of our skeins had gotten hopelessly knotted upon itself, we ultimately had to carefully cut one yarn at a time and wind the loose ends until they hit another roadblock, carefully accounting for all loose ends until finally, one yarn was identified that could go around the rest of the unaffected skein without getting caught up in the knot. Finding this yarn took about a week. Once identified, the winding went more or less smoothly, being careful not to get all the other dangling yarn bundles tangled even more on each other.