I went to a specialty yarn shop tonight and bought some lovely hand-dyed merino wool, fingering weight (fairly fine). It was in a hank rather than a ball or skein and, when I went to start rolling it up, managed to tangle it very quickly and efficiently.
So now I sit untangling a pile of yarn while I roll a ball out of it. Looking for a metaphor or lesson to be learned; some Zen koan or hassidic story. None come to mind while I continue my knotty path.