Caring for Hand Dyed Yarn

Disclaimer: This page has been compiled as advise, gathered from the questions we get asked most by our customers. We don't claim that this is 'the one true way'. We believe in a highway with a million lanes of ways. This is just how we do it. 

Storage

We recommend to store yarn that you won't be using for a while in the form of a loosely twisted skein. That way there is the least amount of stress on the fibers in your yarn and it will retain its shape and 'fluffness' (this is now a word). 

Critters

It's advisable to store your yarn safely away from critters. Depending on where you're living this could just mean the odd moth, or weird hybrid spidermonsters (I'm looking at you Australia).

I have a playful cat, thus hair is pretty much always flying around and if she gets the chance she will steal my stash and build a nest with it...
I'm also profoundly paranoid about moths and carpet beatles. That means my stash of yarn is packed in ziplocked bags, inside plastic lockable tubs. It doesn't look as cute as I'd like it, but it keeps the yarn safe.
If you do keep your yarn on display, make sure you move it around every now and then (critters hate to be disturbed) and maybe add some lavender pouches or ceder balls to your stash (I prefer ceder. Lavender just reminds me of my grandmothers toilet).

Before starting a project

If your yarn is any of the following:
- Bright;
- Dark;
- Speckled;
- Used in a high contrast combination;

Play it safe and rinse the skein before you start the project.
If the skein had excess dye in it, you will thank yourself for taking those extra steps.

With speckled yarns, or at least with the technique we use, sometimes dye crystals 'hang on' to the yarn, even though they have gone through rinse cycles in the studio. Just a tiny crystal can release a lot of dye, so it's always recommended to take the safe route and give your yarn a rinse. I also feels that this rejuvenates the yarn if it has been traveling or hanging in a shop for a while. 

Cleaning

Cold. Water. Only. That's basically the mantra. Yes, you can wash superwash items warmer and/or in the machine (I toss my socks in the machine, I'm guilty) but if you want to keep your knits as beautiful as when you just finished them, for the love of the spaghetti monster, wash them by hand.

Use a mild detergent when washing, or blocking, your projects. There are enough brands out there you can either wash with, or even leave in and don't worry about. I'm pretty confident you can pick your own favorite rinse. 

Blocking

Personally I hate blocking (I live in a tiny apartment you know), but I have seen the before and after pics, and unlike tell-sell commercials, these are actually valid. After you finish a project, block it into shape. Don't be afraid of stretching your project so the stitches lay flat and correct any weird loopy things that have happened (I always have weird loopy things in colorwork).

There are specialized blocking tools on the market for things like socks, gloves and hats and for flat garments and shawls you can buy blocking mats. 
I have seen people using the foam floor puzzles for children (usually they're way cheaper than a special blocking mat set) and if that works for you: awesome! HOWEVER: Check to see if the dye in the mats doesn't release when the mats get wet / moist. I've seen some horror pictures of mats that did stain into beautiful white lace prayer shawls :S Less awesome when you have a huge cartoon truck imprinted on it after blocking...

I usually pin my knits down with T-pins or when it has a lot of straight edges, I use a lace blocking wire kit to save myself some time and get an even edge. Do check your pins and wires for any dingleberries and rust. Once when I was in a pinch I just used an old sewing needle to block a shawl and it turns out it had some rust on it. It washed out, but it did mean I had to restart the hell known as blocking all over again. 

WHEN DISASTER STRIKES

Moths

The M-word... These fuckers are ANNOYING and there is not that much you can do to prevent them from existing. If you spot a moth in your house and are afraid they may have been munching on your yarn: Check out this page by Knit Darling. It has all the info you need and even some tips on how to handle these bastards. 

Crocking

Acid Dye and Superwash treatments usually play well together. There are cases in which the chemicals in the superwash treatment of the wool absorb all the excess dye and retain it for about 3-5 days, after which it starts letting go of the dye (it's a bit like after dyeing your hair, the second time you wash it, it seems like more dye comes out). This is why it will stain your hands while working with it. Normally the excess dye gets rinsed out in our rinse baths but in this case, the superwash treatment gives sort of a 'false positive' since that's what's retaining the dye.

Mind you, it's not always the combo of Superwash and dye, crocking unfortunately happens every now and then.

If you have not started a project yet and want to salvage a crocking skein:
Option 1: Rinse the skein with some soft detergent: this can take up to 4 baths before the water runs clear. Let it dry and you're good to go.
Option 2: 'Force' the dye into the skein by doing an additional 'setting' round. Basically that means you get the skein into a pan, fill the pan with water and add a cup of white vinegar (cleaning vinegar works fine, could even use some fancyschmancy scented ones) or citric acid. Leave this to simmer around 80 degrees celsius for about 40 minutes and some of the dye will be forced into the skein. After this, take the pan off the heat and then let it cool down completely before rinsing (the dye sets in intervals while it's cooling down).

Steps to take when you are already far into a project (or finished):
- Rinse the project with cold water only for starters and preferably under a running tap or showerhead so the excess dye drains straight away;
- Rinse with a mild detergent, again, with a running tap / showerhead. do this until you feel the water runs clear enough for a soak.
After these 2 steps you should have gotten rid of the bulk of the excess that was retained by the superwash treatment.
When soaking after this, I advise using colour catchers to suck up the last bits of dye that may come out. Depending on where you are located, they are sold in most bigger stores and there are a few brands out there (Dylon, Formil, Vanish, Shout, etc). You may need to rinse and soak more than once.

Bleeding

TLDR: Mild bleeding is common in all hand dyed yarn and if you have a skein with a ridiculously bright color, super dark colors, or speckles, play it safe by rinsing the skein in cold water and some wool wash (a small amount of dish washing liquid works too) and let it dry. If you are in doubt about bleeding, or if you are pairing high contrast colors (neon green with solid white for instance), pick the safe route and give the skein a rinse before you cake it up.

THE SCIENCE OF DYE & MYTHICAL VINEGAR
For dye to stick to fibers you need heat + acid. Some mild bleeding is natural and should not influence your skein as long as you rinse it in cold water. I'd also like to clear up the faulty rumor that soaking your hand dyed yarn in vinegar will help. It will not. Acid dye needs HEAT + ACID to set. So unless you are tossing that vinegar laced skein in a microwave, crockpot or pan for an hour, soaking in vinegar will not make a difference in bleeding. This myth has been going around for ages and it's time to debunk that sucker.

OUR DYE & RINSE METHOD
Every dye batch consists of a few layers of color going into the yarn. This means that the total dye time of a single skein can be up to 4 hours(!) if the colorway needs it. The yarn is simmered to the required temperature and we let the skeins cool naturally overnight to keep the yarn soft and plush. After the dye process and cooling, every skein goes through a rinse cycle. That cycle ends after the water that comes from the yarn is clear. The rinse cycle differs per colorway, yarn base, and fiber blend. While one colorway may be clear after just 1 cycle, others may need 3. If you've ever dyed hair, you know the mantra: rinse til the water runs clear.

BRIGHT COLORS
Dyeing yarn is a chemical process and despite thorough rinsing, there is always the chance of mild bleeding. There are a multitude of reasons yarn can bleed and some of the (bright*) colorways may bleed because of their chemical makeup. To use the hair example again: You know how it always seems that when you wash your hair a few days after dyeing it, it feels as if there is more dye coming out then when you initially dyed it? That's what happens when colors bleed normally and it should be gone by 1, maybe 2 rinses.

SPECKLES
The other case of bleeding in yarn is when it's a speckle colorway. Yeah, #specklesaresohotrightnow. I know and use them in our yarn too because those little dollops of color are just too awesome! Because of the speckle method I use there are superficial color crystals that will be laying on top of the yarn while the color is setting. After setting (which takes about an hour per speckle skein) we take the skein and rinse it thoroughly, usually under a running shower head to blast all the leftover dye crystals away. Acid dye is very concentrated however and a single crystal that stays behind may cause the yarn to bleed.

WHAT TO DO IF YARN KEEPS BLEEDING LIKE A SORORITY GIRL ON HALLOWEEN NIGHT?
Excessive bleeding that occurs in the yarn is usually a case of not having the right combination of heat and acid, thus resulting in the dye not 'setting' properly. It can happen that one of the skeins dodges the rinse cycle bullet or the dye isn't set properly. One option is to re-set the colors yourself. Re-setting dye on yarn is done the same way as setting it: take a pan and pour a cup of white vinegar (or 2 tablespoons of citric acid powder) in it. Fill the pan halfway with water. Dunk the skein in the water. Simmer the pan (don't boil it!) and leave to simmer for about an hour. Let the skein cool on itself. The next day rinse it out and hang to dry. If this happened to you with a skein of Undercover Otter yarn, contact us and we'll replace the skein

SYNTHRAPOL
Synthrapol is an industrial strength, pH neutral, liquid detergent used as a prewash and afterwash for dyed or painted fabrics and fibers. Synthrapol has the unique property of keeping loose dye suspended during washing, thus preventing back staining while aiding in the removal of excess color. If you want to make sure with your hand dyed yarn that you keep all the loose pigments away from each other, you could invest in a bottle of Synthrapol. The larger craft stores (Michaels, JoAnn), some fabric and quilting stores, online retailers (Amazon) and dye sellers (Jacquard) carry Synthrapol.

* Colorways of ours that need extra care: Uncle Fester, Society, Slumber Party, Screaming Satsuma, Toxie, Diabolique and Your Mother Darns Socks in Hell. See a pattern? Yup, it's the neon bright colors that are prone to bleeding due to their chemical make up and the added fluorescent materials.