Dark yarn bleeding into and staining a lighter yarn is one of knitting’s most common heartbreaks. To avoid it, it’s a good practice to re-fix your yarn’s dye, especially when you’re working with more than one color of yarn and one of them is light colored. (Some people may also want to set a yarn’s dye before beginning a one-colored piece because they want to be able to easily wash it with other garments or because they want a very good sense of the final color before they begin.)
Unfortunately, for the majority of home knitters, there’s no absolute foolproof method for re-fixing dyes, but here is a technique we consider highly effective. These directions are for one 4 to 6-ounce skein of yarn. If you have more than one skein or a larger skein, then double the amount of citric acid/vinegar and water. If you are setting multiple colors, re-fix each color separately. Finally, be sure that your yarn is in a skein. If it’s in a ball, be sure to turn it into a skein before you begin.
- Scrap yarn (to tie the skein)
- 1 teaspoon of citric acid (available at Whole Foods and online) OR 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- 1 cup of boiling water
- 3 cups of warm or tepid tap water
- 1 plastic dye basin (that you don’t use for cooking food)
- Saran Wrap
- A microwave
- A wool wash, like Soak
- 4 to 6 cups of cool water
- A plastic hanger
To re-fix dye…
- Be sure that there are at least 4 ties on your skein of yarn. If there are not, use some scrap yarn to tie yours at a few additional points. This is to ensure that the yarn does not tangle in the process of re-fixing the dye.
- In your dye basin, dissolve 1 teaspoon of citric acid (available at Whole Foods and online) OR 1 tablespoon white vinegar in 1 cup of boiling water. Add 3 cups of warm or tepid tap water.
- Soak your yarn in this mixture for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Squeeze as much water as you can out of the skein without wringing it out.
- Tear a sheet of Saran Wrap about a foot longer than your skein of yarn. Wrap the Saran Wrap around the wet skein and then roll it to resemble a jelly roll.
- Place the roll of yarn in the microwave for 2 minutes on high. Open the door and allow the skein to cool for 2-3 minutes. Caution: Do not microwave the yarn for any longer than 2 minutes.
- Remove the skein and take the Saran Wrap off.
- In a basin, squeeze a small amount of wool wash and 4-6 cups of cool water. Place your skein in the basin and leave for 15 minutes.
- Squeeze out the remaining water, being careful not to wring the skein. If there is still dye coming off your skein, you may repeat steps 1-8 a second time.
- Hang your skein on a plastic hanger to dry.
- Enjoy your yarn!