Dark or saturated yarn bleeding into and staining a lighter yarn is one of knitting’s most common heartbreaks. To determine if the dye in your yarn is going to bleed, first soak the skein in cold water and observe if the water changes color. If it does, consider re-fixing the dye, especially if 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!