Hand Dyed Yarn and Colourwork

Posted by Ce Persiano on

This is a post from Ce's blog, back in 2012, which many knitters have found useful.

The studio is brimming with activity with all the Play kits we have sold. With all this, it comes to mind that those of you who are new to working with hand dyed yarn may not know it’s always a good idea to wash the yarn beforehand to prevent bleeding. I know there’s a little note on our tags saying so, but it’s never a bad thing to have a reminder, is it? And this doesn’t apply just to our yarn, but any hand dyed yarn and even some commercial yarn too! If your project is worked in one colour, there’s no need to worry and you can go ahead and start knitting, but if there’s more than one, it’s better to be safe than sorry. At the very least, knit a little swatch with all your colours, let it soak in warm water and your usual detergent and see if there’s any bleeding.

OK, so you are ready to take the plunge and start rinsing your skeins, but how to do this, you may ask?! Well, read on.

Start by unwinding your skein and having a look at it. By and large, all our yarn will come to you with two very loose ties. Because the ties are so loose I’d recommend adding another 1-2 ties before you start washing your yarn, otherwise you may end up with a tangled mess. The best kind of tie when working with yarn is a figure-of-eight tie and this is how you do it:

Next, fill a sink with warm water and use the regular amount of your favourite wool washing detergent (we love Soak), put the yarn in and let it soak for 5 or 10 minutes. Depending on the colour, that first rinse might look a bit scary and you’ll see why you have to go through all this bother. Now repeat this process as many times as it takes for the water to run clear. It’s important to always use the same temperature in in each rinse to avoid the risk of felting, although this will be minimised if your yarn is superwash.

I guess this is the time I get to reassure you that no, the dye is not all going to come out! We use professional acid dyes and long simmering times to ensure that as much dye as possible bonds with the fibres – what you are seeing here is the excess, after this your yarn will look just the same.

I picked a very bleeding-prone colour that took quite a lot of rinsing (I didn’t count the number of rinses, sorry!) The last rinse was still a bit pink, but seeing as the contrast colour was quite dark, I didn’t think it’d be a problem. Squeeze the excess water out with your hands, then wrap the yarn in a towel and squeeze it some more. I like to put my towel and knitting/yarn sausage on the floor, then I step on it/jump on it/have a little jig, that way I can get even more water out. Unwrap your skein, and stretch it out a bit, place both your arms in the centre of the skein and tug firmly to stretch it out and get the skein looking all neat again (this is not essential, but if you like a neat looking skein like I do, go for it!) Hang your skein to dry and once dry, knit to your heart’s content!

Once you have finished knitting and it’s time to block, I’d recommend washing your knit in cold water with your usual detergent, plus a teaspoon of vinegar. Do this for the first few washes, just to be on the safe side. Also, don’t leave it in the water for ages and ages as this will encourage the dye to come out and bleed on your contrast colour. I’d say 10 minutes is about right.

That’s it! I hope you all love working with your Play kits – I can’t wait to see all the different colour combinations!

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