Hand dyed yarns have a lot in common with their commercial counterparts. Wool can still felt, and silk can still be damaged by bleach. And any yarn can “bleed” dye into your wash. It is important to learn how to look after natural fibred yarns to ensure long lasting happiness with your craft and finished projects.
Superwash wools are chemically treated to prevent the shock from quickly switching from hot to cold water, and vice versa. This shock, alongside even a tiny bit of agitation, is what causes wool to felt. Some washing machines will squirt cool water on to your wash during a spin cycle, which doesn’t bode well if you have a hot bundle of non-superwash wool inside! Superwash wools are capable of enduring this. Equally some machines do have a “wool” setting, and it is up to you whether you use this. I have, bravely, tried the one on mine with a non-superwash project and it came out fine, after a huge sigh of relief. Some people will always want to hand wash their finished projects. And that is fine. With all that love and care that went into making them, a one-second oversight on what setting you’ve chosen on your machine could be the end for a much treasured item!
Luscious. Sublime. Luxurious. Fragile. Silk does not like bleach. Want to keep that beautiful sheen to your silk shawl? Stay away from bleaches. But beware, they come disguised as many names. Whiteners. Brighteners. Optic Whiteners. Non chlorine bleach. Colour safe bleach. Silk also does not like sunlight. Yes it shines and glimmers in the sunlight, but please do not store it in sunlight. Not that I would expect you to store your precious silk garments outside!
All yarns and fibre tops are dyed and rinsed very carefully, using only professional acid dyes and citric acid, before leaving me. Due to the nature of hand dyeing, a small amount of dye may remain in the material fibres, especially for the first few washes. Numerous things can affect the release of dye from your yarn, such as the ingredients in any wool wash you may use and additives in your local water supply. From experience I’ve found that even working with the yarn it can sometimes release dye that didn’t run out beforehand. Some people use a little white vinegar in their wash to help prevent colour bleeding. I do recommend washing new items carefully on their own at first, or forever if you may so choose. If you are going to be using more than one colour in a finished project then I highly recommend washing the yarn separately beforehand so you can be satisfied running colours are kept to a minimum in their wash together after finishing your project – ask me how I know that! I would like to quickly reassure you that this bleeding is only excess dye. The colour of your yarn will not be affected by this.
This is how I wash my finished items…
- Ensure the sink is clean and rinsed first!
- Run a luke warm bath of water.
- I add a drop of wool wash “Soak” and gently stir for a few seconds. Other brands are available such as Euchalan, etc.
- When the water has stopped swirling from step 2. I gently push the project down into the water to help soak it up.
- Leave to soak for about 10-15 minutes. Whilst it is soaking lay a clean towel out on the floor.
- Carefully lift the finished item from the water and empty the sink.
- Depending on how dirty the water was you may wish to repeat until it is almost clear.
- Gently squeeze the water from the project. Never wring it.
- Lay the project on the towel and roll it up inside.
- Squeeze any excess water out by standing on the towel roll.
- Unroll the towel and then lay the finished item on a flat surface for drying.
And that’s it! After discovering hand dyed yarns and fibres few people go back to an existence with only acrylic as a crafting companion. Some even cut acrylic out of their yarn diet completely. It is important take care of natural fibres to ensure projects stand the test of time and continue to look their best for years to come. It takes a long time, a lot of stitches, and a lot of love and care to knit or crochet a project, so why would you waste this by not putting the same love and care into it after it is finished?