Have you ever walked through a second hand store, bought clothing, and worn it immediately without washing it first? Chances are you answered no. I feel the same way about second hand yarn. I am a frequent purchaser of yarn from my local second hand chain store (Any 6 balls for 4.99 woot woot) and am always leery of where its been. Did it sit in some old lady's basement gathering dust for 25 years? Did the dog "love" it and the owner couldn't bear to knit with it after?
Follow these easy steps for clean, tangle free, usable yarn.
Step 1: Materials
You will need:
- Yarn in need of washing
- Yarn swift or something to wrap your yarn around to make a hank
- Wash pan/bucket or a clean sink
- Wool wash or gentle shampoo for colour treated hair
- Clean towel
- Clothes Line or Drying Rack
Step 2: Select Your Yarn
Choose similar coloured yarns to wash together to avoid any bleeding of colour. Since a lot of second hand yarn does not have a label, I treat all yarns as wool and wash it gently.
Step 3: Re-Skein Your Yarn
To avoid tangles while washing, you need to turn your yarn into a hank. On occasion you'll find yarn already in this form but most commercial yarn comes in a ball. I have a wooden swift and a cheap plastic swift which I use interchangeably but you can also use the back of a chair or any item that allows you to form a loop. Once all of the ball is in hank form, tie the yarn in at least three places using a figure 8 (here's a great video that shows the technique).
Step 4: Washing the Yarn
Fill either a large container or your sink (wash the sink well before using!) with lukewarm water and add a small amount of wool wash or a delicate cleaner. Shampoo for colour treated hair also works but you'll need to rinse the yarn after soaking.
Submerge your hanks, pressing down to allow the water to be absorbed. DON'T SWISH OR AGITATE TOO MUCH. If your fibers are wool, they may felt easily even with the cool water so agitation is a no-no.
Let the yarn soak for about 15 minutes.
Once soaking is finished, pull each hank from the water, squeezing excess water back into the tub. DO NOT WRING as this can stretch the fibers.
Step 5: Drying the Yarn
Place the freshly washed hanks on a clean, dry towel. Roll the towel tightly, squeezing out the excess water from the yarn. I usually kneel or stand on the rolled towel to draw out as much moisture as possible.
Unroll the towel and hang the hanks to dry. If it's a nice day, I use a clothesline but a drying rack works too (There are sometimes drips so a towel under the drying rack is recommended.)
Once dry, the yarn is ready to use in your next project!