I recently read the sad post of a knitter who shared her knitting disaster: She knit a sweater from two colors (bright red and white) and, upon washing the sweater, discovered the red bled. Her beautifully knit sweater was now bright red and red-splotched white.
To avoid such preventable ruination, here are the steps to follow when knitting/crocheting a project with more than one color yarn. (This is particularly important if any of your yarns are light colored.)
Note: This is a multiple step process (yes, a bit time consuming), but it will ensure your hand creation is not ruined by color bleeding.
- Knit/crochet two (2) swatches from each color yarn you intend to use.
- For the first set of swatches, hand wash each swatch separately. Look for any discoloration of the water. You may find that even with the same yarn, some colors will bleed and others won’t. Dry the swatches and compare their colors to the original skeins/balls.
- Wash the second set of swatches together, either by hand or, if appropriate, in the machine. If you’re hand washing them, look for any discoloration of the water. Dry and compare to their original skeins/balls.
I hand wash the swatches (with a drop of a gentle liquid soap such as Eucalan), in mixing bowls that have white interiors. This allows me to more easily notice color seepage. The picture to the right is of a swatch (still wet) I washed today in just such a bowl.
When checking for discoloration in the wash water, I put a sample of water from each wash into a small, clear glass and compare the water to a glass of tap water (holding both glasses against a white background).
If I have a bleeding yarn that is majorly protein fibers, I will make another swatch and this time add some white vinegar (a simple mordant – as is lemon juice) into the water in the mixing bowl. Sometimes just a little extra boost is enough to remedy the bleeding. If it works on a swatch, then I rinse all the skeins of that color in a vinegar-infused bath. 🙂
Note: If you knit/crochet the swatches as you would a gauge swatch, you’ve saved a step!