Why is My Yarn Bleeding?

Updated: Nov 4, 2018

Are your hands turning colors as you wind, knit and even maybe while blocking? I have a word of advice for you: Don't panic.

"Crocking" is the official term for bleeding in the dyeing world. You will see this happen with synthetic or commercially-produced dyes occasionally, but with natural dyes, this is the norm. And I want to explain why.

Natural dyes are a bit different than synthetic in many ways, but in particular because the color is actually being produced from physical matter. So this means plants and insects are ground, chopped, squished, shaved, etc. to pull the color from the material itself. The result of this leads to a possibility of residual dyestuff (even some of the smallest particles, such as in extracts) to continue to work themselves out of the yarn over a bit more time and not just in one rinse.

There are some materials that will "crock" more than others, such as Cochineal and Logwood. Others you may not see or feel quite as much, like black beans. Regardless, there's no need to worry.

When I get the panicked question, "Is this okay?", I always say yes! The dyes that are coming out are excess dyes, so you don't have to worry about the color on the yarn fading. You're using your hands (fun fact: skin has a special ph balance that tends to become somewhat of a magnet to dyes) to work that extra material out. So after winding, knitting, and blocking, you've got a stable color that won't leave the garment! I've tried this many times, and even worn bright pink-dyed yarns over white button-ups for hours, and have experienced zero rubbing on other clothes whatsoever.

I will note that I am always looking for ways to reduce the amount of crocking that you may see while knitting/crocheting/making. One thing I've found that helps is to "cure" the yarn. This means that after the skeins come out of the dyepot, they go directly onto the drying rack, without being rinsed. There they will stay for two weeks, where the dyes will have ample time to get embedded in the fiber. Then following the curing time, I will use a wool-friendly soap to eliminate as much of the "feel" of the dye as possible and rinse out the skeins.

I know it's not ideal to use your hands to work it all out, but bear in mind that this is also an environmentally-friendly process. Effectively, this gives me an ability to reduce my water usage, and I won't have to rinse and rinse and rinse! You are helping me to conserve water and be more efficient, and I love you for that.

If you find yourself panicking, or have any other questions, never hesitate to contact me!




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