Caring for Hand Dyed Yarn

  • Preparation
  • Storing Yarn
  • Cleaning
  • Synthrapol
  • Blocking
  • Storing Finished Projects
  • Critters
  • When disaster strikes (Moths & Other Assholes)
  • Micro-Speckles
  • Color Matching
  • The SEMI in Semi-Solids
  • Crocking
  • Bleeding
  • Vinegar (or Citric Acid)
  • Bleeding in Bright and Dark Colors
  • Bleeding with Speckles
  • Bleeding like a Sorority Girl on Halloween Night


    If your yarn is any of the following: Bright, dark, neon, speckled or used in a high contrast combination: Play it safe and rinse the skein before you start the project!

    If the skein had excess dye in it, you will thank yourself for taking those extra steps.With speckled yarns, or at least with the technique we use, sometimes dye crystals 'hang on' to the yarn, even though they have gone through rinse cycles in the studio. Just a tiny crystal can release a lot of dye, so it's always recommended to take the safe route and give your yarn a rinse.

    I also feels that this rejuvenates the yarn if it has been traveling or hanging in a shop for a while.

    Yarn does best when it's in a relaxed state (ie a loosely twisted hank). When knititng you need the yarn to be easy to deal with, so for that, I recommend balling it up using a ballwinder or nostepinne. If you do not have a project for a skein yet, don't let yourself be tempted to ball it up in advance. In the end you'll have an easier time working with the fibers if they had time to relax before being used.


    We recommend to store yarn that you won't be using for a while in the form of a loosely twisted skein. That way there is the least amount of stress on the fibers in your yarn and it will retain its shape and 'fluffness' (this is now a word).

    We advise everyone to store works in progress (WIP's) in a safe space. Mostly this would mean a dedicated bag (project bag) that can hold your project, needles, accesories and pattern, just to keep everything neatly together.

    Do make sure your storage bags are clean and critter free! If you are storing projects for a longer period, ziplock them and put them in a safe storage place like a plastic tub or something. Also be sure to check on your projects from time to time, to make sure there are no unwanted guests hanging out there.

    You can pop some cedar, kampfer or lavender sachets in with your projects to scare away most critters.


    Cold. Water. Only.
    That's basically my motto.

    Yes, you can wash superwash items warmer and/or in the machine (I toss my socks in the machine, I'm guilty) but if you want to keep your knits as beautiful as when you just finished them, for the love of the spaghetti monster, wash them by hand in cold water with a mild detergent.

    There are enough brands out there you can either wash with, or even leave in and don't worry about. I'm pretty confident you can pick your own favorite rinse, but I will of course tell you the Wool Wash Bars we make are amazeballs and Eucalan is a really great leave-it-in product.


    Synthrapol is an industrial strength, pH neutral, liquid detergent used as a prewash and afterwash for dyed or painted fabrics and fibers.

    Synthrapol has the unique property of keeping loose dye suspended during washing, thus preventing backstaining while aiding in the removal of excess color.

    If you want to make sure with your hand dyed yarn that you keep all the loose pigments away from each other, you could invest in a bottle of Synthrapol.

    The larger craft stores (Michaels, JoAnn), some fabric and quilting stores, online retailers (Amazon) and dye sellers (Jacquard) carry Synthrapol.


    Personally I hate blocking (I live in a tiny apartment), but I have seen the before and after pics, and unlike tell-sell commercials, these are actually valid.

    After you finish a project, block it into shape.

    Don't be afraid of stretching your project so the stitches lay flat and correct any weird loopy things that have happened (I always have weird loopy things in colorwork).

    There are specialized blocking tools on the market for things like socks, gloves and hats.

    For flat garments and shawls you can buy blocking mats. I have seen people using foam floor puzzles for children (usually they're way cheaper than a special blocking mat set) and if that works for you: awesome! HOWEVER: Check to see if the dye in the mats doesn't release when the mats get wet / moist. I've seen some horror pictures of mats that did stain into beautiful white lace prayer shawls Less awesome when you have a huge cartoon truck imprinted on it after blocking...

    I usually pin my knits down with T-pins or when it has a lot of straight edges, I use a lace blocking wire kit to save myself some time and get an even edge.

    Check your pins and wires for any dingleberries and rust. Once when I was in a pinch I just used an old sewing needle to block a shawl and it turns out it had some rust on it. It washed out, but it did mean I had to restart the hell known as blocking all over again.

    Storing Finished Projects

    It may sound like a no-brainer, but; after finishing a garment, pair of socks, shawl, etc: Store your hand made items properly! Nothing is wore than winter season swinging around to find out that a family of moths have feasted on your beautiful sweater.

    How I store my finished knits: In seperate Ziploc bags, or vacuum sealed bags, in my closet. I have a seperate plastic tub for this that I sprinkle with ceder oil (I don't like lavender).

    Frequent use items, like socks, are usually fine since you move them around and use them all the time. But the more delicate items that only get worn once a month or such, those you need to take extra care of.

    Despite all of the dyes we use at Undercover Otter being light and sun fast, we do advise you to keep your projects out of direct sunlight for extended periods. The sun is a powerful friend and can cause some dyes to discolor.


    It's advisable to store your yarn safely away from critters.

    Depending on where you're living this could just mean the odd moth, or weird hybrid spider monsters (I'm looking at you Australia). I have a playful cat, thus hair is pretty much always flying around and if she gets the chance, she will steal my stash and build a nest with it... I'm also profoundly paranoid about moths and carpet beatles.

    That means my stash of yarn is packed in ziplocked bags, inside plastic lockable tubs. It doesn't look as cute as I'd like it, but it keeps the yarn safe. If you do keep your yarn on display, make sure you move it around every now and then (critters hate to be disturbed) and maybe add some lavender pouches or ceder balls to your stash (I prefer ceder. Lavender just reminds me of my grandmothers toilet).

    When Disaster Strikes

    These fuckers are ANNOYING and there is not that much you can do to prevent them from existing.

    If you spot a moth in your house and are afraid they may have been munching on your yarn, Check out this page by Knit Darling. It has all the info you need and even some tips on how to handle these bastards.


    Micro-speckles are points of concentrated pigments on a skein of yarn, and they mostly stand out on skeins that are dyed in a semi-solid colorway.

    Our recipes are made up out of several powdered pigments in the form of dye crystals. As dyers we have no control over how these dye crystals break during heat setting.There is a difference between contamination and natural occurring processes that are part of the recipe and we can not prevent these from occurring.

    In speckle colorways you will probably spot micro-speckles less, but they do happen. Even a black dye can be built up out of purple pigments, so if a 'black' dye is used to speckle, and a dark purple micro speckle shows up, this is something we can not prevent.

    Color Matching

    Hand dyed yarn is made in dye lots and we produce in small quantities. This means that there are a massive amount of factors that can make a colorway change slightly over time.

    We use consistent recipes, but can not guarantee that the colorway we made 2 years ago is the same as the one we dyed yesterday.

    Our advise is to buy enough skeins you need for the project from a single dyebath, or ask us to make a custom order if you need more skeins than we have available.

    Factors that may change a colorway:
    - Hardness of the water at the time of dyeing;
    - Production lot of the dye pigments;
    - Consistency and make of the yarn;
    - Heat settings;
    - The person dyeing the colorway;
    - Using a different scale for the recipe.

    The SEMI in Semi-Solids

    We specifically use the term semi-solid because it is practically impossible to ensure or guarantee a 100% true-solid colorway when dying by hand.

    This means that your semi-solid colorways will near always have a variation in the deepness of color within one skein. If this is something you really don't like in your projects, we urge you to look at yarns that are commercially and robotically dyed by larger companies, to get an even coloring.


    Acid Dye and Superwash treatments usually play well together. There are cases in which the chemicals in the superwash treatment of the wool absorb all the excess dye and retain it for about 3-5 days, after which it starts letting go of the dye (it's a bit like after dyeing your hair, the second time you wash it, it seems like more dye comes out).

    This is why it sometimes stains your hands while working with it and it's called crocking.

    Normally the excess dye gets rinsed out in our rinse baths but in this case, the superwash treatment gives sort of a 'false positive' since that's what's retaining the dye. Mind you, it's not always the combo of Superwash and dye, crocking unfortunately happens every now and then.

    If you have not started a project yet and want to salvage a crocking skein:
    - Option 1: Rinse the skein with some soft detergent: this can take up to 4 baths before the water runs clear. Let it dry and you're good to go.

    - Option 2: 'Force' the dye into the skein by doing an additional 'setting' round. Basically that means you get the skein into a pan, fill the pan with water and add a cup of white vinegar (cleaning vinegar works fine, could even use some fancyschmancy scented ones) or citric acid. Leave this to simmer around 80 degrees celsius for about 40 minutes and some of the dye will be forced into the skein. After this, take the pan off the heat and then let it cool down completely before rinsing (the dye sets in intervals while it's cooling down).

    Steps to take when you are already far into a project (or finished):
    - Rinse the project with cold water only for starters and preferably under a running tap or showerhead so the excess dye drains straight away;
    - Rinse with a mild detergent, again, with a running tap / showerhead. do this until you feel the water runs clear enough for a soak.

    After these 2 steps you should have gotten rid of the bulk of the excess that was causing the crocking. When soaking after this, I advise using color catchers to suck up the last bits of dye that may come out. Depending on where you are located, they are sold in most bigger stores and there are a few brands out there (Dylon, Formil, Vanish, Shout, etc). You may need to rinse and soak more than once.


    TLDR: Mild bleeding is common in all hand dyed yarn and if you have a skein with a ridiculously bright color, super dark colors, or speckles, play it safe by rinsing the skein in cold water and some wool wash (a small amount of dish washing liquid works too) and let it dry.

    If you are in doubt about bleeding, or if you are pairing high contrast colors (neon green with solid white for instance), pick the safe route and give the skein a rinse before you cake it up.

    Every dye batch consists of a few layers of color going into the yarn. This means that the total dye time of a single skein can be up to 4 hours(!) if the colorway needs it.

    The yarn is simmered to the required temperature and we let the skeins cool naturally to keep the yarn soft and plush.

    After the dye process and cooling, every skein goes through a rinse cycle. That cycle ends after the water that comes from the yarn is clear. The rinse cycle differs per colorway, yarn base, and fiber blend.

    While one colorway may be clear after just 1 cycle, others may need 3. If you've ever dyed hair, you know the motto: rinse til the water runs clear.


    I'd like to clear up the faulty rumor that just soaking your hand dyed yarn in vinegar will help against bleeding.

    Acid dye needs HEAT + ACID to set. So unless you are tossing that vinegar laced skein in a pan and let it simmer, soaking in vinegar will not make a difference in bleeding. Please for the love of yarn, don't use a microwave! This degrades the elasticity of your fiber and damages the yarn irreparably.

    If you are heating the skein up with vinegar (or citric acid) in order to prevent the bleeding, it may help, but cold vinegar does nothing besides making your house smell like a chippy.

    Bleeding in Bright and Dark Colors

    Dyeing yarn is a chemical process and despite thorough rinsing, there is always the chance of mild bleeding.

    There are a multitude of reasons yarn can bleed and some of the (bright) colorways may bleed because of their chemical makeup. To use the hair example again: You know how it always seems that when you wash your hair a few days after dyeing it, it feels as if there is more dye coming out then when you initially dyed it?

    That's what happens when colors bleed normally and it should be gone by 1, maybe 2 rinses.

    Bleeding with Speckles

    The other case of bleeding in yarn is when it's a speckle colorway. Yeah, #specklesaresohotrightnow. I know and use them in our yarn too because those little dollops of color are just too awesome!

    Because of the speckle method I use there are superficial color crystals that will be laying on top of the yarn while the color is setting in our ovens. After setting (which takes about an hour per speckle skein) we take the skein and rinse it thoroughly, usually under a running shower head to blast all the leftover dye crystals away.

    Acid dye is very concentrated however and a single crystal that stays behind may cause the yarn to bleed.

    Bleeding like a Sorority Girl on Halloween Night

    Excessive bleeding that occurs in the yarn is usually a case of not having the right combination of heat and acid, thus resulting in the dye not 'setting' properly.

    It can happen that one of the skeins dodges the rinse cycle bullet or the dye isn't set properly.

    One option is to re-set the colors yourself. Re-setting dye on yarn is done the same way as setting it:
    Take a pan and pour a cup of white vinegar (or 2 tablespoons of citric acid powder) in it. Fill the pan halfway with water. Dunk the skein in the water. Bring the pan up to between 70 - 90 degrees Celsius (do not let it boil) and leave to simmer for about 30 minutes. Let the skein cool on itself. The next day rinse it out and hang to dry.