Don’t Panic If Your Fingers Turn Blue

Q: Should I panic if my fingers turn blue?

A: If you are in the arctic, then yes. If you are knitting, then no.

If your fingers, as mine recently did working on a pair of socks, turn blue when you’re knitting with a blue yarn, stay calm. All yarn, especially hand dyed, and especially those using natural dyes, and especially those using indigo, can bleed some color when you’re working with or washing it.

It’s absolutely not a cause for concern, a defect, or any indication of quality or even color-fastness – it’s just one of those things… Like the fact that Southern Indiana’s lush summer deciduous forest is made possible by sweltering heat and humidity. You can’t get upset about it. It’s just how it is. In both cases, embrace the mysterious beauty and enjoy the results. And in the latter case, crank up the AC.

PS, here’s a picture of a mama deer and her twin fawns I took from my parents’ living room. Don’t tell my mom – they eat her garden like ravenous beasts.

deer family

Anyway, dark blues and reds are especially likely to bleed a bit of color on to your hands, off on your needles, or into your wash water. Ain’t no thing. Indigo, is especially likely (almost guaranteed) to do this, so be prepared if you’re using naturally dyed blues.

This awesome mini tutorial on indigo dye is quoted from the A Verb for Keeping Warm website:
When spinning and knitting with fiber and yarn dyed with indigo, the blue color naturally rubs off on one’s hands. This is called crocking and is an inherent part of the process. It does not intimate a mistake or poor quality. Though crocking may occur, our products dyed with indigo are lightfast and high quality. Your hands turn blue, because although I have reduced the indigo, washed the fiber, etc. it takes pressured contact to release the extra residue.

Your handwork is part of the indigo dyeing process. After knitting indigo dyed fiber, typically, the residue is gone, and the crocking will cease. If you find blue on your hands or clothing, it can be removed with hot water and soap. Please take care when using bamboo needles because they may be stained by indigo. In short, indigo is alive. The use of indigo creates a contemporary artifact – representing a multitude of cultures, their ceremonies and craft, a dying art – being kept alive by you.

My pictures below are not the best, but you can see exactly where I tension my yarn! You can’t see it as clearly in the photos, but in person there is a distinct blue line across the palm side of my ring finger at the middle knuckle, the back of my pinkie at the base, and right across the nail of my index finger. And of course my thumb. I think it’s fun. And, I should mention, it washes right off.

So, in conclusion, my fingers are blue. How ’bout you?