First, don't panic! It can be frustrating as all get out when you either realize that you have dye on your hands from working with your yarn or you go to block a project and the colors run. But we have had both happen, and we are here to help! Let's start by talking about vocabulary...
CROCKING VS BLEEDING
- Crocking. This is when just a little bit of dye comes off on your hands as you are working. If you are a fan of lotion or just have naturally moisture-rich skin, you might have noticed this happening. Usually, the dye is set just fine on your yarn, and your hand is simply attracting very small amounts of dye. More likely than not, your project will not bleed or rub off on to anything.
- Bleeding. This is more extreme, and there are 3 main causes.
- Excess Dye: There is only so much dye the fiber can absorb and when it reaches that point, the rest has nowhere to go. So it just sits there waiting to rub off on things.
- Improperly Set Dye: This is an issue of the dye not being set in the fiber. It will look like excess dye but no amount of rinsing will help because the dye isn't actually bonded to the yarn (yet).
- Water Condition: We are talking the chemistry of hard water vs soft here, and it changes depending on where you live and if you have a water softener. If something was set in hard water it will bleed in soft water and vice versa. It just will.
WHAT DO I DO?
Your next step depends on a few things. Take a snip of your yarn and soak it in water. How much does the water color change?
- Just a little
- This might be as simple as a bit of excess dye. After the dyeing process, yarn is typically rinsed until the water is clear. For larger batches or those rushed for time, this may not have been done quite thoroughly for your particular color. There should be no reason not to just carry on with your project with the knowledge that the excess dye will rinse out just fine when you block.
- Colorwork involved? Even a little extra dye can be an issue if the bleeding color is next to white. It should be ok if it's just a little and if you don't soak the finished object for an extended time when blocking it. To eliminate the risk, though, you can frog your project, re-skein the offending color, then rinse it thoroughly to remove the extra dye before working with it.
- It's BAD.
- Try washing your garments (or yarn) in filtered or distilled water. If your problem is the hard water vs soft water issue, this hopefully will resolve the issue. Our favorite anecdote comes from Twistedista Anny who has a friend who uses the garden hose for water to block her knitwear because it is the only spigot not hooked up to the water softener!
- If the above doesn't work, it's time to set the dye again. For this, you need vinegar AND hot water. Prepare a bowl of hot water then add a good glug of vinegar. Dunk the yarn and leave it overnight. Rinse and squeeze out the excess water and let it dry.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Crocking in yarn is not reason for concern. It is similar to buying a dark pair of blue jeans where the blue rubs off. Bleeding, though more serious, can also be overcome with some patience and knowledge. Twistedista Anny suggests using a laundry dye catcher when blocking or washing to help capture any excess dye.
Twistedista Elinor just went through this issue with her latest sweater, Once and Floral by Maxim Cyr. After some heart stopping moments while blocking, it turns out that the white is now gray. Not ideal but far from a total tragedy. The finished object is still stunning!