As promised, I’ve got quite a bit more to elaborate on this topic! Dye bleeding can be a problem with commercial or hand-dyed yarns, but don’t be afraid – it’s a dyer’s responsibility to absolutely minimize dye problems, and it’s easy to check for in your yarns.
WHAT’S HAPPENING WHEN DYE BLEEDS?
Well, it could be a number of things. Part of our process is rinsing off excess dye, but we’re only human, and sometimes some dye slips through. If your yarn is bleeding a little but not changing color, it’s just extra dye molecules washing off the surface. This is most common with highly saturated yarns, since a strand of yarn can only hold so much dye! In addition, while we can check our yarn rigorously in our lab, your home water composition may be different, and some types of soaps and detergents (especially scented ones) can pry a few surface dye molecules free. If this happens, your yarn needs an extra rinse in cold water, possibly with some unscented wool wash or Dawn dish soap, and hung up to dry, and your problems should be resolved.
OKAY, BUT MY YARN IS JUST BLEEDING AND BLEEDING AND BLEEDING…
If your yarn bleeds profusely and you see the color on the yarn itself lightening or fading, that’s a serious problem. That means the dye hasn’t set – the dye molecules themselves haven’t bonded to the fibers in the yarn. This is a nightmare, obviously, and so we do everything we can as dyers to avoid it. All our current colorways go through a rigorous, low-and-slow setting process, and we check the finished yarns thoroughly before approving them for sale. If you ever do receive a seriously bleeding skein from us, please get in touch to let us fix that situation for you.
I WANT TO TRY TO SAVE MY BLEEDING YARN! I HEARD I CAN WASH IT WITH VINEGAR?
Just washing your yarn with vinegar won’t do anything to the dye – that’s a misunderstanding of the basic chemistry involved. It may sound scary to hear that our yarns are dyed with “acid dyes,” but that just denotes a class of dye formulas that react with acids… like vinegar. But acid by itself doesn’t cause those dye molecules to bond. You need heat too! If you’re really determined to try to rescue your yarn at home, you need to simmer it in a mix of water and vinegar (or citric acid, if you keep it at home for other crafts) until there’s no loose dye in the water.
DYE IS COMING OFF ON MY HANDS WHILE I’M KNITTING! HELP!
This isn’t bleeding, exactly, but the related phenomenon named “crocking.” A little chemically distinct from either excess dye or unset dye, crocking is the dye molecules on the surface yarn being pulled out by the pH value of your skin. It’s the exact same phenomenon as dark-washed jeans that have warning tags about dye transfer. It doesn’t necessarily mean the skein will bleed in water, but doing a rinse check won’t hurt. If it doesn’t bleed in water, it won’t transfer to other colorways of yarn, just your skin.
Shop cat Isaac will keep you safe from rogue dye particles!