Yarn Washing: What I did on my March Vacation

Posted March 19, 2010 by Maire in Hobbies, Yarn / 0 Comments

Domo-kun yarn heaven!

I washed a heck of a lot of yarn! Well, this isn’t the sum total of what I did on my vacation, but it took up a good part of last weekend.  I had a couple of sweaters-worth of yarn hanging around in my basement.  One lot was from Robin’s Grandfolks.  They bought it on a trip to Ireland, and nobody ever made use of it.  There was an attempt at the start of a sweater, but the aran pattern was definitely lost in the richness of the colour.  It looked like a muddy steel hue, but in the sunlight it showed hints of all kinds of blues.

The other yarn was from my mother — it had survived a basement flood in our old home in Yellowknife, where Mum had been storing it in a cardboard box. Since then, any yarn stash in our family exists in Rubbermaid.  (Just sayin’).  It looked to be a nice yellowish off-white.

Both yarns were in dire need of washing.  I picked up a bottle of SOAK at one of the local yarn stores ($16 at Pudding Yarn downtown) and got to it.

Skeining the yarn

Skeining the yarn.

First things first, some skeining had to be done.  As can be seen in the picture at the top of this post, most of the yarn (at least from Mum) came in factory-wound balls.  You’ll notice the ball-bands are home-made, and just have the number “23” on them.  I’m not sure of the significance of the number and neither does Mum. I asked her when she first gave me the yarn. The original ball-bands were lost in the aforementioned basement flood.  Far as we know, the light-coloured yarn is wool.  That’s about *all* we know.  Domo-kun is wearing a home-made skein as a stylish necklace.  This is easily done by wrapping the yarn around a couple of chair backs.

Domo and the Yarn

Once the yarn has met the Domo-kun seal of approval, into the wash it goes!  The instructions on the bottle of SOAK indicate that a capful of SOAK should be enough for about a gallon of water.  Doing things the usual Maire-way translates to “squirt soapy stuff into sink & fill with cold water.  If you’re lucky, you get bubbles.   Bubbles, yay!”

Soak. Don’t scrub.

Here we have the Yellowknife yarn, and what was left over after the Yk yarn came out of the bath.  GROSS!  Yes, this is why the yarn was kinda yellowish.  And a little stinky.  And more than a little rough on the hands.  Ewwwww!  I didn’t get a chance to get a picture of the water after the Irish yarn had finished soaking & had been wrung out, but that’s because there was very little water left in the sink. I have a dual-basin sink, so I had actually wrung out the Irish yarn in the empty basin.  Mainly because the skeins were so very heavy.  The Yk yarn?  Not so much.  Smaller skeins mean greater ease in wringing.

Hanging the yarn to dry

Of course, all this washing and wringing reminded me of my Grandmother Smith’s old soaker washer with wringer.  While I love my clothes-washer & dryer, and wouldn’t give them up for the world, there are times (usually when I’m washing hand-knits) that I would love a wringer-washer.  I wonder if they still make them, and if so, whether they have any smaller, portable, pack-away-able sized wringers?  It would get rid of about 95% more water, and not felt the fabric.  This *is* a concern 🙂

Getting hung out to dry

Toss the now-clean skeins into a laundry basket, truck ’em on out to the patio & hang ’em on your handy-dandy portable clothes-dryer.  If you’re like me and you live in the suburbs, chances are pretty good that there’s a bylaw that states you can’t have a clothesline.  Far as I know, there’s no law against using a portable dryer.  As long as you’re not flying the flag of Fruit of the Loom, I don’t think your neighbours are going to mind too much.

Big basket of dry wool yarn

When you’re done, you’ll probably have a nice, big, pile of dry yarn.  You’ll notice in the picture on the right just how fluffy and…downright HAPPY…that yarn looks.  It took about 2 days to dry properly.  We were lucky to have a very sunny, very warm weekend when I pulled off this little stunt (as a comparison, I woke up to snow on the patio this morning).  You’ll notice, also, that the dark-coloured yarn in that middle photo is most decidedly BLUE.  A very lovely deep blue.

As I look at the wound balls in my little office this morning, they look more neutral-grey.  It all depends on the light.  Whenever possible, look at your clean yarn in honest daylight.  It will tell you more about the yarn than you thought.  While the colour looks kinda blah to me right now, I know that the Husbeast will have one kick-arse blue sweater when I’m done.

Then do it all again!


Here’s my gauge swatch.  Looks like we have a winner!  After I finished knitting this, I washed it again, stuck it on the porch railing to dry, and measured it again.  We have gauge.  Robin will hopefully have a sweater sometime in the next decade.  Huzzah!

(special thanks to Chelsea, who provided run-on commentary and hand-holding where necessary)

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