Friday, January 18, 2013

How I Soften Red Heart Yarn!

I've been using Red Heart Super Saver yarn for.... ever. Probably since I first started to learn to crochet (about 18 years ago. I'm 23). I didn't learn until recently how much people tend to dislike Red Heart yarn. Some opinions I've heard are that it's scratchy, squeaky, stiff, stupid, and other 'S' words that I'll try to avoid mentioning in case you're 8 years old and I offend you. I honestly didn't get it since the only options of yarn in my area were Red Heart and Caron and I couldn't really feel a difference. I just assumed Caron should be used for baby blankets and Red Heart for adult things, never questioned my assumption.



That is, until I discovered the wonders of homespun wool being sold at my local walmart. Holy crap, softer than a baby kitten who likes to nuzzle against your face when you've had a bad day! How have I lived without this amazing yarn my entire life?!

Oh yea... that price.

Talk about depressing. There was no way I could ever afford to make anything bigger than a small scarf. And I don't like making scarves. So I pushed that wonderfully soft yarn to the back of my head and went about my business with my not-so-soft yarn. Sadness :(  

Wool softness with a little sheepie! Come on, who can resist that?!

It took me about a year to figure out that I could simply make my own yarn softer. It wouldn't be as soft as the natural fiber yarn that costs an arm and your first born but it would be better than what I had. I had always known that washing the completed project more than 10 times makes it softer but who wants to do that? Not me.

Over the next few months I looked up a billion different ways to soften acrylic fiber. I read a lot of things about how it can't be done, why you shouldn't buy it in the firsts place, how only stupid people buy that crap, etc. etc. But I also saw a few tips that might have been accidental discoveries. So I tried them all at once and HOLY CRAP! It worked! Now I'm sharing my discoveries with you! Please don't think that this will magically transform your Red Heart yarn into Alpaca softness. It won't do that. But it's much better and softer than what you start out/end with when you usually deal with Red Heart yarn.

This process also works on completed projects. Follow the pretty multi pink rectangle if that's what you're doing. I strongly suggest washing the yarn before you do your project and after the project is completed if you're using the multi colors by Red Heart. It's scratchier than the solids in my opinion. The one in my example was made about 8 years ago that I forgot about so it's extra scratchy.


SO LET'S DO THIS!

Gather Materials
  • Yarn of your choice
  • Yarn of a different color to tie with. You'll need 6 6-8 inch pieces per hank. 
  • Cheap conditioner
  • White vinegar
  • Liquid laundry softener
  • Yarn Swift or 2-3 chairs or someone's arms
  • Ball winder. Don't argue with me about this. If you don't have one, go buy one. Now. (You don't have to use a ball winder but they're so amazing that you should use a ball winder.)
Step 1: Make Hanks! 
Take your skein of yarn and make a hank of yarn. DON'T LEAVE! It's okay if you don't have a yarn swift, I don't either. Let's continue being poor together and make a substitute. If you have a yarn swift, go ahead and put the yarn on that. If not, grab your 2-3 chairs and set them up so you can wrap the yarn around them. You don't want the yarn to dangle off (the picture below is before I started wrapping) and you don't want it so tight that it pulls the chairs together. Just tight enough to not slip down if you wrap it around the middle.


This is to give the yarn enough room to soften equally. I weigh my yarn before hand and cut it into multiple hanks. Since this is the 14 oz option and I had some extra (total of 15.9 oz) I cut it into 4 4oz hanks since that's what my ball winder can handle. Feel free to skip this step if you don't have a ball winder. Or go buy one. Seriously. Tie the hank off when you're done and use the ties in a different color to tie off the hank to keep it from separating and knotting. Split it in the middle and make sure not to tie it too tightly. 


This isn't tied yet, it's just so you can see the split in the middle. Just wrap around the bottom, pull to the top, and tie it off.

When you're done with all of your yarn, twist it a few times and put in a lingere bag. Again, to keep it from knotting.  

Step 2: Vinegar soak. 
Fill your tub with cool water and add 1/4 to 1/3 cup of white vinegar to the water. I eyeball it.



Add your yarn and let it soak in the water for at least an hour. This helps to set the colors and other science stuff. 

Step 3: Condition! 
Drain your tub and gently roll the yarn to get any extra water out of it. Don't try to get it damp by wringing it, it'll still be soaking wet but don't mind that. It's okay. Put some cheap conditioner on the yarn and gently rub/pat/push it in. You want it between the strands of yarn but you don't want to scrub it in and risk knots. Again, knots are not our friends. Knots are our rivals from the town over. We don't want them messing on our turf. If you're washing a finished project, just rub it all over.


At least this much per 4 oz hank. You'll need more depending on how much yours weighs.
And then lay it all flat for at least an hour. You can let it lay there for longer than this, or less, it's up to you. This is simply the timeline that works for me. Do whatever you want with it.


Pretty yarn! Full of conditioner.
Step 4: Fabric Softener Soak!
Don't bother rinsing the conditioner out of the hank, it won't matter. I start out by sprinkling about a cap full of fabric softener on the hanks.Then wrap them and put them back in the lingerie bag.



Fill the tub with enough warm water to allow your bags to float. While it's running I add another cap full (or 2) to the water as it's filling the tub. Once it's' filled, swirl the water around the bags. You don't want to mess with the yarn so much as you want to get the water into the yarn. Swirl it, push the bags under the water, whatever you want.

Now we're going to let this soak for however long you have. That's right. A minimum of one hour, maximum of 1 day. We've gotta take a shower eventually, right? Well, my boyfriend does since he has to go to work. So I had 4ish hours of soaking.


Smells so clean and fresh! Such a good thing.



Step 5: Washing!

We're almost done, I promise. Just take your lingerie bags and toss them in the washer with a load of laundry. I didn't take any pictures of this step because I washed it with some undergarments and didn't figure anyone wanted to see those. Anyways, wash on the gentle cycle with your favorite laundry detergent. I add another cap of fabric softener to the wash cycle and the softener thingy that releases it during the rinse cycle. I don't know if it's necessary but I do it because why not. I bought the liquid softener on sale for $1 (instead of normal $3.50) specifically to use for yarn washing. And who doesn't like a sale? Don't put the yarn in the dryer.  
Note: The yarn isn't going to feel any different at this point. Don't worry, I thought I messed up as well.

Step 6: Dry your yarn. 
I take my yarn and hang it on hangers that have the little dents for clothes to sit if need be. I then put the hangers in my bathroom on the shower rod. Since it's in hank form and it went through your spin cycle it doesn't take long to dry. Just leave it alone for a few hours or so and it should be good. For finished products, you can throw them in the dryer until dry (do not over heat your project) or hang outside/in bathroom until dry. It's your choice. I live in an apartment so I don't have an outside option. I just toss things over the pole in my bathroom and call it a day. 



Step 7: Make Balls!
Final step is to make yarn balls. If you have a yarn swift, go to town. If not, then put the hank on the chairs so it sits loosely. This will make it easier to get the yarn off. Just snip off the ties, find the beginning, and start winding! If you're making balls by hand, feel free to just wind it as it comes off the chairs. If your ball winder can be held in your hand, feel free to just wind it as it comes off the chairs. If you're like me and have to be strapped to a table, I suggest pulling off part of the yarn into a pile on the floor before winding. It just makes it easier in my opinion.




Step 8: You're done!
That's right, all done. From beginning to end. Now you  have soft balls of yarn to play with! 


 

I have noticed that this process takes an extra 24-48 hours for you to truly feel how soft the yarn is. When I first did this I felt a slight difference when it was in ball form. Two days later and it was like a totally different brand. Don't misunderstand me and send me hate messages saying "This isn't softer than Alpaca! Screw you,!" I'll just laugh at you and point out all of the times that I said it won't happen like that. It's just washed Red Heart yarn that's soft now. Simple as that. 


Personal Comparison from before and after washing on a scratchy scale of 1-10.

Before:
Yarn- 6
Project-10


After:
yarn-3.5
Project-6

The project was so old that I think the yarn itself was bad. I still have the same yarn skein I was working from and it's really, really bad. I don't know if it's because it was poor to begin with or what. But it did soften up a bit but not as much as I would have like. Again, wash the yarn before and after if you're dealing with multis. 


Let me know if you have any secrets or tips to softening up yarn! I would love to hear them and mix them into the mix of what I already do!

19 comments:

  1. This is amazing-I can't wait to try it! THanks so much for taking the time to try this out and post it as a tutorial!

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    1. No problem! Glad you enjoy it!

      Good luck with your crafting!

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  2. You don't want to say the "s word" in case there are eight year-olds here, but you DO exclaim "HOLY CRAP" and "Screw you,!"?

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    1. That was my attempt to keep from cussing like a sailor. You should meet me in person.

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    2. Great post! Very informative! Good thing you didn't refer to yourself as a 'hooker,' you know, for those people that just can't get passed language.

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  3. This is wonderful. Useful for those that still use the super saver. Our local walmart has started carrying Red Heart With Love, and it's GLORIOUS! If your store has it, try it. It's only a tiny bit more expensive...

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    1. I've seen it but I haven't had a chance to use it yet. I've planned 3 blankets and the With Love colors don't match the colors I need for the blankets! Sadness! But I just figure I'll make another blanket and hopefully plan it around the colors that the With Love has!

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    2. The "With Love" yarn is great. It feels like crocheting with a terrycloth towel. The expensive kind. BUT it gives finished products a very "fluffy" look. I make hats out of Vanna's Choice and With Love and the Vanna's Choice looks just like any other worsted weight yarn normally would but the "With Love" has this sort of... fuzzy, fluffy texture. It's a distinctive feature that some might not like. I use it for a lot of projects though along with the Vanna's Choice and Red Heart Soft which has a lovely drape and sheen. When I can't find the color I want I go for the old Super Saver and I'm excited to make it softer! Thanks for sharing :)

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  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  5. Totally going to try this! Thanks for posting this!

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  6. This is awesome, especially for someone who can't afford that "fancy" soft yarn lol
    One question though, if softening a completed project, should everything be done the same way? With the vinegar, conditioner, fabric softener, and would the lingerie bag be necessary(in the washer)?

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    1. If you're doing a finished project I would still probably follow the steps the same way. You can combine the conditioner and fabric softener stage if you want. Don't skip the vinegar stage (unless you're allergic) since it helps set the colors.

      As for the lingerie bag, you don't have to use one if you don't have one or if your project doesn't fit. I only use one if it's a small piece (hat, scarf, baby blanket, etc.) to keep the hooks from my bras or skirts from catching the yarn and pulling it during the wash. If you don't have one you can always use a pillow case! Or you could just wash your piece without the 'potential danger stuff'! So a load of blankets/sheets or towels would do.

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  7. just thought that I should point out to you that if you do wash any yarn in the washing machine, just make sure that it doesn't have any natural fibres (wool, mohair, alpaca anything not man made) in it AT ALL, otherwise it will felt and turn into a bigger mess than a couple of knots lol. (Dont ask me how I know this :( ). I do also have to ask, after all of this work and the cost of the conditioner, vinergar, fabric softener, water and time wouldn't it be just as easy to go with a budget version of a home spun? I'm sure you can order online and get some beautiful wools without it being too expensive. I spin my own to knit and crochet so I kind of cut out that step :) Just a thought, thanks for the tutorial though. :) Jamie from Australia

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  8. We are producing 100% cotton yarn of several counts ranging from 10/s up to 40/s for knitting and weaving.
    yarn exporter in Pakistan
    standard textile Mills Pakistan

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  9. Thank you for this -- I was gifted with an enormous skein of Red Heart and will be trying this ASAP!

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  10. When you say "cheap conditioner", do you mean hair conditioner?

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  11. Any advise on a fabric softener without a scent? I make prayer shawls and had a bunch of red heart yarn donated to me. I don't use liquid fabric softener so I borrowed some from a friend to make sure this would work. The process works great! The problem is the smell is overwhelming and causes me to have a headache and almost have an asthma attack. I can't have a smell like that in the prayer shawls in case people have asthma or other issues. Any advise would be greatly appreciated!

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    1. "Baking soda helps to regulate the pH level in the laundry rinse water by keeping it from being too acidic or alkaline. Adding 1/2 cup of baking soda to each rinse cycle acts as a balance to suspend detergent or mineral deposits that can make clothing feel stiff.

      As a natural mineral, baking soda is less harsh on the environment than synthetic fabric softeners with perfumes that mask odors. This also makes it a good choice for those with sensitive skin and allergies. Unlike synthetic fabric softeners that can interfere with fire-retardant finishes on children's pajamas, baking soda can be used safely." ( http://laundry.about.com/od/productreviews/qt/bsodasoftener.htm ) ~ not sure if it will do the same thing, but I had read it makes terry towels, that become stiff and matted, fluffy and and as new again. Give it a go, it may be a great (and inexpensive) alternative to premade softeners with scents. I also think that the store-brands might not hold such a great scent, or maybe some companies are making unscented versions now. Good luck and good thinking for others!

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