Soften Up That Stiff, Scratchy Acrylic Yarn
I live in the middle of butt-freaking nowhere, and the only yarn that’s regularly stocked is Red Heart Super Saver. A lot of people in this area grew up with it and aren’t keen on trying anything else. The bottom line is that most of the time I have to use Red Heart Super Saver, even if it's stiff and scratchy. It’s a great, cheap yarn for big decorative projects with lots of colors that other brands of yarn just don't make. Not to mention that in some areas (mine) cheap acrylic yarn is the only option available. Are you sunk because it’s the only yarn you can afford or find?
Nope. I’ve looked around on the internet and found a bunch of tutorials for how to soften up cheap-o acrylic yarn. Now, I know knitters everywhere are turning up their noses, but let’s face it: you guys don’t use anywhere near as much yarn. Lucky dogs.
I saw two types of advice when I was doing my research. One involved softening yarn before you ever stick your hook in it, and another had you softening the finished product. Me? I said, “Why not both?”
So did both, and it was just great.
Softening Yarn Before Working With It
Here’s what you do to fix up your yarn before you crochet with it:
Get rid of all those yarn labels. Take them off, throw them away, keep them for the patterns, write hate male to your senator on the back…whatever you want. Just don’t wash the yarn with them on.
Put your fingers in it and get the yarn nice and loose, but don’t take it apart! Just make sure there’s plenty of room for the water to get in.
Stick it in a lingerie bag or if you don't have one of those around, a pillowcase. Wash it on cold with lots of fabric softener. Put it in the dryer with a dryer sheet. Take it out and touch it with wide eyes like I do every yarn in the yarn aisle at Wal-Mart for ten minutes at a time. Soft, innit?
Softening a Crocheted Project After It's Done
But what if you want to soften up your finished project later? That's simple, too!
Soak it in cold water for twenty minutes. I like to do this in the sink so I can relax in a nice, hot bath while I let it soak for the longer part of the whole ordeal. Yep. I’m opulent. Some people put a little bit of vinegar in the water, but I’ve only done this once and didn’t have any on hand so I didn’t use any. If you do, only put like, a fourth of a cup per sinkfull, and be sure to rinse your project out twice after the twenty minutes are up.
Hand wash it in cold water with shampoo and rinse it two times to make sure all the shampoo is gone.
Take that bad boy out and put some conditioner on it. I mean, tons and tons of conditioner. Fully saturate it so much you can not get more conditioner in it, even if you tried. Any conditioner and shampoo will do the job. You can get some cheap conditioner and shampoo if you don’t want to waste the stuff you use on your hair.
Let the project sit somewhere for ten minutes.
Fill your sink or tub or whatever with some new, clean ice cold water. Let your project---still thick with conditioner---soak for another hour at the least. I let mine sit for an hour, but I’m assuming that “at least” means you can go for longer if you want to. I wouldn’t go too long, though. I get impatient.
Rinse out all that conditioner. Every bit of it.
Transfer your masterpiece to your washing machine. If you’re worried about it coming undone, stick it in a pillowcase just like you did when you were softening it up on the skein. Or a lingerie bag, of course, if you’re the fancy pants type.
Wash it on the lightest setting your washing machine will do. Put in a little detergent if you want and a lot of fabric softener.
Transfer it to the dryer with some dryer sheets until it’s just a teeny weeny bit still damp. Block it if you’re gonna.
And there you have it!
I’ve mentioned the scratchy yarn problem before and most of the answers I get involve, “just buy softer yarn.” I don’t have that many options, though, and I definitely don’t have the budget if I’m going to be working with a whole lot of colors. Like, you know, if I’m making a rainbow afghan using every color of the spectrum. Not to mention, of course, that Red Heart seems to have a lot more colors available than some of the pricier yarns.
The more you wash acrylic yarn the softer it gets, so feel free to live in what you crochet!