Thursday, October 17, 2013

Ooooh That Smell

Can't you smell that smell? You know the one. Vinegar.

I recently purchased a lovely yarn online (won't say which one) and it arrived smelling like a stale bag of vinegar and salt potato chips. The odor was so strong that my husband walked in my studio and asked, "What stinks? Did you spill vinegar in here?"

As a dyer, I am very curious about this. When I dye with acid dyes my yarns never vinegary after they are properly washed and rinsed. But I like to design with popular commercially available yarns so that when knitters purchase my patterns they will often be able to grab something from their stash and start knitting without hunting for yarn. Why, if my yarns don't smell, do others? Here are my thoughts. I would love to hear from the rest of you about this topic.

For one reason or another, perhaps some dyers don't rinse as much as they should. Water is expensive and rinsing takes time and energy. Usually when yarns aren't completely rinsed, there will be some color bleed when these yarns are washed. This residual dye is harmful to the knitter, as it is now in a powdered state and can rub off and be absorbed through the skin. Fine particles of residual dye can be inhaled, especially during the process of winding the skein into a ball. I can't help but wonder if some dyers may use vinegar in the final rinse as a vehicle to set any residual dye that may have not been completely rinsed out. Or they don't use any kind of soap in the rinsing process so that they don't have to rinse, wash, rinse. And perhaps the pungent smell helps to keep moths away? Who knows.

Certain colors are more prone to this bleeding, namely red, dark blue, turquoise. The skein that so offended my husband was a luscious deep blood red. So I decided to wash the skein. I filled a basin with warm water and added about 1/2 tsp of Wrapture by Eucalan (it smells so lovely...jasmine...mmmm). After soaking for about 5 minutes, there was only the slightest tinge of pink in the water...almost non-existent. And guess what? No more vinegar smell. As I hung the skein to dry I detected nothing in the way of pungency and once dry I could bury my face in the wool and only smell fiber and jasmine.

So if you want to wash those vinegary skeins before you knit, make sure that they are properly tied. Undo any ties that constrict the yarn to the point of "sausageness" and retie them. Remove labels, then soak the skeins in cool to lukewarm water with a little Eucalan or Soak. These mild soaps do not have to be rinsed and leave a lovely scent behind. Do not agitate the skeins, just gently squeeze them and allow them to become fully saturated with water. If you see any color in the wash water, then rinse again in clear water of the same temperature of your wash water. Squeeze them out and roll them in a bath towel to remove as much moisture as possible and hang them to dry. To speed drying, blot moisture from the bottom of the skein once it has had time to drain some, then move that part of the skein to the top of the hanger.


Lea Vollmer said...

Hi, Lynne! I think some people use vinegar to set the dye so it doesn't bleed. Maybe that's the case here but I'd think they'd want to rinse that odor away before selling it to people - that could certainly turn someone off to purchasing it if they knew that ahead of time. Glad washing it solved the problem for you!


Lynne said...

Thanks, Lea. I think about what it must be like to wash 100 skeins at once. It would cost a fortune in water alone to rinse and rinse. But I personally, would pay another $1 per skein to not have to wash it. Cuz that means I could get them to wind it in the shop if I wanted. Others may feel differently.