One of the most frequently asked questions in the crochet world? How to Soften Crochet. Whether you’re wanting to soften the yarn before you use it, or to soften up a finished project before gifting or using, this guide will walk you through all you need to know about softening your latest crochet project.
Easy Ways to Soften Crochet
In this article we will discuss all of the ways to easily soften acrylic yarn or crocheted projects made using acrylic yarn – or a majority acrylic blend yarn. Acrylic yarn is among the most popular and widely available yarns on the market today. Acrylic can be used to make anything from blankets to sweaters to socks… and more. Crafters love acrylic yarn for all kinds of reasons including that it is hypoallergenic and durable. It is a go-to yarn for beginners and seasoned crocheters alike.
During the manufacturing process an element may be added to yarn called sizing. This is a common starch-like material used widely in the textile industry that helps the product (in this case yarn) to hold its integrity. As soon as it is washed the first time that starchy feeling of the sizing goes away and you’re left with a much softer fabric. Just like when you wash a t-shirt for the first time, it never quite holds that original shape again. Yarn does the same thing. Cool, right?
Note that if you are softening a different kind of yarn (such as 100% cotton) that is an entirely different beast. See more about cotton yarn here. Also note that whether or not you wash an item before gifting/selling is also a hotly contested topic in the crochet world. It’s true that when you wash an item for the first time you lose some of the stitch integrity, or the “newness” of it but other things should be considered as well including pets, allergies, detergents, etc. Some prefer to wash and some prefer to provide washing instructions to the recipient. Today we’re focusing only on how to soften a project which does include washing in most cases.
Much of the yarn you find at Joann, Hobby Lobby, Michaels, and on your favorite online yarn stores such as WeCrochet, Mary Maxim, Lion Brand, and Hobbii has at least some component of acrylic. Many are 100% acrylic while some are blended with another fiber whether that be wool, linen, cotton, or other component.
Yes, it is true that you can soften yarn before using it. I have done this on occasion throughout the years but do not need to do this often anymore since I use mostly WeCrochet yarns that are soft to begin with.
When researching care of crocheted garments or blankets, I found that yarn companies often recommend not using a liquid fabric softener with crocheted projects. Liquid fabric softener coats the fibers of the yarn. This adds additional weight causing it to stretch out or otherwise distort. That’s the last thing we want after pouring hours and hours (or weeks or months!) into a project.
Softening your crochet is not difficult. In fact, because of the “sizing” element discussed above, simply washing the garment as normal will typically suffice to soften the piece. One route to take when softening acrylic yarn projects… is to do nothing but wash it.
When you first pull the item out of the washer you may have a slight panic attack. At that point the fabric is still stiff and pretty rough, and there’s NO WAY this is going to be super soft when I pull this out of the dryer. But trust me, it does! And then the more the item is washed and used and washed again, the softer it will naturally become. You may be itching 😜 to soften it up sooner, though, so let’s dive into ways to do this easily at home.
Here are several ways to soften your crochet using household ingredients:
1. Aluminum Foil – Make several aluminum foil balls that are at least 2″ in diameter. Make sure there aren’t any pointy bits or corners that can snag on any yarn or fabric and throw them in the dryer. These foil balls eliminate static cling without the need for fabric softener sheets and can last for months.
2. Wool Dryer Balls – These clever little spheres soften your clothes and decrease drying time whether you’re softening your crochet or doing a regular load of laundry. I also like that they kind of beat the fabric up a little as the item starts to dry. I use 4 of them, and simply leave them in the dryer at all times. Feel free to add a few drops of your favorite essential oils! Grab a set of 6 online for cheap, or make your own wool balls.
3. Soften Yarn with Tennis balls – Similar to the wool dryer balls above, the tennis balls really lend a hand to “beating up” your crochet. Sometimes, depending on what I’m making or what yarn I’m using, I really want the project to get roughed up in the dryer. A comfy cardigan that I plan to wrap up in immediately while fresh and warm out of the dryer? I want that to be super soft and cozy, and tennis balls really help to do the trick. Do not use with more delicate projects or yarns.
4. Use Vinegar instead of liquid fabric softener – Vinegar is one of the most under-valued household items. Use it to clean your windows, as an all-purpose cleaner, and as a softening agent for laundry, including crochet. Vinegar cuts the residue left from detergent leaving your laundry feeling lighter and clean… and you don’t need much. Keep a bottle of vinegar in your wash room and add 1/4 to 1/2 cup just like you would liquid laundry detergent to a normal load of laundry.
5. How to soften yarn with hair conditioner – Got a super scratchy or stubborn yarn? Consider soaking it in hair conditioner. Use an inexpensive bottle of conditioner (I like Suave or V05 for the scents) and fill a clean sink or large enough basin with enough warm water to cover the crocheted item, and add the conditioner to the water.
The larger the item the more conditioner. Don’t be shy!
Mix the conditioner with the water and submerge the crochet, working it into the fibers of the yarn.
Let it soak for 30 minutes or so, or as long as you want (even overnight shouldn’t technically hurt). Rinse it out well and dry in the clothes dryer (on delicate if you’re concerned but I never do). It should come out plush and much softer than before you started!
6. Make Homemade Fabric Softener – If you try the vinegar in the wash as stated above and you love the outcome, up the ante by adding some essential oils to the mix. Use a ratio of (1:4) (vinegar:water) in a bottle with a tight fitting lid. Add 20 – 30 drops of your favorite essential oils. To use, shake well then add 1/4 cup – 1/2 cup to the fabric softener slot or during last rinse cycle of your washing machine. Easy peasy — and no residue or chemicals! 🙌
7. Steam block your crochet. When blocking normal crochet projects you may notice that they soften up naturally with the steam. Heat helps the stitches to relax and the item to hang better, which may make all the difference if you’ve made a garment or shawl that needs a great drape. DO NOT get too close to the fabric if you decide to soften it using steam. Because acrylic is a synthetic fiber it will melt if it gets too hot. See more about blocking crochet here.
What methods do you use for softening your crocheted projects? I’m eager to hear!