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How to Soften Economical or Scratchy Yarn

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Are you the not-so-proud owner of scratchy yarn? Sometimes the best or most vivid colors come in the most scratchy yarn, and also the most economical.  Not only can this rub your working finger nearly raw (if so, you need a finger cuff, friend!) but it’s just not the same as having soft, pliable and cuddly yarn to work with.  I have decided to soften my scratchy yarn before crocheting and it makes all the difference.

This is particularly handy when you score a tote or large garbage bag FULL of decades-old yarn at the thrift store or as a hand-me-down. Never turn down yarn. I made a gorgeous yarn wall out of my gifted yarn.

Don’t get me wrong! I’m not complaining about cheap or free yarn, but scratchy yarn.  Which, incidentally, we can fix!

How to Soften Economical/Scratchy Yarn

How to Soften Economical or Scratchy Yarn

As with anything, outcomes may vary based the temperature of your water, the cycle of your dryer, the season of the moon and more. I have never had an issue with my yarn becoming even more scratchy, or with the yarn tangling, but I do feel that I need a disclaimer of sorts.  Read the label of your yarn before washing to be sure that you’re not setting yourself up for failure and proceed at your own risk.

First, you’ll remove the labels from the yarn, and you’ll need to “rough” the skeins up a little.  Just dig your fingers in and fluff the yarn up a bit.

How to Soften Economical or Scratchy Yarn

Next, throw them in a lingerie washing bag (or better yet, pantyhose!) and throw them in the wash with like colors (or in your regular wash, I usually wash with towels).  The less the yarn is jostled, the less the chance of it tangling. Also, be sure to read the label of your yarn, some colors may bleed while others are designed not to bleed.

How to Soften Economical or Scratchy Yarn

When finished, throw them in the dryer on medium heat and voila! You’ve got soft, fluffy yarn to work with.

How to Soften Economical or Scratchy Yarn

While this isn’t always going to be necessary, it is particularly nice when you’re working on a baby blanket or something similar that you want to be super, super soft while you’re working with it.

How to Soften Economical or Scratchy Yarn

Now your economical yarn doesn’t have to hurt your hands or scratch your skin while you’re working.

Ready for more yarn hacks?

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Different Methods of Making Pom Poms

How to Make the Perfect Mohawk Beanie Using Pom Poms

Use Industrial Clips for Yarn Bobbins in Crochet and Knitting

How to Weave in Yarn Ends {So They Don’t Come Out}

How to Remove Wax from Yarn

9 Tips for Traveling with Crochet

Finger Burn? You Need a Finger Cuff for Crochet

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  1. i dont keep my yarn in balls or skeins, would it work with cakes or would it get all tangled? i have a lush recycled yarn i want to make a scarf with but it feels like pine needles lol
  2. I have a lot of acrylic/wool blends. They usually feel too scratchy to wear when I make shawls. I don’t know if steam blocking or washing would help, but I am very limited in space to dry flat. Any suggestions? Love your blogs and patterns! Thanks for all!
  3. While it may be a bit off topic, I have found freezing my yarn for a couple of days makes it easier to work with - especially if you have allergies.
  4. I saw this recommendation three years ago from Ashlea and I went ahead and follow the instructions putting three 1 pound rolls of white yarn inside a lingerie bag. I put it in the washer following all the instructions. BIG MISTAKE!!!! All the three rolls were entangled - I almost cry. I always always always wash my creations After I am done, because they collect dust etc etc. And the items get softer after washing them. My sister told me " you can't believe everything you read in the internet" and definitively, this is one of them. I am glad I found the place where I saw this terrible idea so I can tell people "unless you don't care about the particular yarn, don't try it!
    1. That's frustrating! It appeared from the photos that the yarn was packed rather tightly into the lingerie bag. Maybe that made a difference. I'd be willing to try it again with cheap yarn and only one skein per bag. Just an idea. I made my grandson an afghan he says is too scratchy, so I am going to try this with the whole afghan. Might as well. He won't use it as it is.
    2. I had the same experience with washing yarn this way. Spent hours untangling it. I wait until I am dont and then block I with t pins on a foam exercise squares. If it is an afghan it should not come just fine.
  5. There is no need to wash the yarn before using it. If the yarn is still clean after you have completed your project all you need to do is to throw it in the dryer for about 10 to 15 minutes with about 6 dryer sheets. Will come out softer than your more expensive yarns and will smell good as well.
    1. Understandable, however nobody wants to build a huge blanket with a bunch of scratchy squeaky yarn. Why not soften the yarn before making the blanket that way your time spent crocheting that beautiful creation is pleasurable?
  6. My "yarn lady" gave me a tip for when I find myself using scratchy yarn and soft yarn on the same project. Once the project is finished, she said to wash it in the washer, using two in one hair shampoo/conditioner instead of laundry soap. According to her, it makes all the yarn soft, allowing the crocheter to use scrap yarn of different types and brands on one article. I haven't tried it yet, but this lady is older, like me, and has been knitting or crocheting for many years.
    1. Now this sounds like an interesting trick that just might work! I will try and let you know results! Thanks!
  7. I tried this method of softening two skeins of Red Heart yarn and they are now covered in lint, wet in the middle, and ruined. This may not be the best method of softening yarn.
    1. Did you fluff them and put them in a laundry bag or panty hose? That usually loosens the skein so it dries better and helps stop the lint factor. Just a suggestion.
    2. I was given a lot of red heart yarn as a gift. I put my finished products separately in a bucket w warm water. I then added hair conditioner, quite a bit and any kind will work . I mixed it threw my shawl well, then added 1 cup of vinegar with the conditioner n mixed well. Left it in overnight soaking. Rinsed it out best I could, washed on delicate cycle. Used lots of softener, then dried in dryer. Came out AMAZINGLY SOFT. NO MORE SCRATCHY, ROUGH PRODUCT!! Thought ya all might appreciate this method. The vinegar n conditioner break up whatever they use on the yarn that makes soo rough!! 5/3/2021
    1. Personally, as easily as my yarn tends to tangle and knot, fresh out of the skein, I would never wash yarn before using it. I fear that I would end up with unusable yarn, but that is just me. Maybe it works. I'll try it sometime with a skein of yarn I don't care about.
  8. Hi, always i used to check website posts here in the early hours in the dawn, for the reason that i like to find out more and more.
    1. I was gifted some wool, which was very old and smelled of smoke. So I turned it all into skeins, I used the back of a chair. Making sure they were tied in four places. And then I hand washed them, And dried them in the sunshine and fresh air. They all dried beautifully, some that I’d made a bit thicker took a little longer. But I’d never dare to put them in the washing machine, even in a bag or ladies tights!!!! The yarn is now beautifully soft, and smells fine.
  9. Hello everyone, I have been crocheting for yrs. I am not even close to a "master crocheter" . I have my favorite stitches and I use what works. My question is what is the best way to know which end of the skein to pull the end from. Any suggestions. Thank you.
      1. Almost all of yarn i have purchased it doesn't have an end sticking out or instructions on the label. I prefer to take yarn from the center and I usually have to dig into the middle to find it in the yarn barf sitting within. Generally I end up messing up the whole skein doing that. It doesn't bother me though as I normally will cake all the yarn I buy.
    1. And believe it or not, I found out last year that Pullskein actually means that you can PULL the end out from the middle ;-) That is where it should be!
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