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To the Rescue! 6 Little-Known Ways to Soften Scratchy Yarn

Have you received a gift or donation of scratchy yarn? Try one of these 6 methods to soften it

Soften scratchy yarn

Tell me if this has happened to you: a generous benefactor offers you a bunch of free yarn. You’re eager to knit with it, only to discover that it’s so scratchy it threatens to give you yarn burn.

(Yarn burn… that’s a thing, right?)

No frugal knitter wants to get rid of free yarn. But no knitter wants to knit with scratchy yarn, either! Nor does any knitter want to give away a project that will make their recipients uncomfortable.

What to do? The answer: try one of the following methods. Here you’ll find six fantastic ways to make that scratchy yarn fabulous again.

Note: If you have extremely old acrylic yarn that’s scratchy, the methods listed here might not work. The best use of such yarn is stuffing. I often use ancient acrylic yarn to stuff knitted toys. It works especially well for the smaller parts of toys that can be harder to stuff with traditional stuffing.

Pre-Project: Softening Scratchy Yarn

You can indeed make scratchy yarn quite delightful again. If the yarn is so scratchy that you can’t stand to knit with it, you can follow this procedure. Super easy and super cheap!

Two things to note about using this method:

  1. Don’t have a lingerie bag? Nearly any article of clothing with 3 sides and an opening (or 2 sides and 2 openings) can be used to substitute. I’ve used pillowcases; others have used pantyhose, knee-high socks or stockings, and even pajama pants with the openings tied off.
  2. Make sure the yarn fits snugly into whatever you’re using as a bag. If the bag provides too much room for the yarn to move around, it is likely to become extremely tangled. You can either tie off the excess space or use rubber bands.

This method is a bit more time-consuming, but it may be worth it if the yarn in question is really scratchy and you’re not sure the first method will do the trick. (It’s also a good alternative if you’re concerned about yarn tanglage.)

If the yarn doesn’t feel too scratchy to knit with, but the finished project feels scratchy, there are several techniques you can try. Read on!

Softening a Scratchy Knitted Project

You can use 3 different products to soften finished projects: fabric softener, hair conditioner, and vinegar (in order from most to least expensive). Or, you can use equipment: a steam iron, if you have one.

You can use whatever you have on hand and/or whatever you’re most comfortable with.

1. Fabric softener: Take your project(s) and run them through the gentle or delicate cycle in your washing machine, and use liquid fabric softener in the rinse cycle. When it’s finished, you can then run your project(s) through the delicate/gentle cycle in your clothes dryer, with or without fabric softener sheets.

Fabric softener often isn’t necessary in the dryer, but it will reduce static.

2. Hair conditioner: I’ve tried this recently, and it really made a difference. Run some lukewarm water in a basin, and add hair conditioner. Choose some that smells great (I love coconut-scented conditioner!).

Swish the project around in the water; work the conditioned water through the project as much as you can. Then squeeze out as much water as you can (be sure not to wring or twist the project) and roll it in a towel or two to pull out even more moisture.

You can now either lay it flat to dry (if the fiber calls for it), or else throw it into the dryer on the delicate cycle.

3. Vinegar: You can use vinegar in either of the methods listed above in place of the product suggested. This is a great option for those who prefer completely natural products or who want to use the most frugal product possible.

You can also use vinegar along with hair conditioner in this way.

4. Steam: Got a steam iron and an ironing board? Then you can try this trick. Just place your project on the ironing board and hit it with as much steam as you need to make it damp. (Be sure not to let the hot iron touch the fabric!)

Let it air dry. When it’s dry, it’ll be a lot softer! This is also a great way to block projects made with acrylic yarn.

So don’t throw out that scratchy yarn! You can make it useful again, either before or after knitting with it. And you can continue to be a frugal knitter!

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2 Comments

  1. snugly* 🙂

    Snugly refers to something that is snug; snuggly is something that you want to snuggle with! HTH.