Prepping caked yarn

You know those beautiful cakes of yarn?  The ones that flirt their way right into your cart with their glorious slow color changes?  Yeah, I love them too.  But, sometimes they require a tiny bit of extra work before you start knitting.  And, since I’m spending some serious time with yarns like this for Curls 3, I thought I’d show you how to do it.

So, when you pull out the center of a lot of cakes, you’ll probably see something like this.  See how the yarn is a bit kinked?  It’s sort of twisty and just doesn’t lay straight.

That’s usually because of how it’s been dyed.  Yarn for colorways like this is often knit up in a loose rectangle, dyed, then unraveled and wound into a cake.  So, just like if you unravel yarn from your own knitting, the yarn comes out twisted.

You really really really don’t want to knit with it in this state. Your knitting won’t be as tight or as even as it should be.  So…you’ve got to prep the yarn before you start (yes, even before you swatch).

The first step is to get out your trusty swift and wind off the yarn.  Pro tip, do not set your swift to its widest setting right now (the yarn will relax during this process, and if you use the biggest setting now, your loop of yarn will be too big later, and you will swear a lot…ask me how I know).

Now, tie off the yarn in at least three places.  Really, four is better.  Tie it loosely enough that water can still sneak in under they ties, and be sure you’re using a yarn that won’t bleed.

Then, toss the whole thing in a sink full of water.  I like to use a bit of wool wash (I use this one, but they have other scents too, and even an unscented option which is awesome).  I think it helps the water get all the way into the yarn faster (though that could just be my imagination), and I know it makes the yarn smell good.  Give it a few good squeezes and then let it sit for at least half an hour.  Longer is fine, it needs to get really really soaked (which can take a surprisingly long time, especially with sturdy or sheepy yarn).

Take it out of the water, give it a good squeeze to get rid of some of the water, then hang it up.  Be clever and hang it somewhere it’s safe to have drippy things (I usually go for the shower rod).  Let it dry (it will take a while, have patience).  If the yarn is all smooth and relaxed, yay, you’re done.  If it’s not, give it another good soak and let it dry again.  It’s not unusual for it to take two or three soak/dry sessions (if you’re getting impatient, you can do that thwack the wet skein against a wall a few times trick or twist the wet yarn up into a skein a few times to stretch the yarn a bit).

See, isn’t that nicer?  You’ll have a much better time knitting with the smoothed out version, I promise.  And you’ll be able to get to know the yarn a bit (and do things like find out of it bleeds or if there are any knots) before you start swatching.