Citric Acid Soak For Fixing/Re-fixing Dye

Howdy, knitting friends! Happy December to you. 🙂 If you’re a returning reader, it’s great to have you back. If this is your first time checking out the Knitting Daddy blog, I hope you enjoy what you find and come back for more. You might enjoy reading my knitting origin story to learn about how I started knitting about two-and-a-half years ago.

I hope this time of year is treating you well. Things out here are — of course — busy, hectic, scattered, etc. That’s just how it is sometimes, isn’t it? This week, I’m going to share my (successful!) experience with the citric acid soak process that The Knitmore Girls describe for fixing/re-fixing dye in yarn. Definitely check out the information on their blog for the specifics of the process, then scroll down to see how I tested it out on my own project.

Mom's Socks

Before I give Mom her socks, I’m going to treat them with the citric acid soak solution described by the Knitmore Girls.

Before getting to that, however, let’s take a tour of what else has been going on in my knitting life since I last checked in.

Recently In Podcasts

As I look at my iTunes playlists, I’m currently completely caught up on all of my knitting podcasts except CraftLit. There have been a lot of great podcast episodes since I last updated the blog. And, as is the nature of things, I’m sure my playlists will start filling up again before I realize it. Since my last update, I’ve listened to podcasts from 2 Knit Lit Chicks, CraftLit, Curious Handmade, Fiber Hooligan,, Knitmore Girls, Knitting Pipeline, The Lost Geek, Math4Knitters, Never Not Knitting, TwinSet Designs, and Yarn Thing with Marly Bird. I even made it “on the air” on one of Marly’s podcasts, which was very exciting and fun.

In 2 Knit Lit Chicks Episode 81 (A Podcast About A Podcast?), Barb and Tracie announce their next KAL (the Alana-Along). They also talk about a handful of finished and in-progress projects. They’re both working on socks, which always fun for me to hear about since I’m on a bit of a sock kick. Tracie’s beer cozies are coming along nicely.

In Curious Handmade Episode 52 (Knitvent Week 3 and Non-Guilty Indulgences), Helen continues to talk about patterns in her Knitvent Collection. She also describes several things that she’s planning to indulge in. It’s a great list of things to do for ourselves. I especially got a chuckle out of #6 on her list. In Episode 53 (Adorn Gift Bags and Gift Ideas), Helen introduces her Adorn Gift Bags pattern. In Episode 54 (Ice Skating), Helen introduces the final Knitvent 2014 pattern, a cute scarf and wrap. She also reviews a cool sounding book: Pattern Writing for Knit Designers, by Kate Atherley.

In the Fiber Hooligan with Kyle Kunnecke, Ben interviews Kyle and they talk about Kyle’s passion for using his creativity to help others. Kyle is involved in many causes ranging from HIV prevention to breast cancer support. He uses his creativity with fiber arts to help him support those various causes.

In Episode 13 (Knitting Trends), Hannah talks with Bristol Ivy about tracking trends in knitting. Bristol publishes a look at trends in knitting based on data she collects from Ravelry. It’s fascinating information, and can be extremely useful for designers, to help them create designs that are in demand by the knitting public.

In Knitmore Girls Episode 309 (Hope Springs Eternal), Jasmin and Gigi talk about all sorts of items on and off their needles. It’s fun hearing their “in stitches” segment, where they talk about the handmade items they’re currently wearing. In Episode 310 (Pacific Midwest), Jasmin talks about the 25 Days of Enabling which is both a brilliant and evil idea. I’m going to start saving now so that when next year’s enabling happens, I’ll be prepared to make a few purchases. In Episode 311 (Two Sizes Too Small), Jasmin shares a tip about doing a row of k1p1 on self-striping socks whenever to color changes in order to fancy up the sock a bit. I like it! We also learn that Gigi, Sam and Grandpa Knitmore are fond of the greatest Christmas movie of all time — Die Hard — while Jasmin seems less enthused.

In Knitting Pipeline Episode 190 (Small Things In Small Packages), Paula shows off a super-cute sweater she knitted for her niece. She also talks about using little knitted ornaments to dress up holiday gift packages, which is a great idea. In Episode 191 (Catching up with Bronwyn and Sarah), Paula catches up with her friends Bronwyn and Sarah. These episodes are always some of my favorite episodes of one of my favorite podcasts. Listening to these ladies talk, laugh, and share stories is a real treat and you feel like you’re part of the club.

In The Lost Geek Podcast Episode 39 (The Essentials), Arlin talks about essential oils, as well as the typical knitting talk that is usually included in her podcast.

In Math4Knitters, Lara reboots her popular podcast. She’s rebroadcasting the original run and plans to add new content once she’s rebroadcasted everything. I’m really loving this podcast, having heard so many nice things about it from lots of folks. So far, the first 3 episodes are available.

In Never Not Knitting Episode 85 (Books, Yarn and Something Beautiful), one of Alana’s listeners shares a beautiful story about the healing properties of books and knitting.

In TwinSet Designs Episode 48 (Catch Me Up If You Can), Jan and Ellen make a triumphant return from a short break in podcasting. It was great hearing about all of the things going on in their lives and listening to them laugh with each other while getting all caught back up. In Episode 49 (Full Bellies), Ellen and Jan have a Thanksgiving wrap-up and are right back in the sing of things for the podcast.


Goodies from KnitCrate: Lollipop yarn, a luxury fur pom-pom (that I will probably hang on our Christmas tree and call a Tribble), Peppermint Hot Chocolate on a Stick, and a sock pattern.

In the YarnThing episode with The Knitmore Girls Podcast, Marly concludes her Podcaster November series with an interview with The Knitmore Girls. I loved hearing some of the “inside baseball” aspects of their podcast. in the episode with Rachael Herron — Cypress Hallow Yarn Series, Marly talks with author Rachael Herron about romance novels and knitting. In the What is new at KnitCrate episode, Marly talks with Andrea of KnitCrate. Listening to this episode made me even more curious about trying out KnitCrate, and it’s entirely possible that I got myself a present of the December crate to see what all the fuss is about. In the episode with Patty Lyons knitwear designer and teacher, Marly talks with Patty about her career in the textile industry. This is the episode I got to be “on the air” on! I was the 2nd call-in winner towards the end of the episode and got a chance to chat with Marly and Patty for a few minutes. I also won a prize from Patty — a class that she is currently creating for Interweave. It’s going to be a surprise, and I’m excited to get it when it comes out. In the episode with MK Crochet and KM Knits, Megan Kreiner, Marly is super excited to get a chance to interview crochet designer Megan Kreiner. Megan’s day job involves making movies, and it’s really cool to hear how her movie life and crochet life come together.

In CraftLit, I’ve still got a handful of episodes of North and South remaining. I’ve gotten back on a schedule of making sure CraftLit comes up in my playlists more frequently, so I’m hoping to catch up in the next few weeks.

Recently On My Needles

Recently, my needles have been quieter than usual (it’s a busy time of year!). When they haven’t been quiet, they’ve been working on some gift knitting, so reports of my current knitting projects will have to wait a few weeks. I’ve definitely been enjoying the knitting I’ve been doing lately and look forward to sharing my projects soon.

Citric Acid Soak For Fixing/Re-fixing Dye

I’m excited to share the results of my experiment with using citric acid to pre-treat some beautifully dyed yarn. First, some background. A couple of months ago, Jasmin (of the Knitmore Girls) was disappointed that a pair of socks she had knitted lost a lot of their color with their first washing. She found a solution, and it’s a fix that I’ll be using every time I knit a pair of socks from now on. The solution is to pre-treat the yarn with a citric acid soak prior to the first washing, and it fixes (or re-fixes) the dye so fading/bleeding/etc. is greatly reduced or eliminated. You can read all about it on their blog, or you can skip the backstory and go straight to the part where they describe the solution. Go ahead and read the part of the page in the 2nd link — I’m not going to repeat the step-by-step instructions here.

OK, now that you’re familiar with the problem and the solution, I’ll share my results. Short version: it works.

I recently finished knitting a pair of socks for my mother. She found some beautiful yarn and gave it to me with a request that I turn it into socks for her. Sure thing! The yarn was sport weight, and the socks knit up on size US3 needles, so it went very quickly. I noted the following care instructions on the yarn:

Wash finished project by itself the first time. All colors have been set properly and rinsed multiple times, but some yarns may bleed in first washing. Do NOT use liquid fabric softeners with hand dyed yarns. Fabric softeners WILL CAUSE FADING and BLEEDING of properly “set” dye.

With a warning like that, I thought that the socks would be a perfect candidate for trying out the citric acid soak! Instead of just blindly following the instructions from The Knitmore Girls, I decided to do my own experiment (trust, but verify!). As it turned out, the yarn I had was great and probably didn’t need the citric acid soak, but it certainly doesn’t hurt, and it could save me from having a pair of socks lose their pop after a single washing. It hurts me to see the fading on Jasmin’s sock every time I look at her blog.

So let’s take a look at what I did, shall we?

First, let’s take a look at the “before” picture.


The sock and ornaments before anything happens.

There are my socks: the big sock will go untreated and unwashed throughout the experiment and serve as my control. The top ornament (the one without the loop) will go untreated, but will be washed. The bottom ornament (the one with the loop) will be both treated and washed. When it’s all done, I’ll be able to compare them with each other and look for any differences.

I thought I was very clever to use mini-stocking ornaments instead of knitting up a generic swatch for my testing. I didn’t care if the colors in an ornament bled or faded, and I’d have an ornament when I was done with my experiments instead of a basic swatch. When you experiment, do whatever you want for your swatch.

So the first step involved soaking the project in the citric acid mix. Here’s the sock ornament soaking:

Soaking the Ornament

Soaking the ornament in the citric acid solution.

After the soak, the stocking needed to be microwaved in plastic wrap:

Microwaving The Ornament

Microwaving the ornament after its soak in the citric acid solution.

I microwaved it for 1 minute, gave it a 1 minute rest, then microwaved it for another minute. I probably could have done it for 2 minutes straight, but I was heeding the warnings about excessive heat. After the microwaving, I did not see any dye being discharged, so I didn’t do any of the other steps.

After the soaked ornament dried out, it was time to put both ornaments in the washer. I couldn’t tell a difference in the socks at this point — and I didn’t expect to see a difference. Everything was going great. So I tossed the socks in the washer.

After The Soak

Both the untreated (on the left) and treated (on the right) look fine to me. Getting ready for their washing.

I had previously checked with my mom to find out how she intended to wash her socks, so I could replicate the same process for my experiment. She said she washes them in cold with detergent and fabric softener. I told her about the yarn’s warning against fabric softener and she said that she could omit the fabric softener if that was going to be better for the yarn. That’s a great option to have in our back pocket, but I figured I’d go ahead and test it with fabric softener just to see what happens — they were only tiny ornaments, it would be OK if they got messed up, I had extra ornaments that I could use for further experimentation.

So I ignored the warning against fabric softener and washed and dried the socks as normal. Yeah, I didn’t even do the “lay flat to dry” instructions that we’re so used to seeing.

When I pulled the ornaments out of the dryer, I was glad that I had marked the treated one by adding the loop. Without that, I couldn’t tell the difference between the two ornaments. Here they are:

After The Wash

After the wash, both the treated and untreated ornaments look like the unwashed sock.

The untreated/unwashed sock on the left, the untreated/washed ornament on top, the treated/washed ornament on bottom. They look the same to me. Here’s a closer look with the ornaments on top of the sock:

Close Up Of Results

The untreated ornament (left) and treated ornament (right) look as beautiful as the unwashed sock. Success!

No fading. No bleeding. This told me a couple of things:

  • The yarn on which I was experimenting had dye that was properly set and didn’t really need any pre-treating anyway. Great job, yarn dyer!
  • The citric acid soak doesn’t harm the colors in the yarn.

Since I had well-dyed yarn to start with, I can’t confirm that the citric acid soak helps to set the dye, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. Based on what Jasmin has described on the Knitmore Girls Podcast and documented in her blog, I’m confident that the citric acid soak will help yarn that has dye that isn’t properly set.

It’s not that much extra work to do the citric acid soak, and it provides tremendous peace of mind. I heartily recommend it and will be treating all of my socks with this process from now on. It’s a one-time process and certainly worth the reassurance that all of the hard work and time I put into knitting a pair of socks won’t be lessened by fading dye after the first washing.

Thank you so much, Knitmore Girls, for sharing these tips! Here’s the link again, you all should bookmark it: Fixing/Re-fiixing dye.

As I mentioned, the yarn I used for this experiment was great. It is Sea Star Handpaints yarn in the Happy Medium base in the Oregon Inlet colorway. The yarn is soft and delightful to work with and the colors are really happy. Brittany is the dyer and the yarn is available through her favorite local yarn shop: Knitting Addiction in Kill Devil Hills, NC. Give them a call (252-255-5648) to see what’s available. They’re a great shop and I love to stop in when I’m visiting the NC Outer Banks. Or contact Brittany via Ravelry (she’s BeachBumKnitter there) for special orders. I loved working with this yarn. Mom, if you like the socks, I’ll be happy to knit you more — just pick some more yarn up in whatever colors you want next time you’re at the coast. 🙂

The patterns you see in my experiments are Basic Socks a la Jeanne by Jeanne Shrader for the sock and Mini-Stocking & Candy Cane Ornaments by Susan B. Anderson for the ornaments.

Until next time, keep on knitting for the ones you love!


5 thoughts on “Citric Acid Soak For Fixing/Re-fixing Dye

  1. So much to knit, so little time…
    I have to admit, I don’t think I’d ever to a soak thingy… My mum knits my socks for me (I buy her the yarn, she knits them & gives them to me for birthdays, Christmas etc) & I have never done this & all my socks are fine & when I mean all my socks, I mean the 20ish for me & 20ish for my hubby! By the way, my mum loves to knit socks and I despise it!

    • Hi, Marie — yes, you’re absolutely correct: so much to knit, so little time….

      If you don’t have problems with colors fading on the yarn you use, the soak wash isn’t necessary. It’s a good “insurance policy,” though. It’s a bit of extra work up front, but fortunately, you only have to do it once. For me, since I’m finding that I’m knitting with a lot of yarn from independent dyers lately, it’s worth it to spend a little extra effort to help make sure the colors won’t fade. But, you’re right — if you don’t need to do it, don’t worry about it.

      That’s awesome that your mom knits socks for you and your hubby! Trading yarn for completed socks is a great idea. I had a fun time knitting socks for my mom, and I’m glad that she got to pick exactly the yarn she wanted them knit out of. I’ll be happy to keep doing that for her. I am definitely becoming a sock-a-holic. I really enjoy working on the small needles and stitches, and I love that socks are such a portable project.

      The great thing about knitting, of course, is that there are lots and lots of options for everyone. So it’s easy to find the kind of knitting you enjoy doing, and concentrate on that.

      Thanks for the comment! I hope you’re having a wonderful holiday season, and are looking forward to a great 2015!

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