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How to soften stiff scratchy cotton yarn

How to Soften Stiff Cotton Yarn | Photo Tutorial

How to soften stiff scratchy cotton yarn

Softening Worsted Weight Cotton

Dyeing worsted weight cotton yarn can be loads of fun, but before the ball is wound and the hook is in hand, it’s worth the time to take steps to soften the yarn so it is not only beautiful but a pleasure to work with as well.

I did some of the leg work for you and tested the three methods I have seen most often to soften yarn. Fabric Softener (for obvious reasons), white vinegar (often used to soften wool), and hair conditioner (also logical for use with natural fibers).

I cut short sections of my newly-dyed worsted weight cotton and soaked each one in a mixture of water and the suggested product to soften the yarn. I made sure they each soaked for the same amount of time so that I got uniform results.

After soaking for 30 minutes, I rinsed each sample well and then laid them out to dry.

How to soften stiff scratchy cotton yarn

They dried overnight.

The next morning, I worked up a small square with each sample in a simple sc stitch. Then I brought out the experts.

A Unanimous Winner!

How to soften stiff scratchy cotton yarn

My two sons and husband were instructed to feel each square, rub it on their forearms and cheeks, and choose the one that they thought was the softest.

The results were unanimous!

Hair condition made the yarn S-O-F-T!

Hair condition softens worsted-weight cotton yarn better than vinegar or fabric softener. So poo on you, fabric softener! You aren’t doing your job very well, at least not with crocheted fabric.

The Runners Up

The fabric softener swatch was still VERY scratchy. When worked up, it did not feel any different than the untreated yarn. It also still had residue on it that made my youngest kiddo itch a little on his arm (he doesn’t use fabric softener on his clothes).

The vinegar made a slight difference, and I think with a very long soaking time, it might do okay. Unlike the other two methods, it did not leave any smell at all. The conditioner smelled a little like whatever fragrance I used (my favorite is apple), but only when I stuffed it right in my face and inhaled.  

Double bonus: None of the methods faded the colors! The richness of color held nicely after my tie-dye method, regardless of the method used to soften the yarn.

Lovely, Conditioned Yarn

So now, between my fun tie-dyeing method and a conditioner soak, I have clean, bright, SOFT, and lightly-scented yarn. Yay! *Does happy dance*

How, where is that dye? I want to make more colors!

Have you tried this method? I’d love to hear your results and opinions! Comment on your experiences!

And subscribe to get updates on the latest tests and techniques on my docket.

Learn how to tie-dye cotton yarn HERE!

How to soften stiff scratchy cotton yarn
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Until next time,

Yarn on, people!


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  1. Hi! How much conditioner and how much water? And does the conditioner have any particular ingredients to look for? Thank you!

    1. Use enough water to cover the yarn while soaking, usually about 4 cups for a standard skein of cotton yarn, then about 1/2 cup conditioner. Mix as well as you can. It won’t mix completely into the water, but it will come close. 🙂

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