My current work in progress:

Seaforth designed by Alice Starmore, knit in British Breeds 5-ply Guernsey Wool on US 3 needles.


To Dye For

Thank you for all your comments about the excess dye in my sock yarn. Here are some useful tips for ridding oneself of the excess:

Sara said:
I know that toothpaste is a *great* aid to getting Kool-Aid stains off of hands (and mouths, for those who actually *drink* it!) and countertops. It might be worth a try if you’re still having issues getting this dye off your fingers.

Marina said:
When that happens, I usually just soak the yarn in a citric acid solution or vinegar. The one time I didn’t do that, it kept bleeding with every wash which tells me it wasn’t “fixed” properly.

Miranda suggested:
Have you ever tried using an exfoliating scrub to get the dye stains out? I have had excellent results getting Sharpie and other supposedly “permanent” inks out of my skin by using a little bit.

KayinNewMexico commented:
Dye that is not exhausted is a common problem, especially with handpainted yarn. If your LYS also has spinnng and dyeing supplies, ask them for “Jacquard Synthrapol” — Google it for more information and sources if you need to. This stuff is made especially for dye problems like yours. In your case, wash your finished socks in Synthrapol. It’s not just for dyes either — is wash about all my woolies in it! Read their label when you get some, but DO get some! Good luck!

I did manage to get all the purple dye off my fingers within a day of completing the sock, but there are still faint traces of purple on my fingernails (I do not and cannot use nail polish, so my nails are always bare). And my order for Synthrapol is on its way to me, thank you. ๐Ÿ™‚

Now the question is what to do about the second sock. The choices:

1. Reskein the yarn for the second sock (already wound into a ball), wash the skein in Synthrapol, let it dry, rewind it, then knit it.

2. Suck it up and knit the sock, get purple hands, then wash the completed sock.

3. Abandon the damned socks entirely.

I will probably go with Option Number 2, as I do like the completed sock and the dye has pretty much worn off my hands at this point. Option Number 1 sounds like way too much work.


Has anyone else knit with the Great Adirondacks Yarn sock yarn? Any experience with dye staining your hands? I’m hoping this was an anomaly, because I gave a skein of this yarn (in a different colorway) to L-B, and I have another skein myself — in a much lighter colorway.

This brings us to another question, asked by Laura:
I want ask about the sock yarn you’re using that rubbed color onto your fingers. Is that something that makes you decide not to buy from that yarn company (or dyer) again? Have you noticed this being an indicator that the dye will fade much after washing? I’m only curious because when I dye yarn I’ve noticed that some colors can rub off while knitting but I thought maybe it was the type of dye I’m using. I haven’t found that it affects the fade factor in the yarns I have dyed, however. Your opinions as a consumer will be greatly appreciated.

I am reminded of an incident years ago — I had some dark green worsted or aran weight wool that stained my hands horribly. I’ve been trying to think of the brand of the yarn, but alas, the name is lost in the mists of time. If I recall correctly, it was a commercial yarn, but from a small company (and this was maybe 15 years ago). I abandoned it because of the staining.

I think the answer depends on the degree of staining, and also how much I like the yarn. If it stains badly and I’m lukewarm about the yarn anyway, well, out it goes. If I love the yarn, I’ll put up with a little dye rubbing off.

What do you all think? Do you have any insight as to the fade factor?

Deirdre Update

Look at this!


That would be the start of the decrease for the armhole on the first sleeve.

Progress! We are excited.



  1. Wendy, the best way to get dye off your fingernails is to buff it off, preferably with an emery board with a very fine grit. Most drugstores will have a buff kit (usually with a three-way emery board) It should cost you about $2.50

    Make sure when you buff not to buff too hard as it’ll make your nail weak. Done right, the dye will be gone and your nail will be shiny. It’s your option to do the other 9 to match…

  2. The best way I have found to get excess dye off my hands is to use a baby wipe. It doesn’t work very well after the dye has set, unfortunately, but it works quite well if you wipe the dye off right after it gets on your hands. Inexpensive, nonabrasive, and efficient.

  3. Hi Wendy – I love both your blog and book! I have also had a bad fading experience with Great Adirondacks yarn – not the sock yarn, but a beautiful boucle wool that I was going to make into a hat. When my hands and the bamboo needle turned dark pink, I was afraid that the dye would rub off on the blonde head for which it was intended… so it became a pillow for a dark couch instead. Good luck with the next sock!

  4. Juliette says:

    What about knitting with surgical gloves on? (non-latex, of course) Well, there is the issue of you beautiful nails…and the poke-through factor. They are also uncomfortable. sweaty even.

    Oh well. nevermind.

  5. Well…….here’s my recipe for an inexpensive salt scrub (seen the prices? from $12 to $30 a jar)…….so: put Kosher salt in a jar…….pour olive oil over & mix in……til consistency of paste……..I use this when gardening & my hands get nasty (cannot use gloves)…..or after / before knitting……or handling laser paper……sometimes I add fresh lavender buds……..and it’s good for all body parts………PS: after all you taught me…….it would be a pleasure to know that this works for you……….and all others reading this blog……..

  6. Oh, that white project should not play anywhere near your purple sock yarn or hands!!

  7. I’ll ussually keep working with yarn that is staining my hands a bit, since my hands end up bright colors anywayus since I often just stick my hands in dye pots (extra long nails and all) so just a tinge of color isn’t a big deal.

    I rinse all my yarns and will re-set them if there are isssues as im rinsing the yarn. Sometimes silk and realyl dark colors will be a problem no matter what though.

    Babs- I do the same, but with sugar (white or brown, raw sugar if you want more abrasion) so it doesn’t sting- great before you shave your legs. I ussually also add some tree tea oil to it if using it as a body scrub (ie for OCM), and will subsiture a lighter oil instead of EVOO in the summer.

  8. Oxy Clean takes it off non-porous surfaces; the best way I’ve found to get dye off my hands/nails is to wash my hair. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s just scratchy enough.

  9. Wendy, I’m working with GA Silk Noir and have the same problem of dye coming off on my hand. My left index finger has been blue for about a month (which is how long I’ve been working on this shawl). Since I had a work related injury on that finger and continued to knit, I think I may have permanently tattooed my finger!

    I’ve used isopropyl(rubbing) alcohol to remove “permanent” ink stains. It is rather drying but works pretty well. Acetone (nail polish remover) works better, but if you can’t use that, I don’t have any other suggestions.

    I LOVE LUCY! She is a shining example of kittyhood.


  10. Ann Riley says:

    Hi Wendy,

    I’m a dyer who can’t use gloves, so I regularly have multicolored hands. You might want to consider Reduran hand cleaner from Dharma Trading Co. It’s listed with chemicals on their website. NAYY, just a satisfied customer. They sell synthrapol too — it’s *really* concentrated, so a few drops go a long way. I also like their Milsoft for restoring the soft drapey-ness to handknit silk so it doesn’t feel too crunchy after washing.

    Those socks are yummy looking even if the dye does rub off.

  11. Wow! Those are some great tips! I ADORE your colorway! It’s totally Sachi colors, btw.

    Is it just me or does anyone else want to bury their face in that kitty belly?

  12. er… English not much lately speaking…. ??? I adore the colorway on your sock yarn. Does that make more sense?

  13. so i realize this will sound incredibly wierd, but one of the best things i’ve found for getting some stains and permenet(sp?) marker off my skin is bug spray. (i.e. off deep woods, etc.) yes i realize it’s wierd. somehow it works. has anyone else done this?

  14. I am looking forward to seeing Deirdre finished!It looks so nice from the photos.

  15. I had some Cotton Fleece seconds that dyed my fingers, and my bamboo needles. Guess that was why they were seconds… I had to get some Retayne for that, as it was cotton. My big bleeding problem has been with Mountain Colors Bearfoot. But I love the yarn so much that I am going to use more and put up with it. The first time I threw them in the washer, they dyed spots on the garment they ended up next to.

  16. Isn’t it a great psychological lift when you get to the armhole decreases? I just love it.

  17. (per Laura’s question) I bought some Tess’ Superwash at MD Sheep & Wool this year in a beautiful blue/turquoise/purple blend. My fingertips were a little blue (not too bad) after knitting some Jaywalker-inspired anklets. I really enjoyed knitting with this yarn, so a little color rubbing off won’t deter me from buying this again.

    I’m also knitting the Embossed Leaves socks using Mountain Colors Bearfoot (in Elderberry) and haven’t had any problems with the color coming off. I plan on washing both pairs before gifting them and hope I don’t end up with a sink full of faded socks!

  18. Thanks for addressing my question Wendy – I’ve found that sometimes small bits of dye don’t get rinsed off the yarn but overall the colorfastness isn’t affected. Everybody’s input is very reassuring that we all seem to be pretty realistic about the fact that these aren’t commercial companies dyeing acrylic yarn – it’s natural fibers hand painted and dyed by real people, and with proper care it’s still good even with a little color coming off on your hands while knitting. It’s the natural fibers and unique quality we pay for, right?

  19. OOOH! Kitty Tummy! Oh, the knitting – I love the color of that yarn, I’d just suck it up and knit the second sock over the weekend and then exfoliate your hands and buff your nails and maybe you won’t look like you strangled a purple people eater on Monday. But that’s just me.

  20. Allyson says:

    White iodine, available at the pharmacy, is effective at removing that yellow stain from red fingernail polish. It may work for your dye too.

  21. Wendy,

    I have a skein of Soxie in the Rosewood colorway, and began knitting a sock a little while ago only to abandon it. Not because of any dye rubbing off though. (I couldn’t get a tight gauge, even on 0s. I hate that!) I love the colors so I’m sure I’ll go back to it once I get the sizing for my grandmother’s size 4 feet!

  22. I’m with you and would choose #2. Those colors are too pretty to not finish the second sock. Of course, they aren’t so pretty on your hands, I suppose…

    Cute pic of Ms. Lucy, rolling around!

  23. Dye on my hands doesn’t bother me as much as dye on my bamboo needles – Lamb’s Pride in some bright colors left my needles purple. As long as that doesn’t transfer onto a light yarn later on, I guess I’m OK.

  24. OH thank you for posting the toothpaste tip, I’m going to try that out tonight on some kool-aid stains on my countertop that recently appeared there.

    Oh and just in case you’d like to see some pictures of the animals from the Metro East Humane Society, the benficiary of the charity drive, I posted a couple of pictures today on my blog.

  25. If a yarn bleeds/stains while knitting – and any action that I take to stop the staining does not make the staining stop – I stop using the yarn. When I have not followed this and worn socks that stain, I have had my shoes and pants that touch the socks assume the color of the sock, not something that I appreciate. I have found that there is less grief to abandon the yarn.

  26. Nothing knitting related here, but I had to say… Kitty Tummy!! I just want to scritch that fluffy belly!

  27. A couple of years back I bought some Fleece Artist from a retailer at a show to make a jacket for my mother.
    When I came to use it-only got as far as balling it-the dye came off in my hands. I was worried as my Mum is in her 90’s, so not up to frequent laundering of stuff if the jacket should bleed.
    I emailed FleeceArtist for advice, though I didn’t buy directly from them, and they asked me to return it so that they could “fix” the dye and send it back to me, all at their expense. She said hand dyes sometimes had this problem, but that they shouldn’t be accepted.
    I was very pleased with their helpful approach.

  28. Danielle M says:

    I, too, am more unhappy about the color rubbing off onto my needles than my hands. Eventually, the color disappears, when on the hands. However, I am somewhat concerned about the color on the needles. Have you ever had it rub off onto a lighter colored yarn? Do you know of a good way to get it off the needles?

  29. Monique says:

    Hi there, Geeky science type person here. To remove stains (dyes) in a microlab (used to stain bacteria), and other dyes such as those used to visualize dna, we use alcohol. 95% Ethanol (I think Everclear is close to this) is great by I do think that the stuff you normal people buy at the store (I think it is isopropanol) should work as well. Yes, it is safe used in moderation. Cheers.

  30. I’ve been working with a skein of Soxie in very dark blues, with no staining problems. It is a thin and tightly twisted yarn (even for sock yarn), but the sheen is fantastic. It remains to be seen whether it will bleed in the wash.

  31. BigAlice says:

    Synthrapol is great stuff, but be aware that it is a dye magnet, not a fixer. That is, it binds to dye molecules that are loose from the yarn and keeps them from staining other items, and it helps to remove excess dye from the yarn. But, if the dye hasn’t been properly fixed, the yarn will keep bleeding every time you wash it and gradually fade. Here’s the Dharma Trading page about Synthrapol:

    Retayne is a dye fixer, but it’s only intended for use with cotton.
    A way to fix the dye on wool would be to probably subject your yarn to heat & an acid (e.g. vinegar). You’d be doing the same thing that you’d be doing as if you were dyeing it, but minus the dye. Otherwise, maybe try a commercial wool dye fixer? I haven’t ever tried this one but it claims to work with all natural fibers & blends:
    No affiliation with Dharma Trading, just a happy camper customer.

    Good luck with the other sock ๐Ÿ™‚