Our unwashed test subjects are a couple of simple granny washcloths and a mitt made from a square. (Side note: There's still over half a cone left.) What we already know about this yarn is that it bleeds when exposed to cold water and mild detergent. The thing we're going to test for is to see if we can stop the colors from running by treating with a fixative.
I have to admit that my knowledge of fabric dyes doesn't extend much farther than tie-dyeing tee shirts, so I had to go do a little research. At first, I was confused and thought that a "mordant" was the thing I was looking for... That's okay, because it led me to this article with a list of mordants and fixatives.
Somewhere along the way I read (in another post or in comments) that vinegar shouldn't be used for cotton yarn, so I went for the first thing on the list: Salt. The experiment starts with cool tap water, a non-reactive measuring cup, and some ordinary, iodine-free table salt. I also have iodized salt, but I thought it best to leave extra ingredients out of the mix.
I didn't submerge the entire project right away because I wanted to see if there was a difference in the colors. In hindsight I realized that I have other pieces to compare it to... This step was unnecessary. I did notice some minor bleeding after a few minutes, so I went ahead and pushed the whole thing into the water.
Easily amused as I am, I sat watching the process for about 20 minutes. Is the color running, or does the white not look as white because of the water? Well either way, it's not running as bad as my first project did. Is that water blue? Yes, it is turning slightly bluish. Should I just take it out, then? No, sit and watch the bubbles float up from the pretty yarn; it gives you a tranquil feeling. Okay, but this is staring to get boring even for me. Fine, it's been half an hour, let's see what happens...
Comparing the unwashed version with the project still soaking, there didn't appear to be much of a difference. I removed the washcloth from its bath and gave it a rinse with cold water. The water I poured out of the cup had a blue tint, but I never saw dye running from the project as I rinsed it.
Plain white paper towels are the tool I'm using to soak up extra water. I made a comparison while the first washcloth was still drying, and noticed the white wasn't so bright anymore. This could just be because it was still wet, or perhaps the dye ran after all. (We'll come back to this really soon.) I left it to dry overnight before starting the next test, but you get to fast forward to see what happens next...
Not really knowing if there's much of a difference, I decided to try sea salt for another project. This test was performed in almost the same way, except I went ahead and submerged the whole piece at once instead of leaving part of it out.
And this time, I walked away to do some things instead of staring at a measuring cup like the crazy person I am. The mitt stayed in its bath for a little over thirty minutes, but not as much as an hour. I was getting ready to get it out, but first I needed to move the still-drying washcloth to make room...
Hey, those are cute little sprinkles of blue on that paper towel, but that color is supposed to be in my yarn! I guess the table salt didn't do much good to lock in the dye... I mean, the white is still pretty white, and the yellow looks the same to me; but that blue! Oh, I really hope the next experiment works...
I pulled the mitt out of the sea salt mixture, gave it a squeeze with some paper towels, and immediately saw traces of blue left behind. The sea salt also failed to stop the colors from bleeding. And so, we move on to the last experiment...
I went against all dyeing logic for this, so let me explain my thought process: These are washcloths, made to be used with hot water. And when you're dyeing fabric, you usually do it in hot water. So since the dye won't stay in, I figured it couldn't hurt to treat it now in the way it will be used later. If it all runs out, then I'll have some pretty white washcloths, right?
So, it went into a nice hot bath with table salt and soaked for about 30 minutes. While it was resting in its tub, I set up a treated and an untreated washcloth for comparison. You know, I guess it's not that bad. The colors may have bled a bit, but the yarn still looks really nice. None of that "robin's egg" tie-dyed effect that happened with the first project - The white is still white.
Soaking in the hot water/table salt mixture, the next washcloth didn't look like it was fading/bleeding/running at all. Could hot water be the answer here? We'll find out when we put in on some paper towels...
I should have kept another treated project in the picture for comparison, but failed to think of it. Regardless, the hot water treatment seemed to do the trick better than both experiments with cool water. The white looks white; the blue still seems bright. The yellow never changes.
For the last time, let's take a peek under that washcloth to see what's on the paper towel... What? Little blue speckles? Yes, they are less noticeable than before, but the evidence is still there: None of my experiments succeeded in fixing the color to the yarn. But as I still have half a cone left, I suppose there will be room for more tests in the future. I've been doing more research and learned that you can use vinegar to set the dye in cotton yarn - As well as washing soda, baking soda, and cream of tartar; all things I have available in the kitchen, ready to experiment. I'm going to need them.
To end, I'd like to share a final update on two projects: The new mitt I made was used, and the colors bled further. Although not as bad as the untreated soap-saver, the white turned blue as soon as it was exposed to soap and hot water. The blue isn't very blue anymore, and the yellow turns a bit greenish when mixed with it.
As for the original project with Peaches & Creme, it suffered an unfortunate accident. (Wait, can we call it another experiment?) It was wadded up in a load of towels that got thrown in the washer on heavy wash, then dried on high high. The good news is: I was never happy with the requested size, and it shrank down to properly fit a bar of soap. The bad news: Among the staining of Rip van Winkle's concrete dust, you can barely see any color at all. The most noticeable shade now is the lovely rust stains left from my supposedly rust-proof shower hooks.
Well, it's better to find out sooner than later. With the low cost of this yarn, I was hoping to make some gift sets to sell. Could you imagine the customer's disgust with the product when they make the mistake of machine-washing the item? And who wants to hand-wash, air-dry a washcloth, anyway? I will continue to make more for myself to use up the yarn, and use them for future experiments with more fixatives. Perhaps you'll already know the results if you see a new post titled "Running Further Away".