Organize Yarn After the Frog Pond

Cap’n Frog, reporting for duty
After a project has visited The Frog Pond, one is often left contemplating a ball of rather curly yarn. The question is: How do you bring the yarn back to life, sans curl, so you can re-use the yarn in a fabulous new project? To answer this, it is useful to think about how the curl gets there in the first place.Yarn is spun under tension, meaning that when you buy that lovely ball of yarn, it’s a bit, well, tightly wound. When you knit or crochet with unwashed yarn, those little fibers will put all their heart and soul and wound-up energy into the shapes of your stitches. Leave the stitches in place for months or even years, and add a little blocking, and the stitches have relaxed into the curly shape of your stitches.

We knitters actually like this behavior, normally. We refer to yarn that can remember what shape you bend it into as yarn that has “memory.” Some types of yarn have more memory than others—wool, for example, has excellent memory; cotton, not so much. This is why wool sweaters keep their shape and cotton sweaters, again: not so much. However, once a yarn has been bent into lots of tiny knitted stitches and left to think about itself in a ziplock bag for months and months, all kinds of yarns, regardless of fiber content, Go Curly.

Have a ball, don’t make a mess.

The trick to resurrecting yarn from The Land of Curl is to give the yarn new memories, and break the hold of the old ones. Fortunately, this is easier to do than it sounds. Here’s how to give old yarn a new lease on life:

First and foremost: As you unravel the knitting, wind the yarn into a ball! Don’t get carried away by the fun of ripping out and end up with a pile of tangled, curly yarn. (You’ll thank me for this, really you will.)

After the ripping is done, wind the balled strings into a skein of yarn. If you have a niddy-noddy or a skein-winder, those are huge helps. If you don’t have either of those, you can use a friend’s hands, the back of a chair, or even a thickish book. Just don’t wrap too tightly—make sure you can slip the yarn off when you’re done winding it around and around.

Cap’n Frog and his curly mini-skein

Tie the skeins of yarn so they won’t tangle. I use scraps of white crochet cotton; some people use scraps of the yarn itself. Lay the skein flat so that it forms a circle; wrap a piece of scrap yarn around one side of the circle so it grabs all the yarn on that side, and tie a simple overhand or lark’s head knot in the scrap. Tie the skein LOOSELY in at least three places—four is better, two will do, but three is pretty safe. (If you pull the scrap yarn too tightly, you’ll just make more curly places in your yarn!)

Soak the skeins. Soak in enough lukewarm water to completely cover the skeins. (You can add a little bit of soap if you feel it is needed; if you do, be sure to give the yarn a couple of good cool-water rinses after it has soaked.) Soak for at least twenty minutes, long enough for the water to permeate all the fibers. Do not agitate or rub or mangle the skeins! If you have a small sink, like I do, then you may want to soak only one or two skeins at a time to minimize the chance of tangling.

Ahoy! A skein of straightened yarn!

GENTLY use a towel to pat/squeeze out excess moisture. I’m serious about the “gently” part, because you don’t want to damage the fibers or risk felting woolly yarns.

Hang the yarn skein to dry. Use a plastic hanger, and drape the skein around the neck of the hook; let it dry thoroughly out of direct sunlight. The weight of water and the yarn itself will straighten things out nicely. (Some folks even put little weights on their skeins as they hang to encourage the yarn to straighten its curls. Experiment and use your judgment with delicate yarns.)

Once the yarn is thoroughly dry (and I mean THOROUGHLY), it is ready for its next adventure!

You and your yarn deserve to enjoy your time together. You loved it enough once upon a time to spend money on it, right? If a project has lived too long in the dark of your UnFinished Objects bin, maybe it’s time to call Cap’n Frog and give your old love a new chance at delighting you.


Sandi Wiseheart is the editor of Knitting Daily.

What’s on Sandi’s needles? Cobwebs and witch hair and midnight clouds and ghosts of projects past…BOO! Happy Halloween!


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76 thoughts on “Organize Yarn After the Frog Pond

  1. Thank you, Sandi, for showing us how to uncurl curly yarn and “wash” it. My Gramma used to do this, but of all the knitting wisdom she taught me, she never taught me the art of resurrecting used yarn. I love this daily knitting email more than you know!
    Sue Smith,aka “Susiesosoft”

  2. My Granmma taught me to steam the yarn by pulling it in through the spout and out through the vent hole in the lid of a boiling teakettle. The water level must be low enough so the yarn doesn’t actually get wet. After pulling it through the steam, wind the yarn into a skein to dry well before rolling it into a ball. This has to be done carefully to avoid scalding oneself, but it works! I’ve done it with everything except chenille, and as soon as I get to working on that . . .

  3. Sandi, this was great. Now I won’t just start ripping when I do my first frogging. You know what I mean. I’ll be doing it right from the very first time. Thank you, thank you. And Happy Halloween! Also love Cap’n Frog~

  4. I am now inspired to frog a beautiful Rowan sweater that just wasn’t working out. It is a ribbed raglan worked in four pieces. I made some adjustments to the pattern in front and back, forgot to make similar changes to the sleeves, and the ribs don’t line up neatly anymore. Also, I knit it with positive ease and this design really needs negative ease. It’s been sitting in a basket making faces at me for a year and a half now, so it’s high time to deal with it.

  5. Ohhhhhh, thank you SO MUCH! I am almost finished frogging a double strand black wool boucle sweater, on the needles longer than I can remember, and this is just what I needed, right here and now!! Bless you! Love this Knitting Daily *~*

  6. Another great article. If a single butterfly can change the wind what will happen when all this frogging becomes beatiful wool once again.
    Cap’n Frog has a brother that lives on a computer monitor in my home…

  7. I did all of this just a couple weeks ago (I let the yarn soak for about 30 minutes), and slung my wonderful Oxo GoodGrips tongs over the bottom of the skein “loop” as it hung to dry. The weight of the water alone didn’t seem to be enough, but I didn’t want a lot of weight, either. The tongs gave just the right amount of weight.

  8. This is great and doesn’t seem too much to ask for lovely fresh straight yarn. My question is, what happens if you don’t straighten – I’ve often had to frog huge chunks of projects and have just reknit them without a problem. Is it a timing thingII’m wondering if something has been knit up for say less than a week, then it’s OK to frog and reknit, but longer term knitted stuff needs the bath and hang treatment?

  9. Here’s an easy way to get the water out of the yarn after washing it: put it in a salad-spinner and spin like mad. It will remove the water without felting the yarn. I use this for my spinning fiber and dyed yarn, and it works beautifully! Note: I have a salad spinner dedicated to yarn – don’t want fiber in my lettuce!

  10. Thanks for the information about freshening up frogged yarn. About a year ago, I frogged an entire sweater made of gorgeous cotton Shaeffer yarn — hated the way the sweater looked on me, LOVED the yarn. In any case, I took all of the steps that you suggested for reviving curly yarn (even putting a weight on the skein’s bottom while drying) — IT STILL ENDED UP BEING VERY CURLY!! I tried using it to knit a scarf, and it looked just awful. Any ideas?

  11. One of my friends swears she frogged felt and reused it. Though I have yet to see the sweater, is this possible? I have a lightly fulled item that begs to be frogged.

    Thank you!

  12. When I’ve frogged in the past, I only roll the yarn into balls. Leave them for a few days and then start knitting. Where does the wash and hang requirement come from?

  13. I had the opposite problem with some yarn recently – long ago, it had been wound into a hand-made ball by someone who pulled really tightly as she wound it. The yarn was stretched thin and was compacted. Problem was, I needed this ball to match the rest of the yarn for a UFO (sorry – Work In Progress). I used Sandy’s method to create a very loose, scrap-secured skein; then I supported it on a couple of wooden dowels (actually kitchen spoons) and held it over a steaming kettle, stopping occasionally to “fluff” and gently encourage the yarn back to its original dimensions. Then I gently draped it over a conical lampshade to avoid stressing it while it dried. Worked like a dream.

  14. Thanks for these last two articles. I’ve had the courage to frog 2 of my UFOs, & it is incredibly freeing! I’m excited about finishing the projects I really want to do, & I don’t feel guilty about the ones that just aren’t what I thought they’d be.
    As for the curly yarn…I’ve always reused it curly and never paid attention to how it affected the item. Now that you’ve enlightened us about blocking, et al, I will have a more discerning eye with my projects.
    Thanks for taking me to the next level in my knitting.

  15. Thanks for all the helpful info Sandi. I must say that I always find your posts informative, funny, and easily relatable. You’re doing a great job, keep it up!

  16. I had to frog the lovely tunic tanktop from Interweave Knits, Summer 2007. I, somehow, had cast on 30 fewer stitches than I was supposed to, and the tank would have been big enough for a 13-year-old with no boobs. I dont’ know if I handled my cotton/linen yarn well when I was frogging, but I wound up the yarn into center-pull balls. Now, in redoing the tank, the yarn isn’t so much curly as it is pilly and a little fuzzy looking. I’d like to recommend to other knitters to not try to wind cotton yarn tightly into center-pull balls, but instead leave them in longer hanks until ready to use. I think I was a bit too abusive with my yarn. ~Susan, Riverside, CA

  17. Even though I have been a knitter for many, many, many years, I still find useful info in your posts. Keep up the good work. I so enjoy reading Knitting Daily. Are you a writer, too? My son teaches creative writing and would give you an A+!!!

  18. I use my bent elbow and hand to create the skein, looping loosely of course so as not to stretch the yarn. Also and most importantly, I was taught by people who were knitting during WWII when wool was very hard to come by and therefore recycled often, to always wrap the yarn loosely around two or more fingers as you are creating the ball so as to be sure not to stretch the yarn. I realize that this may be lost information as I watched Carla Scott on Shay Pendray’s tv program busily wrapping cotton into a tight little ball without the benefit of fingers to keep the whole thing loose and easy. When I mentioned this in my knitting circle someone else who was taught by someone who was adult during the second World War said she had been told the same thing, always wrap the yarn around your hand then remove the fingers and turn the ball to wrap some more. If you want to recreate centre-pull balls, as the previous post calls them, just leave a long tail and be careful not to wrap the tail into the ball when winding.

  19. This is what my hair is like. Once it dries one way, the only way to get it to do anything but that is to go back to the start and wash it, and try again from there.

    Although I frogged some sock yarn the other day that had been a sock for about a month, and after about a week in the ball it was straight again.

  20. Instead of going to all the bother of soaking the yarn, wave the yarn in the steam from your kettle. In a minute or two the yarn will unkink completely and be ready to use.

  21. OK, let me split frogs,errr, hairs, hanks, skeins, balls. Found today’s Knitting Daily very helpful, except based on the photos, the “frogged” yarn should be made into hanks, not skeins. Am I thinking straight or am I making a mountain out of a mole hill? Many thanks for the many things I have learned from you. Mary B

  22. Question about the knitted crowns: is the information in Notes available? It was referred to in the instructions, but nothing labelled “notes” was in the email.

  23. Carefully holding a skein over a stream of steam from a teakettle works very well to relax kinks in wool (or mostly wool) yarn. It requires a bit more care, but considerably less time than blocking a wet skein.


  24. Another great topic and information. I was thinking about doing this to an old project and you answered all the questions I had. Also, THNAK YOU! for your wonderful posts. I enjoy reading them. It is as if you are talking to us and not just writing. Love your sense of humor.

  25. Thank you for the informative post. My question is: how do you go about taking a sweater knitted with Unspun yarn and take it to the frog pond? Can I frog and reuse uspun yarn?

  26. I have now successfully frogged that Rowan sweater, despite its best efforts to thwart me. First, it hid in a cupboard (I thought it was still on my desk where it had languished for over a year). As I was frogging, a sleeve leaped out of the basket and landed on top of the ball of yarn I was using for skein ties, completely hiding it from view. Of course, the partial sweater also sent out mental messages of “don’t frog me” to the emotional part of my brain.

    I won the battle, even though it was hard to rip out a sweater that was almost complete, flawed though it was. The yarn is now hanging above my laundry room sink awaiting its new fate.

    I must really like this yarn, since I spotted another sweater’s worth of it on my desk (it’s even the same color!). The other pile of yarn, as yet untouched, is a different dye lot, but so close as to be virtually indistinguishable. I’m thinking that a twin set might be the best use for all this yarn.

    Thanks, Sandi, for the knowhow and encouragement for doing what needed to be done for the good of the stash.

  27. I have a great alternative to your method. As I pull th eyarn from the knitted piece, I wind it gently onto a cookie cooling rack After the yarn is all on the rack, I soak it thoroughly, then tilt the rack in the sink to let it dry. Once it is dry, it’s easy to make it into center-pull balls. No kinks!

  28. If you have a carport, garage, or covered patio, or even an available shower stall, hanging the recycled yarn up dripping wet works really well. I even had some brand new hand spun yarn that was overplyed and this technique made it useable

  29. I am working on recycling a couple of consignment shop sweaters, and one of them was worn by someone who likes perfume – so the soaking with soap method seems like the better choice here, though for frogging UFOs, I can see how the steam method would work. You could also set your iron to steam and steam a hanging (dry) hank, dontcha think?

    I do have a question. As I’m unraveling this sweater into balls, the yarn (a yellow bulky wool – the label just says 100% wool, but it’s very soft, so I’m wondering what kind of wool it is) seems to have somewhat lost its twist. Is this going to be a problem as I knit it up again? I am thinking this would make such a cute hat and scarf, and maybe mittens if there’s enough.

  30. hello sandi and knitters daily,
    my mom did this so i did it with yarn given to me when i started to knit again. i just wanted to try to knit again and see how it went, if i had the patience…
    what i do is a bit different, i use warm water and a tiny it of wool liquid soap, soak, then rinse with cold water. now where it is different is i squeeze the water out extremely gently and all excess is out in a sec. after that i lay the two-tied skein flat on a cheese cloth on the heater (french chauffage) and by morning all skeins are ready to be wound into balls. i so love it how the yarn fluffs up, don’t you?! and it smells so good too.

  31. Another way to “de-kink” the yarn is after skeining to put into a colander over a pot of boiling water, and thoroughly steam the yarn. I find the benefit of this method is that it shortens th drying time.
    happy Knitting

  32. Being a past master of frogging and and accompanying de-kinking, at times I have found slinging runners over the bottom of the hank by their laces adds a little extra weight where needed.

  33. Thanks so much for teaching us how to recycle yarn we’ve fallen out of love with. I always wondered how to bring it back from the dead; now I know.
    Hmm, would that make it zombie yarn?
    Thanks for all you do!

  34. Thanks, Sandi, for this informative column. I have always made balls out of Frog Pond visitors, and wondered why they still were curly. You thoughts on straightening are news to me and very helpful
    Thanks, Lyda

  35. Splish! Splash! The yarns in the bath! I have several skiens of Rowan silk/wool DK waiting to de-kink. It was in the process of becoming a lovely sleeveless dress but reality hit me before I finished the project. I a woman of a certain age, I am a red hot flasher and wearing a wool/silk dress would be mad. I no longer wear pullovers indoors so a dress would be impossible. So in order to avoid possible charges of public indecency the dress went to the frog pond. Once the yarn is bathed and sleek again I will knit a nice long cardi.
    I usually unravel my project directly onto my swift , I save a bit of time for knitting that way.

    Ann in Montreal

  36. I *know* that one is supposed to flatten out the yarn after frogging, however…I am lazy.
    I frogged out a 20year old cardi that was complete except the last few inches of the last sleeve. Beautiful alpaca! Hated the sweater that I’d begun 20 years ago.
    So…I frogged it, balled it and knitted it. The curlies actually make the basketweave pattern more interesting. TMSAISTI

  37. Hi, was just wondering about the “folksy headbands” directions for the garter stitch band. When working in the round, shouldn’t you be purling all stitches? If you knit them (as the directions indicate by telling you to garter stitch, you will not have the garter stitch affect.

    Interested in thoughts. Maybe I did not get this correctly.

  38. I have loved this series on frogging…thank you! It has triggered a question for me that I am sure has an answer out there… When you decide a UFO actually is worthy to pick up and continue, how do you avoid a ‘bump’ or ‘ridge’ in your work where the poor UFO was left to linger on needles for too long?? Do you rip back and re-knit? … or do you proceed and hope that blocking will remedy? … or??? Thanks!

  39. I wrapped the wool around large preserving bottles and then pour almost boiling water into the jars. I put the lids on but not the rubber rings and wrapped the bottles around in several layers of paper or aluminium foil – paper is cheaper. Let it stay like this for a day or two. If it’s still a bit kinky:-) then just repeat the process. I have only had to repeat once – on a frogged item which had been knitted about 3 decades ago. Catherine

  40. Question…. Are you to wash your yarn before you start a project? If so, what is the procedure? I took up knitting and crocheting again, but I don’t remember anything about washing the yarn. Is it the same principle as when you quilt, washing the material before you star?

  41. I join the chorus of “thank you!” for a suggestion that is practical, useful, constructive, creative, etc., etc. I feel silly cheering about something everyone before me understands as a really good useful suggestion!Goldie.

  42. Hopefully your yarn isn’t in a tight ball when you start knitting – with wool that tightly stretched yarn will relax after it is knit and your gauge will change.
    Arlie K

  43. Your fix for taking the kinks out of frogged yarn is correct. But your explanation of how they got there is totally BOGUS. The kinks are the same as wrinkles in fabric. They happen under pressure, humidity or heat. It doesn’t have anything to do with the memory of the fiber. As you said, cotton fibers have very little memory. If what you said is true (about the knitted yarn relaxing after being wound in the ball), cotton yarn would kink very little but in fact, it kinks more than wool when knitted. And of course, the fix is to use humidity and/or pressure or heat to remove the kinks. However I don’t recommend weighting the skeins as someone suggested because this will stretch the yarn too much and your gauge will be off.

  44. I would ask if you have projects for us to knit that the photos be taken in a light colored yarn instead of purple, dark blue or black as there’s a problem of seeing the details.

    Edgewater, NM

  45. Ilove the Knitting Daily messages-the highlight if my day. What is frogging? I gether it means ripping-does FROG stand for something? My Aunt Kathleen who taught me how to sew taught me, ” As ye sew, so shall ye rip!”
    Wise and true words!
    Kathy Salter Charleston, SC

  46. I have tried this with Colinette Point Five. I used soup cans, however, as weights while the yarn dried. It worked very well, but now I need a new project for my Point Five!

  47. hello, I am Laurence from France and newly reader of your website. My mother showed me a different technic : I take an empty water plastic bottle, and wind tightly the yarn round it ; then I wet the yarn as if washing it and also fill the bottle with hot water. then put the yarn (still round the bottle) to sun to have it get dried : prefer doing it in summertime !! then make a ball with the dry and uncurled yarn.

  48. My red violet wool that was frogged, remained curly after soaking in warm water and hanging to dry. The steam over a pot of water relaxed it back to its uncurly state. Thanks all you crafty knitters who have lots of tips to share. Great community and great resource for all of us!!!

  49. Thank you, Sandi for encouraging me to frog 🙂

    I’m a really baby-knitter from Germany, teaching myself with your hints. Spended much money on 100% wool for a sweater for a close friend but due to hardly understanding the pattern it became an UFO. Though, my friend’s still waiting for her sweater. I now will try your hints and tips and I am also thankful for the comments here.
    Sometimes I am sad that the knitting scene in Germany seems to be not so evolved. I am always pushed back to use american instructions which is hard even if I use beginner patterns. I wished a lot you at Knittind Daily would offer advices not only for beginners but for dummies 😉
    Best wishes from Berlin/Germany

  50. To Ann in Montreal – saving time with this ripping process sounds great – what’s a SWIFT?

    To those who learned from WWII era knitters – I’m there! on wrapping the yarn over your fingers when making a ball – when I was about 5 yrs old, 50 yrs ago! I learned from my mom’s mom who was born in 1886 – I bet it goes back as far as balls of yarn… just sometimes skips a generation!

    To Lea in Germany – I need advice for dummies too 😉 On or you will be able to find wonderful books by Elizabeth Zimmerman – she is chatty and has a great sense of humor and teaches us how to “make our knitting BEHAVE.” She’s gone now, but has left us an incredible legacy in her books. *Also, we have a lot of yarn imported from Italy – I bet they know how to knit with it, and could help you. *Norwegians are FAMOUS for their skills and probably could give help. Interweave told a story about a Norwegian knitter who used teaching knitting as a cover to help Jew’s escape in WWII – the Nazi’s never suspected her – she was “just” a knitting teacher! *If I was dealing with your sweater dilemma, I think I’d use the wool to make my friend an elegant, versatile shawl (they are for dummies), and find help and cheap yarn! before I tried another sweater. All that shaping and counting is very complicated and beyond my ability to follow. I want success, NOT ripping/frogging with all that $ and time spent! I wish Knitting Daily would do a series on How To Follow A Pattern – I’ve asked for it, but got no response, so I guess they think it would be as useful as a series on How To Breathe… (In my opinion, most good knitters can’t remember how hard it was to understand patterns before they could understand patterns!) Best wishes from Oregon/USA if you’d like 🙂

  51. As I do the ripping, I do wind it into a ball, but that is as far as I have ever taken it. They set in my stash racks as balls of yarn. To be honest about it when ever I get skein of yarn, I always ball it as soon as I get home.
    Taking it to the next step as you describe, can you tell me the advantages of doing this. (other than cleaning it a bit.) I am not opposed to doing what you describe, but for me there needs to be a much bigger reason for doing so, and I have not seen it here. I know there must be one or you would not do it, so a little more detail please.
    Thanks, and by the way, I really love your writings, you are a true “word smith.”

  52. Hi I’m Donna and I like the info on bring back the yarn. My problem is more on blocking. I just made a beautiful scarf with the crocodile stitch. Maybe I’m too picky but some places don’t have the shape I have through out. Would soaking and then placing it flat set the yarn to stay in the shape I want?