The next step in the process is to give it a nice warm bath to get the yarn to relax back into a more amenable shape.
For this you will need:
- your skeins
- a wool wash (I used Soak, but Unicorn, Kookaburra, or even Synthrapol will work)
- a receptacle for soaking (I used a big soup pot, but have had great success with just the kitchen sink, or a dish tub)
- some relaxing music (for you, not the yarn...)
Step 1: Soap + Water = Suds!
You will want to put the soap and water into the receptacle first. My recommendation is to use warm water (not hot, though) so that the yarn will fully relax. Once that's done, test the temp. If you can't hold your hand in it, then your yarn will risk some bad juju (felting, tangling, etc...) Make sure there isn't a major temperature change between the way the yarn is now, and the bath itself.
Step 2: Everybody in the Pool!
When you first put the yarn in, much like any knitwear, it won't want to submerge. Be gentle. Gently push the yarn under until the bubbles of air stop being released. At this point in time, I like to put a weight on top, to make sure the yarn stays completely submerged. It's not necessary, but can make sure the yarn gets completely soaked and loosey-goosey.
In this case, I used a colander to weigh the yarn down, but anything that can get wet will work.
You will need to be patient while your yarn relaxes, as this can take longer than you'd think. I usually set a timer for about 20 minutes, then check on the yarn to see if the kinks are relaxing away. If not, top off with a little more warm water, and wait some more.
Now is a good time to catch up on some knitting videocasts (ahem. Round the Twist or The Knitgirllls) or catch up on some reading. This may take some time.
Step 4: Everybody Out Of The Pool!
Once the yarn is thoroughly wet, and thoroughly unkinked, you will need to evacuate it. Pick up each skein individually, and gently squeeze out the excess water, being careful not to rub (especially important with wool based yarns). As you get each out, place the squeezed ones into a towel or a dish tub, so that you will be able to move them all at once to your drying station.
Step 5: Nobody Knows How Dry I Am
This is a time where, if the yarns are strong enough (much like you would after bathing a handspun yarn you just finished) you can Thwack-To-Finish (this is otherwise known as a gentle tug in opposite directions to straighten it all out). Anything where there isn't much twist to begin with, just hang it dry. Some sources recommend that you weight the yarn to ensure the kinks don't come back. I have not seen a point to this, especially since some yarns will stretch even under their own weight. Use your judgement.
When choosing a place to hang your yarn to dry, you will want to look for a location that gets good air circulation (moldy yarn is a no-no),will not be molested by your pets (cats can be a particular issue when yarn is involved), and also a place where you won't ruin the carpet from drips. In my case, I just use the guest shower, and my drying rack, but hangers over the kitchen doorway, or even outside will work just as well.
Once your yarn is dry, it is ready for use. You can then choose to dye it a nifty color, or use it as is.
Congratulations! You are now a sweater recycling rock star! Now go unravel some sweaters and add to your stash!