July 2004

Dyeing with Kool-Aid

Have you tried dyeing yarn? It sounds scary doesn't it? Personally I always preferred leaving this job to professionals and just enjoy the fruit of their labor, until a friend introduced me to dyeing with Kool-Aid. Yes, I am talking about Kool-Aid, the non-carbonated soft drink that comes in powder form. I finally overcame my fear and tried it. It is lots of fun and very rewarding. The best part is that kids can participate in the process, especially that there is no toxic chemical involved. If there is a youngster in your life that likes to learn knitting, give them a chance to dye the yarn in their favorite color. This will help them to be more enthusiastic about their knitting.

Here is my set of instructions for dyeing with Kool-Aid.

  1. Kool-Aid dyeing only works on protein products such as wool or silk. It does not work on plant based products such as cotton, or petroleum based products like acrylic.

  2. If the yarn comes in balls or skeins make it into a hank and loosely tie it with waste yarn in different places so it would not tangle. Make sure not to tie the waste yarn too tight, as the dye will not penetrate those spots.

  3. Place the yarn in hot, but not boiling water for about 30 minutes.

  4. In the mean time make your dye bath by dissolving Kool-Aid in three parts water to one part white vinegar in a stainless steel or undamaged enamel pot. Make sure the amount of water is enough for the hank to immerse in it completely.

  5. Place the pot on the stove and warm it up to about boiling.

  6. Using a spatula take the yarn out of hot water. Squeeze out excess water.

  7. Submerge the yarn into the dye bath. If the yarn is not submerged add more water and let it simmer until the dye bath turns clear or milky white depending on the color you are using. This process may need simmering for about 45 minutes. During this time turn the yarn over in water a few times so all parts get the same amount of dye.

  8. Turn off the stove and let the solution cool off until it would not burn your hands.

  9. Wash the yarn in water that is the same temperature as the dye bath using a mild detergent or dish washing liquid.

  10. Rinse yarn until the water is clear.

  11. If your washing machine allows use of the spin cycle without the wash, place the yarn in a sweater bag and let the machine spin out the excess water.

  12. Hang the yarn to air dry.
Different ways of exposing the yarn to the dye bath can result in different effects such as tie-dyed or variegated. For small amounts of yarn (less than 3.5 Oz., 100 g), you may use microwave oven instead of the stove top.

Be aware that the yarn color may not turn out to be the same as the Kool-Aid. Search for "Kool-Aid dyeing" on the internet. There are sites that will show you the color you will get with each color of Kool-Aid. You can also use a mix of different Kool-Aid colors to come up with exotic new color for your yarn. Enjoy Kool-Aid dyeing. It opens a new world to you.

Nazanin S. Fard

Needlecraft University

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