May 25, 2007

multi-colored custom yarn with kool-aid, part 1!

Update 2/25/2010: I’m doing a new dyeing tutorial, and decided I’ve learned so much and changed my methods over the years that I should edit these old posts a bit, so the basics here are original, but some minor details are changed…

ok here i go, my first blog tutorial! it’s gonna be a two-parter, about dyeing yarn with kool-aid, just my personal methods. i do plan to devote a few pages of do stuff! issue #2 to kool-aid dyeing, but that won’t be released till probably late fall (thanks to the upcoming move and all). i learned to dye yarn by reading a bunch of different online and book/zine tutorials, and kind of combining bits of each to form my own techniques, so i’d recommend the same to everyone else wanting to learn. the more knowledge and advice you have going into it, the better your results should be, right? so here are a few sites to get you started, then i’ll tell you about my methods…

in the last few months i’ve been experimenting quite a bit, learning from my (many) mistakes, trial and error… i started out dyeing over some brown yarn and green yarn i already had lying around, then bought a skein of off-white wool to play with colors. i divided that one skein into 3 hanks, one small, then a little bigger, and bigger, so i could start with the smallest and hope by the time i got to the biggest i would be able to get what i wanted. and it worked!

kool-aid dyed yarn! kool-aid dyed yarn!

and that final biggest hank was enough yarn to make into a hat!

#6 earflap dyed yarn hat earflap dyed yarn hat

so, i’m gonna tell you how i got that color variegation, because it took me many tries to perfect my techniques. first things first – you’ll need: some wool or wool+other animal fiber blend (like angora, alpaca, cashmere… if there’s a small percentage of nylon or other non-natural fiber, it’ll be ok) yarn (this example is 100% wool) wound into a hank and tied in a few spots (not too loose, not too tight) with contrasting yarn (i use acrylic so it won’t end up the same color – cotton is best), a big pot, a stove, a colander, a spoon, a cup to mix kool-aid in, kool-aid of course, and a sink.

first, fill the pot about halfway with hot tap water, and submerge the yarn in it (use as much water as needed to cover the yarn), let it soak for about a half hour so the yarn absorbs the water. while it’s soaking, you can mix your kool-aid colors. use very little water (a couple inches) for each color. choose colors that will blend together nicely (be careful with complimentary colors) because even though you’ll try to keep them separate, they will blend in spots. you can dip a piece of white paper towel/napkin in to test the color, but you won’t know exactly how it’s gonna turn out until you see the final yarn (so if it’s important to get exactly the right shades, you’ll have to test-dye small yarn samples).  you can also skip this step and pour the kool-aid powder directly into the dye pot.

after the yarn is soaked, pour most of the water out – hold the yarn in the pot with a spoon and drain all the excess so the remaining water is not quite covering the yarn, but close. this is the key to getting the variegated colors with minimal blending. the more water in the pot, the more the colors will float and travel and blend… now, start heating up your yarn pot. you want it to lightly simmer, or not even quite simmer, and definitely not boil! with too much agitation and/or temperature change, the yarn will felt and be ruined, so always keep an eye on the water to keep it hot, but not too hot.

ok after turning on the heat, you can pour in your colors. slowly and carefully pour the little kool-aid batches in towards the edges of the pot, evenly spaced – when you pour at the edges, the colors will bleed in to the center (if you pour too close to the center, they will bleed together too much). after being poured in, once the colors have already started bleeding into the middle, it should look something like this:

my sixth batch

just keep it at a simmer for about a half hour, until you see that the color is all in the yarn, not the water. the water might get cloudy (sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t), but you can tell when the color is gone.  once that happens, turn off the heat and let it sit a bit longer, which will help the dye really soak in and be colorfast.  then pour the water out through the colander, carefully dumping the yarn into it, and let it cool to room temperature.  rinse it a bit with equal temperature water (rinsing with a drastically different temperature water can felt the yarn!).  (letting it cool before rinsing also helps with colorfastness.)

now squeeze the water out, but don’t ring or twist it. i like to squeeze as much water as possible out by rolling up the wet yarn in a beach towel and stepping on it, then it doesn’t drip when i hang it. hang it to dry overnight either on your shower head, shower curtain rod, or on a hanger in a doorway.

from off-white yarn

when it’s all dry, wind it into a ball and you’re ready to use it! yay!

part 2 will be a more complex method i’ve come up with for many-colored self striping yarn, and there will be tons of pictures accompanying that post! soon!

Filed under: general crafts,lots of links,tutorials,yarn — leethal @ 11:11 am
  • http://craftsofdestiny.blogspot.com Elizabeth

    That color combo for your hat is super cool. I love this blog. I keep returning to it to check it out since I found it the other day. I am tagging you, the details are on my blog. If you don’t have time for it, don’t worry about it. Have an awesome day and thanks for having a cool blog.

  • http://g-girl-knittingadventures.blogspot.com/ rhoda

    hi-followed the link from the craftzine blog! your yarn looks cool. thanks for the tutorial!

  • http://g-girl-knittingadventures.blogspot.com rhoda

    hi-followed the link from the craftzine blog! your yarn looks cool. thanks for the tutorial!

  • Mel

    I dreamed of color combos like this. Thanks for the information on how to do it. You did a great job. I also followed the link from craftzine.

  • Mel

    I dreamed of color combos like this. Thanks for the information on how to do it. You did a great job. I also followed the link from craftzine.

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  • Anne

    This is so cool. You are cool. creative. Thanks for sharing yourself with us :-)

    Anne in Australia

  • Anne

    This is so cool. You are cool. creative. Thanks for sharing yourself with us :-)

    Anne in Australia

  • http://www.offthehooks.etsy.com/ Ashley

    This is so great, thank you!
    I tried my first skein today and it turned out beautiful AND it smells good!
    Just wondering, how has the colorfastness held up? I wonder what would happen if you felted it, would some of the dye wash out?

    Ashley

  • http://www.offthehooks.etsy.com Ashley

    This is so great, thank you!
    I tried my first skein today and it turned out beautiful AND it smells good!
    Just wondering, how has the colorfastness held up? I wonder what would happen if you felted it, would some of the dye wash out?

    Ashley

  • http://swallowcliffs.blogspot.com/ Carol

    I am working on a red, orange, and yellow combination RIGHT NOW. I am sending you this comment while I wait for the approx. half hour in the pan…Kool-aid hot, Kool-aid cold, Kool-aid in the pot- 30 minutes old. I know I am gonna love the colors. I do repeat the Question Ashley asks….how is the colorfastness of this method?
    Carol

  • http://swallowcliffs.blogspot.com/ Carol

    I am working on a red, orange, and yellow combination RIGHT NOW. I am sending you this comment while I wait for the approx. half hour in the pan…Kool-aid hot, Kool-aid cold, Kool-aid in the pot- 30 minutes old. I know I am gonna love the colors. I do repeat the Question Ashley asks….how is the colorfastness of this method?
    Carol

  • http://www.leethal.net/ leethal

    to answer both Ashley and Carol: i have not seen any fading on any yarn i’ve dyed. i started dyeing almost a year and a half ago, so my oldest dyed things are that old and are still super vibrant. i’ve handwashed things with little bleeding and no visible fading. i’ve machine washed a pair of mitts made with dyed superwash wool a couple times with no fading. i have not yet tried felting anything, but based on everything i mentioned, i really doubt you’d see any fading. when i wash yarn spun from regular acid-dyed fiber, i still get major bleeding, so any bleeding happening with kool-aid dye doesn’t worry me, as long as i don’t notice the color fading, which i don’t. so judging only by what i’ve done/seen personally, kool-aid dyeing seems to be very colorfast!!

  • http://www.leethal.net leethal

    to answer both Ashley and Carol: i have not seen any fading on any yarn i’ve dyed. i started dyeing almost a year and a half ago, so my oldest dyed things are that old and are still super vibrant. i’ve handwashed things with little bleeding and no visible fading. i’ve machine washed a pair of mitts made with dyed superwash wool a couple times with no fading. i have not yet tried felting anything, but based on everything i mentioned, i really doubt you’d see any fading. when i wash yarn spun from regular acid-dyed fiber, i still get major bleeding, so any bleeding happening with kool-aid dye doesn’t worry me, as long as i don’t notice the color fading, which i don’t. so judging only by what i’ve done/seen personally, kool-aid dyeing seems to be very colorfast!!

  • Zaz

    see me on ravelry as Zaz.
    i was sent kool aid all the way from the US as it’s not sold in france. i had read the knitty explanations on how to do it and also their colorwheel (i call it that). i remembered i had done this with watercolor tubes at school (the color mixing spectrum part with complimentary colors).
    it turned out you canot dye cotton with it (i did experiments with scraps) of different yarn compositions using the same color.
    i will look you up on ravelry i suppose it’s Leethal.
    i like your funky colors all over your website :D

  • Zaz

    see me on ravelry as Zaz.
    i was sent kool aid all the way from the US as it’s not sold in france. i had read the knitty explanations on how to do it and also their colorwheel (i call it that). i remembered i had done this with watercolor tubes at school (the color mixing spectrum part with complimentary colors).
    it turned out you canot dye cotton with it (i did experiments with scraps) of different yarn compositions using the same color.
    i will look you up on ravelry i suppose it’s Leethal.
    i like your funky colors all over your website :D

  • Jessica

    Do you pour the kool-aid in when it is hot or when you turn on the heat? Very good tutorial!

  • http://Ravlery-jflowers Jessica

    Do you pour the kool-aid in when it is hot or when you turn on the heat? Very good tutorial!

  • gfelted

    Great Tutorial!
    How permanent are kool aid colors? Aren’t they pretty fugitive and wash out easily?
    Gerry

  • gfelted

    Great Tutorial!
    How permanent are kool aid colors? Aren’t they pretty fugitive and wash out easily?
    Gerry

  • http://craftsofdestiny.blogspot.com/ Elizabeth

    That color combo for your hat is super cool. I love this blog. I keep returning to it to check it out since I found it the other day. I am tagging you, the details are on my blog. If you don't have time for it, don't worry about it. Have an awesome day and thanks for having a cool blog.

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  • Beth

    when I was 12, I dyed a strip of my hair with red kool-aid. It was awesome and DID NOT wash out (because I did it in a very similar way to this!) My mom had a hissy though!:) what a good idea to do it with yarn!

  • Malusalazar72

    I HAVE A QUESTION. DO 100% COTTON DYE AS WELL AS WOOL?

  • http://www.leethal.net/ Lee

    nope, only animal fibers. plant fibers (like cotton, bamboo, hemp, etc) dye differently.

  • http://estherlovesknitting.blogspot.com/ Esther E Carr

    Hey. I used yut tutorial tonight, and it really helped me! :) pictures are here:

    http://estherlovesknitting.blogspot.com/2011/03/dyeing-recucled-sweater-yarn-with-kool.html

    Thank you so much for posting this and being so inspiring. I might trade you something for something, sometime. I’ll just need to make something extra-cool. :) Take care! -Esther

  • Holynarf

    I’ve done this a couple of times now with fantastic results. Thank you for the instructions!

  • http://www.facebook.com/SimplySanityCreations Cheryl Doebler

    When set properly, they are very colorfast, but only on animal fibers

  • Emily

    Found you on pinterest and have been wanting to do this forever but didn’t want to spend loads of money on animal fiber yarn, (it can get pricey as you probably know). A.C.Moore finally had 100% wool yarn made by Patons. I can’t wait to try it!!!

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