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…
- knitty tutorial
- thepiper.com tutorial
- another tutorial with photos of yarn spun with dyed roving
- star’s tutorial on kool-aid dyeing in a microwave
- craftster has many threads relating to kool-aid dyeing
- a great color chart with each color shown on both white and grey yarn
- google “kool-aid dye” to find tonnns more!
- and, a tutorial on dyeing with food coloring to give you more color options
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!
and that final biggest hank was enough yarn to make into a 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:
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.
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!