Fun with Kool-Aid!
Google Image, KoolAid Logo
It’s been a while since my last blog… I’ve been knitting, designing knits, and I’ve also been making my very own homespun yarn! I can’t express the SATISFACTION that I get as a crafty person/crocheter/knitter… that comes along with taking a bag of wool or other fiber (not the kind you eat), and then turning that fiber into something I can then knit or crochet with! Not only does it create a beautiful finished product, but the process of spinning itself is just as therapeutic and meditative as knitting or crocheting (and I find myself doing almost EVERY DAY!). So, you can guess that along with learning to spin my own yarn… I also wanted to learn to DYE my own yarn! It’s like opening a whole new Pandora’s Box of creativity for me right now, and I just can’t seem to stop!
You do not have to be a YARN SPINNER to dye your own yarn too, and there are a number of methods you can use to dye ROVING/WOOL or YARN as well (NATURAL dyes, CHEMICAL dyes (procion) for non animal fibers, or KoolAid and other ACID DYES for animal fibers). Today I am going to be discussing the Kool-Aid specific method of acid dying for yarn and roving, as well as providing links to other ways you can use Kool-Aid in your crafts at home.
Kool-Aid Colors, google image search
What will Kool-Aid dye work with? Kool-Aid is an acid dye (it contains CITRIC ACID so you don’t need to add any vinegar or acid unless you want to) so it works great on PROTEIN FIBERS. Protein fibers include animal fibers (wool, alpaca, cashmere, silk, angora, etc). If you don’t want your fiber to FELT you should use a SUPERWASH fiber (like superwash merino) or take extra precaution to not agitate your fiber, as well as cool it properly before rinsing. You can also use any commercial yarn that will accept an acid dye (un-dyed protein based). I was able to dye cotton which is NOT a protein fiber, however, I purchased it treated to be able to accept non-chemical dyes (and I only mention it because I used it in my tutorial here, treated cotton will work the same as a protein fiber).
What are the PRO’s of Kool-Aid Dye? Kool-Aid is a food item so it is also NON-TOXIC! Not only will you be able to use your pots/pans after dying with it, but if you have sensitive skin or are making something for a baby, Kool-Aid is the ideal dye to use. There are a lot of VIBRANT COLORS available to use, and… Kool-Aid is pretty INEXPENSIVE (at about 10 to 20 cents a pouch, which goes a long way). It also works pretty quickly, does not bleed if exhausted properly, and leaves your yarn smelling pretty tasty for a while after you dye!
What are the CON’s of Kool-Aid Dye? Honestly, not many. The only con’s I can think of are that it only works on protein fiber or treated fiber (so it will not work on things like untreated cotton, bamboo, flax, hemp, acrylic, and other non-animal items); as well as the fact that you are sort of limited in the colors you can create with KoolAid (creating neutral tones would not be ideal). Other than that I love Kool-Aid dye and highly recommend using it!
What do I need to get started?
- Protein based yarn, roving, or felt. (Or, a non-protein fiber that is specially treated to be dyed).
- Some large pots and pans (if you wish to immerse your fiber in a boiling pan). This is ideal for dying yarn a single color, and I would recommend using a fiber that will not felt easily. For this method I used a superwash merino roving. You will also want something to stir the yarn or roving with (gently), like a plastic spoon or stick.
- If you wish to HAND PAINT your yarn or roving you will need plastic wrap, some squirt bottles or a turkey baster to pour the dye with (I did not have these, so I carefully poured with spouted measuring cups), and you will need a large microwave-safe dish.
- Measuring cups to mix your Kool-Aid in
- Gloves (be sure to wear them throughout the entire process of both methods so that you do not dye your hands)
- Don’t forget the packets of unsweetened Kool-Aid (you can also add vinegar or citric acid to the mix, but this is not even necessary. Some believe it makes the dye more vibrant, I don’t really think it makes a difference).
Immersion Dying: Like mentioned, this method works best for dying yarn a solid or semi solid color. You will also want to use a yarn that will not felt easily, or you should take extra precaution to not agitate (mix it up too much) the yarn/wool… as well as be sure to cool the wool entirely before you rinse it (and you will want to rinse in a water that is the same temperature as your wool when you are done). Here are the basic STEPS:
- Rinse your yarn/roving in lukewarm water.
- Mix the desired amount of Kool-Aid with water in each pan you plan to use. Try to use enough water to cover your yarn when you immerse it. If you want a vibrant color use more than one packet of Kool-Aid, if you want a lighter color use one packet or less. It works best to mix the Kool-Aid up in the water before you immerse your yarn/roving.
- Immerse your yarn/roving into the dye pot (you can use the plastic spoon/stick to push the yarn down or GENTLY stir).
- Slowly bring the pot to just starting to boil, remove heat, cover and let it sit for 20-30 minutes.
Pink Lemonade flavor
- Check if the dye has EXHAUSTED (gently lift up the yarn or roving… if the remaining water in the pot is clear, then your dye has exhausted… meaning all of the color is now in your yarn/fiber). If the dye has not exhausted, you will want to gently heat it a little longer until all of the dye takes up.
- Cool your yarn/fiber as much as possible, and then rinse it in water of the same temperature.
- Once you have rinsed your yarn, gently squeeze it to remove excess water (DO NOT TWIST or WRING). If the yarn/fiber is still pretty wet, you can place it inside of a folded towel and step on the towel to remove excess water.
- Hang your yarn/fiber to dry! It’s that easy!
Hand-painted Dying: This method works great for adding multiple or variegated colors to your yarn.
- Mix desired colors of Kool-Aid (with some water, I didn’t do exact measurements… maybe 1/2 a cup) separately in measuring cups. Remember to use more than one packet for vibrant colors, and 1 or less for very light colors.
Colors shown are Orange, Lemonade, and Pink Lemonade
- Rinse your yarn/fiber in lukewarm water and gently squeeze to remove excess water (do not twist or wring).
- Lay out a couple of sheets of plastic wrap on your counter top or flat surface (being sure to leave no open spaces for the dye to run through).
- Arrange your yarn or roving on the plastic wrap (you will want to go in a back and forth pattern and should try to keep the ends semi close together… even touching).
- Pour your Kool-Aid colors into separate squeeze bottles, or use a turkey baster to apply colors to the yarn/fiber. I did not have these, so I just poured carefully from my measuring cups.
- Apply the colors to your yarn/fiber in any design or pattern that you like. You do not need to soak the yarn or fiber in the dye… it will spread considerably when you microwave it.
Do not soak the yarn or roving, you will notice how much it spreads when removed from the microwave!
- Once your colors are applied, gently push on the yarn and fiber to help the yarn soak up more dye. (You will really need gloves at this point).
- Wrap up your yarn/fiber in the plastic wrap that you placed it on.
- Place wrapped yarn inside of a microwave safe dish.
This is another batch, I did not get a picture of the orange/pink/yellow in the dish (sorry)
- Microwave for 2-5 minutes (depending on how much yarn/fiber you used… it doesn’t take long).
See how beautifully the color spread out?! Love it!
- Let the yarn cool, remove plastic wrap and then gently rinse yarn (being careful again to use water of the same temperature and not twisting/wringing your yarn). You can also use the towel method described in the immersion method to remove excess water. Then you can hang the yarn/fiber out to dry.
I had so much fun dying my roving with Kool-Aid, making yarn, and then knitting stuff up with my awesome yarn! Here are just a few of my yarns and projects I made!
My boys named this yarn Unicorn Poop
I made up the pattern for these Fingerless Mitts with the Unicorn Poop
Some cherry, pink lemonade and white cotton
This is the orange, pink, and yellow handpainted cotton discussed above
Here are some additional resources for dying with Kool-Aid!