Have your kids made Kool-aid and have you noticed that their mouth or hands turn an interesting shade of color? Well, Kool-aid can be used for more than just a summertime drink. Kool-Aid can be used to dye any animal fiber such as pure wool, dog hair, angora rabbit or mohair. It is relatively safe (as we drink it), easy to use and can be purchased at any grocery store.
Dyeing with Kool-Aid can be done in your kitchen, though this is not recommended. If you are using commercial dyes, do try to set up a separate dye space. Dyes are not safe to use around food preparation areas. During the summer, I do my dye projects outside. I use a 2 burner electric hotplate.
Do not use pots or cooking utensils that will be used in your kitchen. For small dye projects, I have purchased a set of stainless steel mixing bowls, though any small pots will do.
For this project, I wanted to see what types of colors would result using Kool-Aid (the unsweetened kind). Using about 2 ounces of 2 ply natural white wool, I wound off about 15 sample hanks. To wind a hank, holding the yarn in the palm of your hand, wrap it around your elbow and back up. Wrap it around approximately 10 times and tie the bundle off.
Before dyeing, the yarn must be clean and free of wool grease or other contaminants. Soak the samples in warm water with a bit of soap added. I use Dawn dishwashing liquid as I find that it does a fine job of cleaning wool. Rinse the wool thoroughly to remove any soap residue.
I used one package each of Lemonade (yellow), Kiwi-Lime (lime green), Pink Swimmingo (pink), and Grape (purple). Kool-Aid dyes can be set by using heat and acid. I put about 2 cups of warm water into each of 4 stainless steel mixing bowls and added about a teaspoon of vinegar along with the Kool-Aid. I heated the water to almost boiling.
I put one sample skein into each of the 4 pots and let them simmer. When a pot started to get too hot, I would remove it from the heat and put one of the other pots onto the burner. It took a few minutes for the yarn to begin to absorb the dye. Yarn colour is not influenced by the amount of water in a pot but by the amount of dye substance. The dye in the Lemonade pot was exhausted with just one sample skein. All that was left was clear water. So I continued on with the other 3 pots of dye.
I removed the first set of skeins from the pots and then placed all of the remaining skeins into the dye pots and let them simmer. After a few minutes I removed 2 skeins from each pot, squeezed out the excess water and placed them into the other 2 pots of dye. That is, I took 2 skeins from the Lemon-Lime pot and put them into the Grape and Pink Swimmingo. Similarly, I took 2 from the other pots and moved them as well. A few minutes later, I moved the samples from pot to pot again. Soon, the pink dye bath was exhausted, so I left the remaining samples in the Grape pot to simmer.
For this type of dye to be heat set, the yarn needs to be heated for about 20 minutes. I placed the samples into a steamer on top of the dye pot and let them steam. Then I rinsed the samples in soapy water and let dry.
Although Kool-aid dyes don’t give as strong colours as commercial dyes, the colours were still quite lovely and the faint odour of Kool-Aid still remains.
Linda found that Kool-aid dyes can be bright and colourful as she spun the wool on a drop spindle and Navajo-plied the yarn to keep the colours pure.
Books – Dyes and Colour
Color by Accident: Low-Water Immersion Dyeing
The Yarn Lover’s Guide to Hand Dyeing: Beautiful Color and Simple Knits
Yarns to Dye For
Hand Dyeing Yarn and Fleece: Custom-Color Your Favorite Fibers with Dip-Dyeing, Hand-Painting, Tie-Dyeing, and Other Creative Techniques
Yarn Works: How to Spin, Dye, and Knit Your Own Yarn
Tie-Dye: Dye It, Wear It, Share It
Prepared to Dye: Dyeing Techniques for Fiber Artists
Last Updated on March 22, 2021 by Paivi Suomi