In a coffee shop in April 2012, I sat with Jill Everest, a local yarn artist. Jill is an avid knitter and can do circles around the typical knitter with her skills. I hadn’t seen her in two years and when we spoke this time, she was just dyeing to share a secret.
Jill pulled up pictures on her Blackberry and her already amazing creations were in the most stunning colors I had seen in a long time. Proudly, she admitted she’s been playing with Kool-Aid and using it to dye her yarn.
Jill shared with me inside information about the process of dyeing with Kool-Aid. I had obvious questions including: How does the dye not bleed? In this article, I will show you how I went about the process and I will share my findings.
I used a package of Kool-Aid Tropical Fruit Punch (seen above). I did 3 separate processes in only 1 Dye Bath. It’s not the lighting of the photo that made the ball farthest to the right look blotchy and lighter. By simply continuing to use the same dye bath, the next dye lot became lighter. By the end of the final 4th ball, the water was clear with no more visible dye.
Why Bother to Dye?
In recent postings to Facebook, a few viewers asked me why I would bother to do this in the first place. Viewers commented that I am spending more money and wasting time than buying the yarn already done. So I have two responses.
- Because I Can! Are you not sick and tired of always seeing the same yarn colors on the shelves? What if your project was done in colors that blew people’s minds. Get outside of the box and do something different.
- Yes… it’s cheaper to buy the yarn already dyed but you can’t use that logic with creativity. It’s like saying to me that I can buy a blanket at Wal-Mart for $9.99. If I crochet an afghan it will cost $60. You can’t compare it because the $60 afghan is more likely going to be freak’n awesome and unique compared to a $9.99 blanket.
Basic Starting Tips:
- The Kool-Aid packages require you to add sugar when making them to drink. You do not add sugar when dyeing yarn.
- You will need 1 Package of Kool-Aid for every 1 ounce of yarn. The skein of yarn in the picture above is 3.5 oz. I only used 1 package for the entire process and dyed the yarn in three separate processes.
- Substituting with other drink mixes will work, however, the sugar inside those pre-blended power mixes are not required and could impact the final vibrant results of what Kool-Aid offers.
- Wear old clothing when doing the dye bath and manipulation of the dye soaked yarn.
- Be patient and let the dye do the work.
- Dye will stain other objects. Be careful not to splatter the dye. When pulling yarn out of the dye bath, do so in an area where you are not concerned about your floor or surrounding objects. I removed my yarn out of the pot outside and hung it outside to dry.
- The dye doesn’t work for all yarn materials. I will list some suggestions in the next section below.
- If you pre-soak your yarn in water before the dye process, the yarn is already wet and will absorb the dye differently. It is your choice to pre-soak the yarn or put it into the dye bath dry.
- The dye actually soaks into the yarn. After a while, you will be left with clear water because the dye has been absorbed into the yarn.
- The dye will not bleed if you follow the right directions for setting it afterwards.
To Dye or Not Dye:
- Kool-Aid dyeing only works on natural fibres. This includes animal fibres such as wool, alpaca, and more.
- It will not work on those acrylic yarns we are used to seeing on store shelves. It will not work on cotton or synthetic blends.
- You can dye yarns that are blended. For example, if dyeing a skein of 70% Acrylic and 30% Wool, the wool is the part of the yarn and it will take to the dye.
Prepare Your Yarn:
- If using a skein as seen above, unwind some yarn onto your arms (as shown below) or use a yarn swift.
- When you get enough yarn, simply cut it. Lay the yarn on a flat surface so you can see the yarn in a circle.
- Cut three smaller lengths of yarn about 6″ to 8″ long. You will use those strands to tie up the yarn and prevent it from tangling.
- Using 1 smaller length of yarn, tie it into a knot around the end.
- Ensure the knot is loose so you can cut it afterwards without having to accidentally cut into your yarn.
- These loose knot strings are used to hang up your yarn when letting it cool after the dyeing process.
- Repeat with another knot by shifting 1/3 rd away around the circle.
- Repeat again with the final knot.
- You should end up with three tied sections. This prevents the string from tangling.
- It is recommended that you wash your yarn before use. Hand wash yarn quickly with a mild detergent and rinse thoroughly. Let the yarn soak in water while your prepare your Kool-Aid Dye Bath.
- Do not add vinegar. The Kool-Aid Dye Mix is acidic enough to penetrate the fibres.
- You will need 1 Kool-Aid package for every ounce of yarn to maintain the strong vibrant colours.
- Using warm tap water in a large pot, put on top of the stove.
- Pour in the Kool-Aid. You don’t need to use the entire package. Use less to make different shades of the colors. Stir pot until all powder is dissolved.
- Place your yarn inside the pot and stir enough to ensure the yarn is submersed.
- Turn on stove and bring water to a near boil. As soon as you seen some bubbles, turn the stove off and let the pot sit on the burner for another 1/2 hour. If there isn’t a lot of dye mix, the water will turn clear as the dye absorbs into the yarn. If there is too much dye, the colour will weaken in the pot but not turn clear.
- Take the pot outside or to your safe area to pull out yarn. The water may be hot, so use caution. Hang your yarn on a clothes line to cool down. Spread two of the tied loops apart and attach them to the clothes line. At the end, after washing, this same hanging process is what I used to allow it to dry quickly. Do not place yarn in dryer.
How to Set Your Colour Permanently
- Once your yarn has cooled down, wash it lightly with warm water and mild detergent. Be careful not to felt the yarn by being aggressive or by surprising the yarn with cold temperatures. Rinse throughly.
- Excessive dye will bleed out during this process.
- This process should keep the yarn from bleeding when washing your projects in the future.
- Hang to dry.
If you want yarn that is blotchy and unpredictable, this step is for you. I lightly dropped my yarn into the pot and allowed it to sink as it wanted to without me forcing it under the water. This way the dye and water naturally soaked into the yarn. The process created the most interesting and artistic affects without the yarn looking uniform or transitioning in colors.
You can also twist up the yarn and secure it with a string to prevent the insides from getting as much dye. This also creates an interesting effect.
Or you can also mix different Kool-Aid pouches together to create new colors. Be careful to watch your blends as muddy brown is the typical color acheived when too much dye is added to any color.
Good Luck and don’t get addicted.
PS… your yarn will smell of Kool-Aid when you are done!