Thursday, May 3, 2012

I didn't drink the Kool Aid.

 Today I crossed something off my knitting bucket list. Back around January I bought a skein of bare Dye For Me "Happy Feet" yarn with the intention of taking kool aid to it.  (Just for the record, it's 90% merino wool & 10% nylon.)  It has sat in my yarn basket since then, but today I decided to get it together and try out yarn dyeing.

I didn't want it to turn out a solid color, so to prep it, I divided the 440 yards into 5 small skeins.  Then I gave them a little twist so the dye would have some trouble getting into the areas in the cracks.  By the way, I never cut the yarn while dividing it into small skeins - you can see the little strings that connect the skeins to each other so I'll still have one unbroken skein when all is said & done.

Next, I filled a bowl with water & a bit of Eucalin wool wash and let the yarn soak in there while I prepared the dye bath. 
The dyeing was actually super-easy.  I started by dissolving 2 packets of kool aid in a bowl of water.  (The formula I found on-line was 1 packet per ounce of yarn if you want "saturated color".  I had about 4.5 ounces, so my goal was to use 5 packets worth of dye on the darkest little skeins.)  The amount of water isn't significant at all.  Just use as much as you need to cover the yarn.

Anyway, I started by putting all 5 wee skeins in the dye bath. The yarn soaked up the dye so fast that by the time I grabbed my camera and took this picture, the water was already clear again.
So, I wrung out all 5 skeins and put them in the blue bowl while I dissolved another packet of kool aid in the clear bowl's water.  I left one little skein in the blue bowl and put the other 4 back in the dye.

Slurp.  The yarn loved it!

Everybody got out of the pool once more while I dissolved the last two packets in the water.  This time only 2 small skeins got to take another swim.

When all 5 packets of pink lemonade kool aid were used up, I untwisted one of the skeins just to see what was going on in the middle.  It was a little too un-dyed for my taste, so I dissolved two extra packets into the water and untwisted the skeins.  I put them loose (still tied into loops, but just not twisted up) into the last dye bath.  It tinted most of the yarn at least a teeny bit pink, but if I had bought more kool aid packets, I probably would have used a couple more in this last dye bath. 

Anyway, on to the next step.  I plucked those puppies out of the water and squeezed out the excess water, then laid them out side-by-side on a piece of plastic wrap.  I rolled the yarn into a little jelly roll shape to get it ready for steaming. 

While I was doing the plastic wrap thing, I had a spaghetti pot filled with about 8 cups of water starting to boil on the stovetop.  Once my yarn was wrapped in plastic, I put it in my steamer pan inside the spaghetti pot, covered it with a lid, and turned the heat down to low.

I left it there to steam for 30 minutes, flipping it over at the halfway mark.

Once the time was up, I unwrapped the yarn (use potholders or gloves, folks!) and put it in a bowl, then put the whole thing in the fridge to cool because I'm impatient.  After my shower & morning routine was over, it was cool enough to lay out with with my bare hands.  I pinned down the loops on my blocking table in the basement and aimed a big fan at the whole thing because (once again) I'm impatient.  At last check, it was almost dry, so I may be able to get a picture of the finished skein up before the end of the night!

If you want to dye yarn:

Time: Real work, about a half hour.  The rest is "do something quickly then leave it" type of stuff.

Difficulty: Can you boil water?  If yes, you'll be fine.

What you should know: Next time I do this, I probably won't twist up my skeins to begin with.  It left spots of the yarn a little too bare for my taste.  But if you want a skein with major differences in color saturation, you may like the look the twisting gives you.

Hardest part: I believe it will be undoing the 5 tied off loops I have and putting them back into one skein or ball.  It actually was pretty easy to make the skeins to prepare the yarn, but I've already tried untangling one of the loops and I think it's going to be significantly more difficult this time around.  If I was using a yarn swift for this project that might have made it quite a bit easier!


  1. I drank the Kool-Aid... ;)
    Natalie posted your blog recently on FB, so I wanted to stop by, since it clearly seems the yarn craftiness is in the family (though I'm not blogging much about it or anything lately). I did a similar tutorial awhile back on dyeing in my crockpot. Thought I'd share it.

  2. Another benefit - your yarn can be marketed as Scratch N Sniff! Mostly kidding, but I am curious to know if any of the kool-aid scent lingers. Does the steaming step lock in the color so that it doesn't wash out eventually?

  3. It definitely has a bit of a scent right now, but it's pretty subtle. If I don't stick my nose directly into the skein of yarn I don't really smell it. I bet that after a couple washings, the scent will be gone. And yes, I think the heat makes the color "stick" so whatever you knit out of this can be washed without fear that it'll go back to being white.

  4. Hey there, Teryn - thanks for posting your link!

    I'm glad you stopped by :)

  5. Very cool project. Next time u do this I want to try too!

  6. Get your white yarn ready, Sarah - I'm planning another dye session soon!

  7. I saved some Kool-aid coupons for you! :)

  8. Wow - I think I only paid 10 cents a packet. What kind of coupon discount do they offer for something that only costs a dime??

  9. I cant find Kool Aid here ! Can i be your neigbhour ?

  10. I wonder if there's something similar at your stores. Maybe just look for "drink mixes"? The reason Kool Aid works so well is that it already has the citric acid included. Just make sure there's an acid in your drink mix, and it may work just as well!