Sunday, May 6, 2007

Kool-Aid Dyeing Experiment Number 1

[Warning: picture-heavy post. Apologies to those on dial up.]

I've been wanting to try Kool-Aid Dyeing for a while now. I've never dyed anything before (except tie-dye t-shirts in the 70s), and since I love hand-dyed yarns, it seems a natural. I toyed with the idea of jumping straight to acid dyes, but it's more expensive, messier, and a bit more complicated, and besides, I love the smell of Kool-Aid in the morning.

Friday, when my younger son got home from school (the seven-year-old knitter who can always be counted on to help out with an art project), we went to the grocery store and bought every red or purple flavor they had. Then, following the instructions in the Knitty tutorial on Kool-Aid dyeing, we:

1. Prepared our yarn.

My son's is Patons Classic Wool, already in a ball, so we had to unwind it into a skein for dyeing. He doesn't seem to mind.

Then I tied the skein to keep it together for dyeing.

My skein (on the right) is fingering weight raw silk. Don't worry--it's been in the stash for a couple of years, and there are three more just like it. If I screw it up, it's not a big loss.

2. Then, while the yarn soaked in the sink (no picture; you know what that looks like), we prepared our pots for steaming:

3. And then mixed our Kool-Aid and prepared our work surface. All those baby medicine droppers are pretty handy.

4. Finally, we got to move on to the fun part. (Yeah, sorry about the picture. My hands were wet and I had to prevail upon my nine-year-old to take it.) I love variegated yarns, so we decided to do hand-painting, instead of the simpler solid color method.

5. Once the yarn was saturated with the Kool-Aid, we put it in the pots to steam.

This is the silk:

This is the wool:

The wool turned out much paler than the silk. The colors look almost pastel on the wool, and fairly bright on the silk. All of the colors are darker than they appear in the pictures. Evidently, steam interferes with digital camera colors.

6. After about 45 minutes, we took the yarn out and rinsed it gently in lukewarm water. And here's where things got a little snarly. The wool rinsed out perfectly, no bleeding, and looked lovely. The silk, however, bled, and bled, and bled. The instruction say to rinse it "thoroughly." I rinsed it so thoroughly that most of the color rinsed out with it. I guess the color didn't set properly during the steaming process, either because the silk doesn't take Kool-Aid colors as easily as wool, or because I did something wrong (what are the chances?). So I decided to overdye it using the stovetop method. I mixed up more Kool-Aid in a pot, put in the silk, brought the whole thing almost to a boil, and let it sit for an hour. Then I took out the silk, let it cool, and rinsed it. This time, it still bled, but not as much, and I decided to let it dry and see how it looked. It's now a "nearly solid" shade I'm thinking of as "mixed berry." It's okay; not great. I'll show you a picture if it ever finishes drying. My son's, on the other hand, is beautiful:

The actual color is a bit less orangey; more of a berry-pink, but this shows the variegation pretty well. I found that the colors blended together and mellowed a lot more than I expected, probably because I wasn't particularly careful to keep them from running together during any of the stages, including the steam-setting. The yarn went in the pot striped, but came out blended. Very interesting result.

Here's what I learned from this attempt:

1. Use more Kool-Aid. Although I followed the prescribed "one packet per ounce of yarn," this does not appear to be enough, at least for hand painting. If you were to just dye the yarn in a bath of Kool-Aid, you would probably get a darker color for the same amount of Kool-Aid.

2. If you use the stovetop-steaming method, be sure that the level of the water in the pot is BELOW the level of the steamer basket. Otherwise, you boil the yarn and wash out the color. Ask me how I know.

3. Not everyone likes the smell of Kool-Aid.

4. Even fewer people like the smell of yarn cooking on the stove.

5. Wet raw silk smells like wet tea, and takes days to dry. (Some people have a problem with this.)

5. Do not splash in the Kool-Aid when you get bored. (This rule applies more to the younger set, admittedly, but it's still good advice.)

6. In case you were wondering, Kool-Aid stains. That's why you can use it as dye. Duh.

7. Wear gloves. I cannot stress this enough. Wear. Gloves. And maybe an apron. And a mask.

8. Wool is easier to dye than raw silk. In the future, I will probably stick with wool for this method of dyeing.

9. The results are sort of unpredictable, which makes the process really interesting, but it might be hard to duplicate a particular color or blend.

10. It's really fun! If you are at all interested, you should definitely give it a try. It was much more exciting than I expected.


sophanne said...

o.k. so my favorite part of this post is picture of young son with missing teeth. Choosing in my life not to have children, I just realized, but what if they like projects?!!?!?!?? I know- not necessarily the reason to make that big decision. I may have to look to borrow a kid to try the dyeing.

It looks and sounds like great fun.I'm not ready yet but I know that I will eventually venture into that world.

Anonymous said...

Wow, the yarn looks great. And your son looks like he had an excellent time!