You may remember Kool-Aid as the happy-go-lucky red pitcher sloshing around commercials of your childhood – or you may not be familiar with the beverage at all, but did you know you can use Kool-Aid powder packets to dye wool? Yes, I know, it’s ok if you need to sit down to process this news. Then you can read how my friend Suzi and I dyed both roving wool and knitting yarn with Kool-Aid magic using instructions from the Internet.
Dyeing Unspun Roving Wool
Before the dyeing started, we soaked the roving in tepid water for a few minutes then drained the tepid water and very gently wrung the wool of excess moisture. Having the wool already wet helps it absorb water more quickly so when it is added to the Kool-Aid bowl it knows what to do. Each section of roving was added to its own bowl with one packet of Kool-Aid and 1/4-cup of distilled white vinegar to help set the dye. We stirred very gently but throughly then microwaved for five minutes each.
After microwaving, the liquid in each bowl magically changed to clear! Right after removing from the microwave, each bowl was put under the sink facet with running cold water to lower the temperature of the wool and rinse. We then gently squeezed the excess water out and draped each roving length over a plastic coat hanger and hung in the shower to drip dry naturally. If you hang them anywhere other than a shower or tub, place towels or newspaper beneath to make sure no drippings stain the floor. The wool dried within 24 hours.
Suzi then spun it into a lightweight fingering yarn for me to knit myself a shawl.
Doesn’t it remind you of a tall glass of pink lemonade being sipped on the front lawn on a pleasant summer day? Ok, maybe that’s just me. What colors would you have used for your yarn if you dyed it and spun it?
But wait, there’s more! Read on to learn how we dyed spun knitting yarn with Kool-Aid.
Dyeing Knitting Yarn
I had two small hanks (a third is staying its natural color, for now) from the local yarn store, Vibes & Scribes, that were a natural oatmeal hue so we chose colors that would work with that instead of add to its browness. In the end, we opted to dye each hank a different color. We also added a small mini hank of natural ‘white’ Aran wool from Kerry Woolen Mills to each batch so we would have a true color sample to associate with the combination. We dyed three batches total and the results were a fun afternoon with deliciously colorful yarn.
We opted to use one and a half packets of cherry for one oatmeal hank and one packet grape and half of cherry for the other oatmeal hank. Knowing these would then be used together for a project, I took two teaspoons of the grape liquid and added it to one side of the cherry mixture then took two teaspoons of the cherry liquid and added it to the grape mixture. Each bowl then received 1/4-cup of distilled white vinegar to help set the dye. We stirred gently but throughly. Before all this we had soaked the yarn in tepid water for a few minutes then drained the tepid water and lightly wrung the yarn of excess moisture. Having the wool already wet helps it absorb water more quickly so when it is added to the Kool-Aid bowl it knows what to do. Each hank was added to its own bowl and microwaved for five minutes each. After microwaving, the liquid in each bowl magically changed to clear! Right after removing from the microwave, each bowl was put under the sink facet with running cold water to lower the temperature of the wool and rinse. We then draped each hank over a coat hanger and hung them over bowls (which rested atop layers of newspaper and old dishtowels) to make sure no drippings stained the floor. The wool was hung to dry in a well-ventilated room and dried within 24 hours.
It was so much fun, I grabbed a ball (turned it into a hank with Suzi’s infinite patience) of terra-cotta-hued wool that I wanted to give a punch of color and repeated the process with a packet of cherry and a packet of orange. Interestingly, using just cherry results in a pinkish red color, but using cherry and orange results in a bright orange hue. Dyeing the yarn was just as much for fun as for the resulting colors.
After dyeing but before winding with the sock yarn. Here’s the story of my photos… We took this yarn then paired it with this Zitron Trekking sock yarn for added color and visual depth (below). This is what the yarn looked like before I knitted it up. I dyed a second hank, paired it with the same sock yarn.
With the two doubled up cakes, I knitted garter stitches in stripes for a subtle color variation (final photo below), alternating between the two tones I custom-dyed. The scarf was a gift for my Mom.