Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Kool-Aide Yarn Dye

Hello all!
This semester has been a busy one, and it isn't showing any signs of slowing for at least another month! I am blogging where and I can and props to Marquette for keeping the show running while I am running around like a chicken with my head cut off haha She rocks!
I will happily be back to blogging three days a week when the semester ends :) Hallelujah!
You know what else rocks?! Kool-Aide :)
Nothing says summer is here more than a big glass of cold Kool-Aide and a Kool-Aide mustache to go with :)
Willow sent this to us the other day from when she was in our neck of the woods (Yay New Mexico!) and I have to say I think people are very creative! Check it out!
The Original
This fun technique of dying wool yarn to (emphasis on wool, this won't work on cotton), involves concentrated Kool-Aide ice cubes and heat from the sun, for a full tutorial go here.

Willow saw this and then happened upon some wool yarn at a gift shop here in NM, when she tried this technique it didn't work out quite the same for her.
Here are some of the steps used for this technique.
First you create your ice cubes, then place them on your white wool in a glass dish.

Next you set it in the sun, and the cubes melt and the yarn soaks up the colors! Fun!
If you are trying this during the colder months, one blog tried this technique but instead of setting them in the sun, she tried a wood burning stove, and her oven (ingenious!) you can find her blog here.

This is how the second bloggers (wood burning stove/oven technique) yarn turned out:

Now our reader Willow tried this and hers didn't take so well, here is her story"
"So, on my way back to New Mexico from my Grand Canyon trip, my new hubby and I decided to stop in all of those cheesy "Authentic Indian" tourist traps along the highway.  Imagine my surprise when I came across several skeins of nice, undyed, hand spun wool tucked back in the corner of one. Nice!  And cheap too. As a knitter and crocheter, I couldn't resist.  So, of course I bought them all (6 skeins).
In the back of my mind, I remembered this little gem that I've always wanted to try but haven't been able to for various reasons.  Now I could! Yay! So I went to the store and bought tons of Kool-aid packets and the next day I went to work freezing Kool-aid. 
I used the same ratio of Kool-aid to water that the original blog suggested. But I wasn't sure how long to soak the yarn in vinegar and water, because it doesn't really say, so I did that for about fifteen minutes. I placed the ice cubes based on the pictures in the pin.
 Of course, the weather was unseasonably cold the next day, so I couldn't set my wool outside for the ice cubes to melt so...I put them in the oven at 275 covered in aluminum foil. Now, based on the second post by the original blog I "baked" the yarn for about half an hour then turned them over and put them back in the oven for another half an hour until the water in the bottom was clear.
 I dyed them all together because I wanted to use all six of them in the same project. The grape didn't take at all, neither did the orange... But the pinks and reds did. Not a complete failure, but not the blended, smooth colors of the original pin or the Dark Blue Dragon blog either.  Mine came out spotty, not variegated. I know that I can re-dye it later, but I'm going to see how it knits up."
Here are her results, I think it looks like spaghetti!!

The Pinstrosity

So how do we fix this?!
There are a few things that come to mind, to start with Willow mentioned that she didn't know how long to soak them in vinegar because it doesn't say, but the original blogger did say to soak them for 30 minutes in the vinegar solution before you do anything else (Pinstrosity PSA, when DIY-ing, please read ALL directions before starting anything, that is the number one thing we see read read!!!) . This may have had a small part in this Pinstrosity but I don't think it is the main culprit here...
Another thing is that perhaps if Willow bought on off brand of Kool-Aide that may have had something to do with it, but she didn't say so I can't be sure.
One might wonder as well that perhaps the yarn wasn't 100% wool. You never know when someone could put fillers in there, and I am willing to bet there wasn't a fancy label on the skeins either that told you exactly what was in there, the original blog specifically states that this DOES NOT WORK on cotton yarn.
The main thing I think went wrong here is that her dye didn't really spread (did her ice cubes melt funny for some odd reason?!), and perhaps her wool didn't get hot enough. The original blog says that if when you are rinsing the yarn out at the end if you see ANY color running out to stop and let it continue to soak in the sun/oven. I am wondering if her yarn just didn't soak up enough?!
I am calling on you Pinstrosipeeps!
All my crocheters and knitters out there, this is an SOS! What can we do to help Willow, anyone have any other ideas as to what is needed to make this Pinstrosity a Pin Win?!
Let us know! I am sure Willow would be more than happy to hear your two cents and help us figure this one out!
Happy Wednesday Pinstrosipeeps!


  1. You do NEED vinegar or some sort of acid to make the dye stay. I'm not positive, but I think heat helps dye set better too.

    Also, you'd have to make sure you have enough dye in each of the icecubes. If it's so watered down, it won't dye hardly at all.

    I've done kool-aid dyeing before, but in a crockpot and it turned out awesome, this is the tutorial I used.

  2. My mom dyes with kool aid all the time and it always turns out beautiful. Here is a link to a tutorial that most resembles my mom's method: I actually think this way is easier--not having to mess with freezing the dye. I mean this would be cool for kids I suppose, but I think the traditional method is more effective.

    The tips you suggested (especially using real wool) are good, but one thing I thought of is that not enough dye cubes were used, so it wasn't even possible for the dye to spread to most of the fibers. Also, when my mom dyes with kool aid, the yarn sits in the dye for days, making sure the yarn takes the dye.

    Good luck!

  3. I've done yarn dying, and kool-aid dying (not via ice cubes), and I have a couple thoughts:

    1) I'm thinking Willow needs to have a higher ice/yarn ratio - I think the spotty-ness is where there wasn't enough kool-aid on the yarn, so it didn't stick. (The picture on the stove looks like there is almost more ice than yarn, which feels right)

    2) I've heard that off brands don't stick as well. Also, not all colors of Kool-Aid work as well as others.

    3) I'd resoak the yarn in vinegar, lay it on plastic wrap, soak it in Kool-Aid, seal up the plastic wrap with the yarn inside, and put it in the microwave for a while. (minutes, 3? 5? until nice and hot), then let it cool and rinse. Microwave/KoolAid dying also works well :-)

  4. Also... Kool-Aid dying won't work on acrylic, or on super wash wool...

  5. I have a fiber farm & dye our wool, mohair, etc. all the time. I also go into many schools as artist in residence & we dye exclusively with KoolAid there as I doubt they'd appreciate my toxic stinky dyes that I use at the farm ;-)

    Just some thoughts:
    I never use vinegar as KoolAid is plenty acidic on its own. The wool, however, must be soaked long enough in water to be fully saturated in order to take the dye well.

    I don't recall seeing how you mix your KoolAid that you make the ice cubes out of but when I KoolAid dye I put an envelope of powder into about a cup of water. Seems your ice cubes may not have had enough dye in them. Also, the size of the ice cube/amount of water available to help spread the dye seems small.

    I buy KoolAid, Wylers & store brands & all work fine.

    Next time skip the ice cube jazz - put your wetted yarn in a large pan on top of the stove, bring the whole thing up to heat where it is just starting to steam & then pour on spoonfuls of KoolAid mixed strong. If your yarn is hot enough the dye should strike as soon as you pour it on. Give it a minute & then pour on dabs of another color. This can be a fun way to get a variegated yarn.

    You can also take your wetted skein, lay it out on a piece of cellophane, squirt, paint or dabble different colors along the skein, wrap it up tightly & steam in a pot on the stove for 15 to 20 minutes. Turn off the heat & let it set until it is back to room temperature. Rinse gently in lukewarm water & hang to dry.

    Although professional dyes are a much better choice if you want to do much dyeing, KoolAid can be fun & does not ruin your pots & utensils. It has proven to be a lightfast & washfast dye.

  6. I dyed 100% wool last year with kool-aid and it turned out great. I followed blogger Hey Jen Renee's instructions here:

    She set the color by microwaving it, not using solar or wood heat.

    For some, like the lemonade, the color wasn't bright enough, and didn't cover all the yarn, so I had to re-soak with another packet and microwave it a second time. All in all, I think it turned out great.

  7. I've never done the ice cube trick but I've dyed quite a bit of yarn with Kool-Aid.
    I usually soak my yarn in a solution with vinegar while I'm prepping everything else. I started off using and kind of improvised as I went.

    As far as making it a pin-win in the future, making sure your yarn is actually wool is kind of important (although I've gotten some great pastels in the past.)
    It's important to note that different colors 'strike' differently, with red being the first to absorb. I've never had a problem with orange but grape is somewhat dilute and needs 2x the packets of the reds. It's also a grayish purple so I usually supplement with food coloring.

    There's a really helpful group on Ravelry called "What A Kool Way to Dye" that is really helpful as well.

  8. I ran this by my fellow KoolAid dyers on the group "What a Kool Way to Dye". Since the blue and orange didn't take at all, the wool probably didn't get hot enough. The yarn needs to reach 170-180 degrees and be kept at that temperature for 20 minutes for the color to chemically bond to the wool. (One of the original posters mentions they used a thermometer to check the yarn's temp).

    In the first skein from an original post, you can see there is actually quite a bit of white left in that yarn. It's the way it's been wound up into a skein that makes it look so variegated.

    As far as brand of Kool Aid, it shouldn't matter. Many people are able to find success with generic brands.

    Fiber content probably didn't play a role in this case, as far as I can tell.

  9. How the yarn was processed could also affect it.

    I had a sweater (commercially-made) whose tag swore it was 100% wool. It finally got to stretched out of shape and awful to wear, so I thought I'd felt it. Sucker wouldn't felt. I can't prove it, but I'm reasonably sure that the yarn, while 100% wool, was treated with something to prevent felting in the almost-inevitable event that the purchaser ignored the "dry clean only" instructions.

    1. Washable wool is totally a thing. I get it all the time for my knitting projects. There's a few ways to make it, but the most common is an acid bath.

      If your sweater is made from superwash, you MAY get some felting if you wash it in the hottest, longest cycle, then dry it on the longest, hottest cycle. That can usually undo the superwash, though it make take a few goes.

  10. My friend has used koolaid to colour wool but just as a single colour.

  11. Shout out to New Mexico! Do you live there or just from NM?

    1. Yay, NM! I live here. Moved out here last year (2012), but the hubby is from ABQ.

  12. Kool aid dyeing is all about the microwave. The ice cube method looks like a bizarre waste of effort.

  13. Hmmm... I've not had any issues dying yarn with Kool aid ice cubes. I generally soak my yarn overnight in the vinegar solution (I do this with no matter what I'm using to dye the yarn). But I also extract most of the water before adding the kool aid. I also make the kool aid mix very strong for intense colors....seriously, I have been known to use 8 packages of lemonade, to get a great yellow color (smells right delicious also). I don't just put the ice cubes on top of the yarn, I also put it under and in the middle to make sure that I am getting color on all sides. It kinda looks like the poster did not use enough cubes. Also, using solar energy to dye yarn is a slow process. I put my yarn out early in the morning and don't get it back in until after the sun sets. If I still see any runs, I'll pop it int the microwave for a few cycles. Hope some of this helps.

    Here are some pics of my ice cube dyed yarns.

  14. Thanks, everyone, for your helpful advice. So, next time I try this... soak it longer and heat it more. Gotcha! Lesson learned. These skeins are knitting up pretty nicely. I'm calling it "Strawberry Shortcake". ^_^


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