Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Kool Way to Dye

I did it!  I dyed yarn for the first time, and I love it!  I'm really very excited (in case you couldn't tell).  It was relatively simple, and the results are beautiful.  I've had a lot of emails already asking about my process, so to make life simple, I'll post the details here.  My pictures do not show the colors quite as vibrantly as they really are.

Are there websites or instructions out there?  I wish I had great answers for you. I really don’t. I fudged my way through it.  I searched on YouTube for microwave dyeing yarn with Koolaid. A few videos came up and most of them were other people fudging there way through it too. There was no great formula. There are a couple of methods.

This is what worked best for me:
  1. I presoaked my 100% wool in lukewarm water with about 1/4 cup vinegar for 1 hour in large microwavable bowl. Squeeze most of the water out after soaking.
  2. I put 2 packets of each color I liked into a glass mason jar - I used pints and quarts - doesn’t matter. Added lukewarm water to each jar to about 3/4 full plus about 2 tablespoons vinegar - for good measure. Stirred well. I put the jars next to the sink on a crappy old “I don’t care if it stains” towel. I advise having it next to or even in the sink so you can easily transfer the whole project into the sink for step 6.
  3. I carefully stuffed a section of yarn into each. Yes, there was unexposed yarn that carried over the tops to the next jar - it’s ok.
  4. I topped off each jar to just under the screw bands with more lukewarm water and snuck a spoon down in to just stir up a little. (Rinse spoon after each jar to avoid color transfer.)
  5. Let it soak - a long time (30-40 min). Really. Be patient. Walk away. Go knit/crochet. Most people/videos will tell you not to do anything until the dye is exhausted (completely soaked in and the water is clear), but I think 2 packets may have been A LOT of dye, cuz mine never did and I dyed the next batch in the same jars. Do what you feel. The dye will soak up into the carry-overs from jar to jar. At about 1/2 soaking time (15-20 min) I shifted the yarn slightly out of one jar and more into another to help the dye bleed into the carry-over - you may choose to leave it natural. You may choose to finish all steps, then go back and dye just those sections in strong contrast. This is a very creative process. There are no rules, which is why there are no steadfast instructions.
  6. When the dye has “taken” and you are satisfied with the color depth, transfer jars into sink. Take one dipped end out at a time, laying the yarn in the sink and removing the jar from your work space. When yarn is lying in sink, press water out. Rinse with lukewarm water 2-3 times squeezing out water/dye until mostly clear.
  7. Put yarn back into first large microwavable bowl with enough lukewarm water to cover yarn. Microwave on high for 6 minutes. Let cool to room temp. Transfer to sink, drain, rinse again. This time there should be NO dye runoff. If there is, repeat this step. Otherwise, sqeeze as much water out as you can and hang outside or in shower to dry. Done. Fantastico!

Hints:  Be patient. You’ll be really bummed if it felts. Mine didn’t. I think this method is pretty safe as long as you don’t ring the yarn out, just squeeze and press the water out.

Use gloves. I turned my hands BRIGHT pink. IF you should happen to dye your hands, it is good to know that cheap shampoo will get the dye out. Take a shower and wash your hair lavishly and your hands will return to normal in short order.

The vinegar will help the dye soak into and set in the yarn. You don’t have to go nuts with it or even measure. Just add some. White vinegar. Not any other.

Some of the Kool Aid reds mix up in the jars dramatically different, but seem to dye about the same. I used Orange, Cherry and Jamaican Punch for my project. Jamaican looks darker than it comes out. The purples (Grape and Black Cherry) come out kinda grey and crappy. If you want purple go with food coloring. I’ve read a lot of complaints about how hard it is to get good purple.

I hope this helps you. Do it. Go for it. The worst thing that can happen is you’ll felt it or hate your colors. Before you decide you hate the colors, wind it back into a ball and swatch it. I made one small skein that was total Clown Barf - wanted to throw it out. Even over-dyed it. In the end, I wound it into a ball and decided, albeit a little pinker than I’d like, it really was still pretty cool.

If you have dyed wool with Kool Aid or food colors, please let me know how yours came out or if you do anything differently. I’m always open to new ideas and suggestions.

O, also, there is a group on Ravelry dedicated to this: What a Kool Way to Dye  If you aren't yet on Ravelry, really, give it a try.  It's FREE & FUN!