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High Fiber—To Everything There Is a Season....

A time to be born and a time to...dye. At my place, summer is a good time to dye using the method I like best. The sun-tea method with Kool-Aid and food coloring.


I'm sort of a health nut, so this is the only purpose I ever put Kool-Aid to, but it's a good product for that. I started out with the instructions I found on Knitty


The instructions are mostly designed for top-of-the-stove or microwave, but being a health nut, I'm also concerned with using renewable energy when I can, so I use the sun-tea method, mentioned in passing in a small side bar in the Knitty article.



I have two sun-tea jars dedicated to dyeing. 


I made a lace shawl a few weeks back, using lace-weight yarn left over from the gown I made for Miss Daphne's naming ceremony, back in July, 2010.



I don't know what I was thinking when I calculated how much lace-weight yarn I would need, but after making the gown and bonnet, I ended up with about 500 gm of Knit Picks Bare Merino Wool Lace Weight yarn (now called "Shadow," like the predyed version), most of it already wound into "cakes."


I really enjoyed making the shawl, as well as wearing it, so I decided I needed to make more shawls, but not all in "Bare." The line of Bare yarns are designed to be dyed as well as knitted or crocheted up as-is, so....



Here's the finished yarn:



Here's how I did it. I had about 4 oz. to dye, including one of the cakes and what was left over from the shawl. The instructions said to use one packet of "dye" (Kool-Aid) to one ounce of yarn, so I used four packets: two cherry and two orange. I added a few drops of black food coloring to grey-down the color a bit. I soaked the yarn in some warm water with a few drops of mild dish soap while I mixed the dye bath in my sun-tea jar. You don't need to add vinegar to the water you mix your dye in, as the drink mix is pretty acid, so I just used warm water. (No sugar, of course!) I added the yarn and more warm water to cover, and put it out in the sun. About an hour later, the dye bath was clear (exhausted), so I knew it was ready. I wanted the kettle-dyed look, so I didn't turn the yarn over during the dyeing process. The pups and I went on a hike instead.


Because I didn't turn the yarn over and open up the hanks of yarn during the process, the dye bath didn't reach all of it. The effect is nice in the finished yarn, though. It came out lighter in some places and darker in others.


If you want a yarn that's consistently the same color all over, you will need to open up the yarn and turn it several times during the dyeing process. Use tongs or rubber gloves for this, or you'll be wearing your dye for a while. (Your skin qualifies as an animal fiber for the purposes of this project.) This is because to dye with Kool-aid, the yarn has to be all or mostly animal fiber, although nylon will dye nicely. (My sweater dryer, made of nylon net and a PVC frame, has dye spots on it from previous projects.) Cotton won't take up this dye. This is why you want to be sure you are wearing old clothes you don't care about or 100% cotton fabrics. A cotton apron in a dark color (just in case) over your clothes is perfect. Since wool comes from an animal, it's perfect for dyeing with Kool-Aid, and my yarn is 100% Merino wool.



I rinsed the yarn in water close to the same temperature as the temperature of the dye bath and handled it gently, so the yarn wouldn't felt/full. I put vinegar in the first rinse and then Kookaburra Wool Wash in the last rinse. One disadvantage of dyeing with Kool-Aid is the lingering scent of (phony) cherry and/or orange, which eventually goes away. Neither is my favorite scent. The Wool Wash and vinegar seemed to take care of that problem, although in the past I've had to smell it all the time I was knitting the project.


Since I still had lots of leftover yarn and more hours of daylight, I decided to try tea dyeing. I found instructions here.


I used pretty much the same method except I didn't worry about getting my hands in the "dye bath." I was careful not to spill on cotton clothes, though, as tea will stain cotton, which means you can use this method to dye cotton.


For this batch, I used eight black tea bags in hot tap water. I poured in a couple of tablespoons of white vinegar, just in case. Very old tea works just as well as fresh tea, so this is a good use for tea that is past its prime. I was looking for a light color, so I didn't leave it in too long, but kept checking every 15 minutes or so. I don't think the tea dye bath "exhausts," but I'll have to experiment and report back in a later blog post.


You can get different colors from herbal and green tea, so it's fun to experiment with. Heres what I ended up with:


The original yarn (I still have more to dye), is on the left, and the tea-dyed yarn, on the right. Now I have yarn for two lace shawls and they aren't "Bare" anymore. For me, the hardest part came at the beginning and the end. because I had already wound up my yarn and didn't want the kind of regular pattern you can get from just putting your cake of yarn into the dye in a dish, I had to get out my knitty-noddy (which my wonderful DH made for me out of PVC pipe) and rewind it into hanks. Since it was lace yarn, this took for-ev-er! Then when I went to wind my yarn into a cake again after it was dry, the yarn kept flying off the ball winder. I finally got out a new TP sleeve to fit over the shaft of the ball winder, bent the bottom edge in so it wouldn't slip, and had no further problems, other than it still took for-ev-er even when it worked correctly. 


I was happy with the result and look forward to dyeing the last of the leftover lace-weight yarn on another nice day.


On almost any sunny day in the summertime, you can hear me paraphrase the famous Klingon battle cry: "Today is a good day to dye."


Note: This blog post was produced on the iPad and the MacBook, using the iPhone for some photos and some photo processing. No other computer was used in any stage of composition or posting, and no Windows were opened, waited for, cleaned or broken. No animals were harmed during the production of this blog post.


Watch for my regular blog, returning July 27th.



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Comment by Ally Bryant on July 18, 2015 at 4:19pm
Thanks for the information on what you can use Kool Aid on.
Also just read your tip about posting photo from your IPad will have to try that. Thanks Peggy.
Comment by Peggy Stuart on July 14, 2015 at 2:30pm
Aida: tie dye?
Comment by AidaCJ/NH on July 14, 2015 at 1:40pm

Interesting!  I learned the hard way the Kool Aid can be used as a dye.  I bought some packets with the intention of making drinks for the kids, but I left the paper bag they were in on a laundry basket outside on the porch, on top of some shirts that I intended to hang out to dry. That afternoon we had a heavy downpour; the following day I realized what I had done, went to pick up the shirts, and what were supposed to be white shirts became a motley of red, orange and blue mess. Did I tell you they were my shirts?

Comment by Barb/WI on July 13, 2015 at 5:44pm

Love the yarns!  Very interesting, so glad you shared this.

Comment by Peggy Stuart on July 13, 2015 at 3:20pm
Ally, KoolAid won't dye cotton, only protein fibers and some synthetics, such as nylon. It's a drink mix.
Carol Ann, LOL!
Donalma, you can post from your iPad. You either have to use the Puffin app as your browser or type in this link:

Then replace the XX with the link to your photo (which you've uploaded to this website or some other that lets you copy a link to the photo). I keep a copy of the coding in my "Notes" app to use when I want, so I don't have to type it in every time.

Comment by donalma shoust on July 13, 2015 at 2:06pm
Peggy,are you posting photos right from your iPad?I can't figure out how to do that.
Comment by Donna Sykes on July 13, 2015 at 2:05pm

Very interesting process. Love the color you ended up with.

Comment by Carol Ann Hinton on July 13, 2015 at 1:33pm

When I was a kid, my sister and I used to steal the unsweetened Kool-Aid packets out of the cupboard and take them out to our hide-away place behind the barn, then pour them into the palms of our hands and lick them up straight!  Mother always found out;  do ya' think maybe it was our purple and red-stained fingers and tongues (for days!) that gave us away??  

I can see using the Kool-Aid powder as a yarn dye!  Thanks for the instructions.

Comment by Ally Bryant on July 13, 2015 at 11:09am
Wow. Cool aid never heard of it but must try it but I guess you need the sun and heat.
Great results. Can you do fabric this way?
Comment by Rebecca Sundberg on July 13, 2015 at 10:09am

Really like the soft tone of the tea-dyed skein.  That will make a beautiful shawl.  And I had no idea that a person could dye with Kool-Aid.  This was a very informative blog post.  Thank you.

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