You don’t need to wear a mask or use toxic chemicals to experiment with dyeing. Simply pick a few packets of any standard powdered drink mix and let your imagination run wild.
Because the process is quick and safe, it’s a great project for kids. It also provides a great excuse to have friends over. The invitation could read, “I’m dyeing to see you!”
Here’s what you’ll need to get started:
Color: Kool Aid or any other concentrated powdered beverage mix works fine. Just make sure you use the unsweetened type. You can find a comprehensive chart of Kool Aid colors at DyeYourYarn.com.
Fiber: You need to use protein fiber for this type of dying. Wool, silk, and mohair work especially well. I’ve had great success with Brown Sheep yarns.
Large Pot: Generally speaking, a stainless steel or enamel pot works best. Normally you won’t mix your dye pot with cooking pots, simply because of the toxic materials you’ll be using. In this case, however, it’s safe to use any cooking pot.
Heat Source: In order for the color to absorb fully, the yarns need to simmer on the stovetop for several minutes.
Water: Purists use distilled water for best results. That’s because the presence of too many minerals will impact the resulting color. Iron, for example, will dull dyes. For this experiment, tap water should be fine.
Gloves and Stirrer: Gloves aren’t exactly necessary since you’re using nontoxic dyes. If you don’t want your hands to be tinted with color for a day or so, you’ll want to wear gloves. You’ll also need something to stir the fibers so that the color distributes evenly. Any normal spoon should do fine.
Vinegar: This is optional and serves as a mordant to help make the dyes more colorfast. Make sure the vinegar is basic white vinegar.
Step 1 Wet the yarn in lukewarm water. This causes the fibers to swell and absorb color more readily. If possible, soak the yarn for at least 20 minutes.
Step 2 Prepare your dyepot. A general rule of thumb is to use 30 parts liquid to 1 part fiber. So if you’re dyeing one ounce of fiber, you’ll want 30 ounces of water, or a little under one quart. For this experiment, simply use enough water to cover the fiber without swamping it.
Step 3 Add dye and let it dissolve completely. With these types of dyes, you’ll get a pretty good idea of the dye intensity as you add the powder. I added my dyes in quarter-teaspoon increments so I could better control the results.
Don’t worry about getting everything exact at first. Just pick a color and pour a packet of it into the water. If you want more intensity, double the dosage. The more yarn you dye, the more color you’ll need.
Step 4 This is an optional step. Add a dash of vinegar to the dye water, which will help the fiber more readily absorb the dye.
Step 5 Bring the water to a low simmer, just below a boil.
Step 6 Add the fiber and stir immediately to ensure even dye distribution.
Step 7 Let the mixture simmer just below a boil for 20 to 30 minutes or until the water is clear. If the water still remains tinted, add a dash of vinegar and let it simmer for five more minutes.
Step 8 Lift the yarn from your dye pot and place it in another pot filled with hot water. Swirl the yarn in the water and rinse until the water runs clear. Squeeze out excess moisture and lay the yarn outside to dry.
Soak yarn in lukewarm water with a dab of detergent.
Squeeze out excess water and lay the yarn on a sheet of plastic wrap.
Dilute dyes in as little water as possible, which will minimize color bleeding. Add a few drops of white vinegar.
Take a paintbrush or sponge and dab dye onto different areas of the yarn. Always be sure to leave a small amount of white space, which will let the colors bleed without discoloring too much. You can also use a small spoon and drip the dyes onto the yarn.
Wipe stray dye drips off the plastic wrap, then seal the plastic wrap over the yarn. You can use additional wrap if necessary to make it airtight.
Keep yarn in a warm place for one to two days. Rinse and dry as normal.
Gradation Dyeing – Technique 1
This technique produces a lovely graded color effect on your skein.
Instead of dropping the entire skein into the dye pot, dip only a small portion.
Wait a few seconds, then lower the skein deeper.
Proceed this way until you’ve immersed the entire skein into the dye pot.
Then proceed as you would normally.
Gradation Dyeing – Technique 2
This technique is appropriate for dyeing several skeins of yarn at once. It produces multiple skeins on a similar color scheme but with varying depths of color saturation.
Place all yarn in the dye pot with one package of dissolved dye. Let it simmer for 10 minutes.
Remove one skein, then add two more packages of dye.
Let simmer for another 10 minutes, then remove the next skein.