Sunday, October 18, 2009

Kool-Aid Dyeing: Our results on silk and wool

The Kool-aid packets ready...

Yep, it's true. You can dye with Kool-aid. And it's fun, non-toxic and smells kinda yummy. We spent a fun afternoon of dyeing and it was way easier than we thought. There are tons of hints and tutorials on the web. We looked at a few here and here and also used a handout our local yarn shop had and this is what we came up with.

Materials Needed:
Dyeable materials (must be 100% animal fiber or made from 100% animal fiber, we used silk scarves, wool yarn and wool roving)
Kool-aid packets (at least two packets of each color, possibly three)
White Vinegar
Glass containers (I believe metal containers will react with the dye and that could be bad)
Stirring utensil
Old shirts
Old towels
Gloves (optional, we didn't use them and we came out with only minor splotches!)

Step 1
Get your materials to be dyed all ready.

Wool roving, wool yarn, play silks

We used some virgin wool roving from local sources, silk scarves I had picked up years ago from Dharma Trading and some store bought Lion Brand wool yarn in white. I was told that you needed to be careful with the wool yarns, as some yarns are treated with chemicals to get them white and that may inhibit the dye. We were very lucky with the Lion Brand yarn as it dyed beautifully and it was pretty inexpensive. Also keep in mind that it needs to be an animal produced fiber to take the dye. Cotton or anything with acrylic or other manufactured materials will not work.

Step 2
Soak your fibers in hot tap water with a splash of white vinegar mixed in. I was a little worried that the roving might start felting. But just be careful not to agitate it and it should turn out just fine. I took the skein of wool yarn and I split it up into 5 small bundles so I could try it out with a few different colors.

A play silk, some wool yarn and some wool roving.....

Step 3
After they soaked for about 15 minutes we started mixing the dyes. I used various amounts of Kool-aid packets and water. Below is a list of what I did for each color. But really, I discovered that you just kind of go with instinct and be willing to experiment and that is part of the fun. I usually freak out if I don't have specific measurements and instructions but here is where I deviated because I only had so many packets and very little vinegar. It's some cool chemistry.

Of course he HAD to taste the kool-aid
Going lemon-lime on us!

Basically I used 2-3 packets of a color, added a splash of vinegar, mixed with 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 cups of warm tap water. I stirred until the granules were dissolved and then we poured over the dyeables.

Hot Rod pouring on his cherry dye

Step 4
Then we carefully stirred the dyeables, being especially careful not to agitate the wool roving. My glass containers were not very large, so the silk scarves did get a bit of a tie dyed look because they were harder to stir. But we really like that look. The yarn and the roving took the colors pretty evenly.

Stirring the lemon lime...
Stirring the orange kool-aid dye

And yes, I mixed up my dyeable materials. In some containers I had just a scarf and in others I had all three materials - silk scarf, wool yarn and wool roving. It all worked out fine. I just made sure I had enough room to gently stir the dye and that I had enough to almost cover all the dyeable materials.

Step 5
I put saran wrap over the glass containers and microwaved them on high for 3 minutes. Then I stirred them once and microwaved them again for 3 more minutes. On most of the colors, the dye completely absorbed and the water was almost clear.

Dyeing done

Step 6
Wash the dyed materials in cold water in the sink. Then rinse out the glass container in preparation for another dye color.

Lil' M rinsing out the berry blue play silks

Step 7
Hang the play silks out to dry. You can lightly press them later with a warm iron if you want - but I never break out my iron unless I absolutely have to! (I think the slightly wrinkled scarves looked good with the tie-dye effect).

Playsilks dancing in the wind on the laundry line
More fun stuff on the laundry line

For the yarn and roving, I just squeezed out as much water as I could and then I placed them on a layer of paper towels over a pile of newspapers to dry.

Kool-aid dyed wool yarn and wool roving
Brightly dyed wool roving and wool yarn


Again, I would say not to stress out about exact quantities of dye, vinegar and water. I made do with what we ended up having on hand and we were very happy with the results.

For instance, our lemonade was pretty wimpy, next time I would maybe add two more packets, but this time we decided to sprinkle some dry cherry kool-aid on top.
The lemonade was wimpyToo boring?  Put a little cherry on top

We let the dry crystals settle into the wet fibers and then we microwaved it. It turned out pretty darn cool if we do say so ourselves! :-)
And doesn't cherry lemonade sound yummy?

We also had only one packet of pink lemonade and one packet of black cherry. So we combined them together for one of the play silks.
Tie-dyed play silks blowing in the breeze
It's the skinny one in the middle and it turned out slightly darker than the cherry play silk and has a kind of mauve tint to it. Just be adventurous. I can't wait to try some more combinations now!

Here were our dye combinations:

Berry Blue: 2 packets, 1 and 1/2 C water, dash of vinegar
Orange: 3 packets, 3 C water, no vinegar
Lemonade: 2 packets, 1 C water, dash of vinegar
Cherry: 3 packets, 2 C water, dash of vinegar
Lemon Lime: 3 packets, 2 amd 1/2 C water, dash of vinegar
Black cherry/Pink Lemonade: 1 packet of each, 2 C water, no vinegar

And there you have it! Your very own Kool-aid dyed playsilks and yarn and roving.


Clockwise from upper left: black cherry/pink lemonade play silk,cherry play silk, orange play silks, roving and yarn, grape roving and yarn, lemonade with cherry sprinkles roving and yarn, berry blue play silks, roving and yarn, lemon lime play silk, roving and yarn.

Our playsilks are already "being played with" and the yarn is being eyed for a possible scarf project. And the roving will probably make some more cool felt pictures, although we've recently discovered needle felting...hmmmm...

Her father designed this outfit



  1. Hey that’s so cool. You give your best efforts in this article. I really like your work. Thanks for sharing with me. And please post me some more articles like that. I will visit on this site very soon. For the more information about the silk scarf visit on www(dot)uzbekalive(dot)com.
    Silk Scarf

  2. I love your ideas...please keep sharing. Right now I feel all busied by school and soccer and surgery....I'm looking forward to trying your ideas. You're absolutely inspiring.

  3. Hey Kellie maybe you could help me dye some of my wool I have tons!!! Ideas for a 4-H project maybe? :) lol
    Emily R.