Sunday, April 13, 2008

More Fun with Kool-Aid

I decided to try my hand at being a little more creative with the Kool-Aid dyeing last night and this morning... I've spun about a pound and a half of the Corriedale I got to make my husband a sweater using my Gratia wheel so far and hubby mentioned recently that he'd like some color in it:

My husband likes tie-dye so I thought I'd give that a go... and I decided to try the microwave technique this time, not really following any directions in particular but going off of what I observed using the stovetop technique. I figure if I botched the yarn I can just make a brown shade by mixing the different Kool-Aid colors together and cover my tush :-)

By the way if my site is the first you've come across in researching Kool-Aid dyeing techniques, bear in mind that it works with protein fibers only, such as wool, soy, or silk. Cellulose and artificial fibers such as cotton or acrylic will not take Kool-Aid dye. The same goes for if you want to color using easter egg dyes.

If you're working with a blend such as wool and cotton or wool and acrylic, the wool fibers will take the dye. It is a combination of the acidic Kool-Aid package mix and the protein in the fibers that make this work together. There are tons of other sites out there that discuss dyeing techniques for all different fiber types and I recommend doing lots of homework so you can decide what technique you want to use and how you want to dye your yarn or fiber.

So here's how I did my Kool-Aid wool, "tie-dye" style. First I put the yarn I'd spun in a resealable bag with just enough water to get it wet and then microwaved it until it was really hot, about 90 seconds to 2 minutes:

Next, I created some colors that I thought would work well within what my husband likes. I made a dark orange/terra cotta shade by mixing Orange and Black Cherry, an olive green using Ice Blue Raspberry Lemonade with Orange, and then varying shades of indigo blue and violet with the ice blue raspberry and/or Berry Blue mixed with Grape... the ice blue turned out more purple shades with the grape, whereas the berry blue made more of a blue/indigo color. Here you can see me prepping the colors - I added water that I boiled in the microwave first, which seemed to help the mix dissolve better:

I then took an old oral medicine syringe and squirted/injected the colors into the yarn. The syringe gave me control over where and how much I could put the colors; if you're just working with one color then you can just dump the entire container into the bag and massage it through:

I found that if I didn't take care to inject color exactly where I wanted it, then it would leave undyed patches. Given I was going for a tie-dyed look, that actually worked out very well, but if you're wanting uniform color make sure you get the dye everywhere you need it to go.

From there I microwaved the yarn again to get it very hot. This time because the yarn was already warm from the first nuking, it only needed about 90 seconds... and it comes out scorching so make sure you are using oven mitts to pull it out of the nuker:

Oh and unlike what you see me doing, I recommend using rubber gloves for the process. Kool-Aid is a bear to wash out of your skin, and if you have any cuts or scratches on your hands, the acidity from the Vitamin C in the mix really stings.

After microwaving the dyed yarn I let it sit for a while... the yarn is so hot it'll cook itself. I liked that over the stovetop process because then you can just walk away, you don't have to babysit it. But if you have little ones like I do keep it out of reach - I know I'm being annoying but I can't emphasize enough how hot the yarn gets.
Additionally you will need to massage the yarn from time to time to make sure it continues absorbing the color, so again, keep the oven mitts handy.

When the yarn finishes absorbing the color the water is virtually clear:

At that point I squeezed out the excess water as much as I could. I suggest opening the bag and letting the yarn cool a few minutes, but if you're impatient like me you can just don the oven mitts and squeeze it out while holding the bag open upside down.

From there I hung the yarn to dry:

All right, so I use the rack where we store our mops and brooms to dry my yarn and our calendar is still on February. I have a small place and it's been busy. Work with me...

After the yarn drip-dried for a while, I re-wound it to help disperse the moisture, get some air in between the strands, then put them on a towel in the sun to dry. They're still sitting on the back of my couch, making the house smell fruity... so far my cats seem to understand their normal sun spots are taken and are dozing elsewhere.

My husband is admiring his yarn every time he walks by; he really likes the colors I got out of what I did. I also experimented with mixing things a little differently with various skeins, having the pretreated yarn be wetter or dryer before coloring, and also with sprinkling the dry mix onto the yarn after coloring it but before putting it in the microwave.

These experiments resulted in some color variations as you can probably see, but I think they'll all still go together well when I knit hubby's sweater. I also did try tying off parts of some skeins prior to dyeing to get more of the tie-dyed look and that gave me some nice white bands here and there.

My almost four year old son seemed to show some interest in what I was doing too. If he were older I would have had him help me with the painting process (not with cooking though), but between it being a really nice day outside and his preferring tire swings and mud, he's got his prerogatives :-)

Oh and by the way - yes, I do have a large stash of Kool-Aid, your eyes did not deceive you in previous photos:

I somehow got lucky when I hit our local Big Lots last night. They had boxes of the stuff, 50 packs for 5 dollars - I calculated that to come out to 10 cents a pack, what you'd pay for the generic stuff on a good day. So I stocked up and now I've got enough to keep things colorful for a long time.

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