Sunday, September 19, 2010

Kool-Aid Dyeing a Sweater's Worth of Wool Pt. 1

When I was a newbie knitter in the early 90s, I bought a bag full of this yarn through a catalogue. I intended to make a specific sweater I'd seen in Vogue Knitting, but once the yarn arrived I realized that it wasn't going to work for that sweater. I never did make the sweater, and the yarn has followed me from one end of California to another in the intervening years.

It's 100% wool and worsted weight, but it's slubby and has a big halo. The color is also one I never wear.
And did I mention that I bought a lot of this yarn?

On Ravelry, there's a group devoted to dyeing yarn with kool-aid and with other food colorings called What a Kool Way to Dye. After perusing their forum and their pages of helpful links, I decided to see if I could change the color of this yarn into something I'd want to use.

I also decided to see if I could dye this yarn without re-skeining it. Usually to kool-aid dye yarn, you skein it and tie it in several places so that the dye will reach all the fiber. I decided to dye my yarn in its original balls. Since this yarn had already been sitting around for almost 20 years, I figured I didn't have much to lose.

I soaked all the yarn I was going to dye in water for a couple of hours so that it was well saturated. Then, using the smallest amount of water possible, I put it on the stove in my turkey roaster. Since these are food colorings, it's fine to use your regular pots and dishes.

I dissolved 20 packets of black cherry kool-aid in water to dye my 10 balls of yarn. I added this mixture to the soaking yarn, and on the stove, gradually raised the temperature to just under boiling.

Lots of kool-aid dyed yarn is done in multi-colors for socks and other small projects. It's also possible to over dye yarn to alter the color.

Um, wear gloves when you do this.

When the yarn approaches boiling, it will have absorbed all the dye.

It's miraculous, but the water will be clear or nearly clear once the yarn has taken up the dye.

Contrary to what you might think, subjecting wool to hot water will not make it felt. The combination of agitation and rapid temperature change are what make wool felt.

When your yarn is dyed, turn off the fire, let the water come back to room temperature, and then rinse the yarn well. I put mine on the back porch to dry.

This is what I got: ten skeins of kettle dyed wool. Parts of the balls were darker than the rest. You can play with adding the dye to the water before you put in the yarn to see if your results are more even. I used a turkey baster to place dye in the center of the balls, but this made dark splotches wherever the dye hit first, and didn't necessarily darken the yarn at the center of the balls. Exposing the yarn to hot water made it bloom: it was softer and fluffier that it was in the original state. This yarn is color-fast, though if you were to expose it to lots of sunlight, it would likely fade.

Next: Part 2: The Sweater I Knit from Kool-Aid Dyed Yarn


Rian said...

Well I'll be dipped. Who woulda thought you could do that. I liked the original color, but the new one is so much MORE! Good goin, and thanks for sharing a very interesting technique.

Quiltnbee said...

I like both colors =-) And that yarn looks soft and cozy...I'm looking forward to part 2 of the saga!

Vicki W said...

That's much improved! I can't wait to see the sweater.

Plays with Needles said...

You're such a whiz!! How long did it take those skeins to dry??

Kay said...

Really fascinating. That's a beautiful color, although I have to admit I like the natural color too. Can't wait to see what you do with this, and how the color blends. Can you do this to fabric? It seems so much more appealing than all the nasty chemical stuff. (That's silly, I know, since it's ALL chemical, but still...)

floribunda... aka Julie said...

too Kool! I can't wait to see what the sweater looks like!

Magpie Sue said...

All of the new shades are *very* pretty in my opinion! It would be interesting to knit it up the way it is and see how the varigations fall out. What fun!

Debra said...

What an excellent experiment! I bet the sweater is going to have a bit of a heather look to it. This is fun!

Judy S. said...

How very fun! I can't wait to see how the sweater turns out. Here the yarn would still be drying.....