I’m not sure how it managed to get past me that in the last four years, I’ve never once actually given a tutorial on how to dye yarn with Koolaide or other food dyes.
I’m going to address that oversight now. This will be a multi-part tutorial, only because I don’t have a recent project to show you and I want to be able to show you in photos how to go through the process.
The good news is that Koolaide dyeing is both fast and easy. This tutorial series will center on just stove top or crock pot dyeing as an introduction.
Part 1: Materials
One of the beautiful things about dyeing fiber with food dye is that almost by definition, everything is food safe. What that means is that unlike more traditional forms of fiber dyeing, you will not need a separate set of everything (and I do mean everything, I know of people who have a special microwave for the task).
In order to dye yarn with food dye, you’ll need three basic items: fiber, dye, and a heat source.
The largest thing to remember with dyeing this matter is that the yarn has to be protein based. The easiest way to remember is that it has to come from an animal, meaning no cotton or acrylic. You can’t get a solid set on either though you can get some interesting effects with mixed fiber yarn. If you’re not familiar with this process, start with a light colored wool like cream, off white, very pale gray, or white.
You don’t need a terribly expensive wool. If you are just starting out, see if you have something in your stash or find some wool on sale.
Sturdier wools will have less of a chance of felting.
You know those Koolaide packets that everyone hates because of the amount of fake coloring? Those are going to be your best friends. One of the wonderful things about them is that they’re full of the acid needed to get the dye to set on the wool, so you don’t have to worry about a mordant.
They do however have fairly limited range of colors, they come in primarily neon colors (though we’ll cover working with colors in a later entry) and they smell like fruit when you actually dye. It’s not as pleasant as it sounds. The packets are however cheap and they’re everywhere.
To get a wider range of colors and avoid the hot fruit smell, find either liquid food dyes like you would use on an Easter egg or Wilton’s frosting dye. Both are much more concentrated, but they don’t have an acid pre-packaged. You’ll need to use a glug of vinegar (a scientific term, just a splash will work) or citric acid. The trade off is that you’ll have a house that smells like hot wool and vinegar, or have to find citric acid. It’ll be in the canning section.
3. A heat source
You have a few options for how to set your wool, including solar heat. The photo for this entry comes from a project a couple of years ago involving both solar and stove top dyeing.
You need to get your wool to at least 180 degrees to get your dye to strike and set. Striking just means the wool actually takes up the dye; set means that it won’t run when it gets wet. If it runs once wetted, add more vinegar to your wash water.
You can use a large stockpot which will let you watch to see when all of the dye has struck or your wool has reached the color you desire.
You can also use a crockpot, which is what I normally do for my wools. You can place the yarn into the pot, let it reach temperature, and let it sit until the wool takes up the dye or the dye exhausts. The upside is that you don’t have to watch it. The downside is that you’re limited to the amount of wool that can fit in the pot.
If you would like, you can also use solar heat to dye wool. I wrote a tutorial on how do dye this way here.
Bloggers-I have started a new group board on Pinterest. Open to all DIY, craft, food, or other creative blogs, I would love to have you join. Joining instructions are posted on the board-join here.
Please, stop by this week’s Inspired Weekends!