experimenting with kool-aid


September 14, 2012 by theknittersnewt

Some of the skeins I dyed with Kool-Aid

A couple weeks ago something inspired me to experiment with kool-aid as a dye.  Fate seemed to have been working its magic that day seeing as I was at the craft store and a regular $7 a skein wool was only $4!!  Being my usual self I bought an armful of natural 100% wool and a seemingly useful fabric dye.  Logically speaking, I researched the dye after I made the purchase only to find out it works best on cottons and other such plant fabrics but, of course, not wool.  Well luckily, I found some other dyes I had bought years priors with vast plans of making incredibly awesome stuff that never actually came into fabrication (this is the bane of my existence).  Reading about these dyes, I got excited and learned that I need to use a special pot, porcelain enamel or something, but moreover that the dyes may be toxic and a pot set aside from cooking should be used.  So I ran out, bought a fancy new pot, and ran back home. I started rereading the instructions and being my lazy self, they just sounded so complicated.

Then, I began having second doubts about this whole endeavor even after spending $100 on supplies.  But alas, I had a mind-pop.  KOOL-AID!  I had dyed this same wool years prior with KOOL-AID! Yes, Kool-Aid!  I have like 100 packs of Kool-Aid!  You are brilliant I say to myself.  So I scrounged through my packs of Kool-Aid, and the inspiration just starts flowing.  I didn’t want to be generic so I start mixing the colors to create my own custom colors.

Now down to the nitty gritty recipe.  Many sites writing on the common topic of Kool-Aid dye gave the scholarly advice that Kool-Aid was acidic enough so that vinegar was not necessary in this specific dyeing process.  Being a somewhat of a perfectionist, I decided to disregard this and use some vinegar because I knew I would either sell the skeins or sell/give away products knitted with the Kool-Aid yarn.

This is my special recipe:

– Wool, 100% for best results

– Any kind of unsweetened Kool-Aid mix

– A nice big pot

– A nice big bowl

– A lot of water

– A little mild detergent/soap

– About 1/4 of vinegar for safe measures

– Some tongs (if you don’t want to touch the scalding yarn with your bare hands like I did)

– A nice drying rack

I almost forgot, first you must turn the ball of yarn into a skein.  I did this by turning one of my barstools upside down, tying one end of the yarn to on of the legs, then wrapping the yarn around all four legs until the skein is done.  Then I cut the yarn where the knot at the leg was while making sure the cut yarn was long enough to make three figure eight knots through the skein.  I wrapped the end of the yarn to make a figure eight near this first knot. I cut the yarn at the knot and tied it to the end of the yarn of the first figure eight.  I cut the rest of the leftover yarn into three pieces and made three more loose figure eights throughout the skein to keep it together.

So here is my special Kool-Aid dyeing process:

1.  Soak the yarn in a big bowl of temperature water and a little soap (not sure why I needed the soap, but some site told me to do this).  Some other sites recommended soaking the yarn overnight which I imagine allows the yarn to soak up more color.  I only did it for about 10 minutes, and I was satisfied with the results.

2.  Fill a cooking pot with room-temperature water (enough to cover the yarn), add the vinegar, and add the desired Kool-Aid flavor or combination of flavors.  Stir well.  Add the yarn.

3.  Place over the stove on high heat.  When it starts to boil, turn off the heat and let the yarn sit for 30 minutes.  You don’t need to leave the pot on the stove seeing as the water stays hot enough for a very very lengthy time.

4.  After 30 minutes, pour most of the water out just so enough is left for the yarn to soak in.  Either you can wait for the yarn to be a touch friendly temperature or use tongs to remove the yarn.  Rinse with water the same temperature as the yarn (so that it doesn’t felt).

5.  Squeeze the water out as much as you can.  Then hang to dry on the drying rack either outside, in a bathtub, or, as I did, in your garage.  Wring out the ends every so often to speed up the drying process.

Kool-Aid Yarn Basking in the Sun


6.  I decided to rewash all of my (30+) dyed skeins for safe measures, and I also wanted to see if they would bleed.  I used a little bit of laundry soap to help get out excess vinegar and Kool-Aid smells.

As I mentioned previously, some sites said vinegar wasn’t necessary for Kool-Aid dyeing.  However, when I was rinsing my dyed wool, none of the wools, even the bright reds, bled EXCEPT for one skein which I forgot to add the vinegar.  So if you think you don’t need vinegar, I would highly recommend it for safe measures.  Plus it’s super cheap and, in my opinion, smells kind of tasty…

I hoped you enjoyed my lengthy and unnecessary introduction, and let me know if you have any questions about my process!  I will post my custom color creations soon as well as the knitted lovelies I made with my yarn!  Happy dyeing!

– Krystine


2 thoughts on “experimenting with kool-aid

  1. Liz Bush says:

    Thank you!, you have inspired me. I assume you can’t do this with washable wool? Liz

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