Dyed in the Wool Sisters


There’s only one thing that makes crafting more fun, and that’s family.

When I flew home for my birthday – whose number will remain undisclosed – I arrived armed with KnitPicks Bare yarn, what I thought at the time of purchase to be a large number of Kool-Aid packets of various colors, and copious notes gleaned from multiple websites and fellow knitters on the art of hand-dyeing yarn. Add three sisters, a mom and a nephew, and we were ready to roll.

To be fair, we had started the day off at the spa. And really, there are few better ways to start the day. Relaxed, massaged, buffed, polished and well fed, we were ready to do some dyeing. Here’s the basic rundown of the process we used.

Stuff You’ll Wanna Have

Naked yarn (any combination of animal fibers; we didn’t try acrylic) – this is yarn that hasn’t been chemically treated or colored; you’ll need to order it online, as JoAnn and Michaels don’t carry that sort of thing.
Note: Superwash wool takes color more quickly and vibrantly than standard wool; plant fiber mixes (with bamboo, etc.) will result in a more heathered look; use a gray base yarn if you want really dark colors.
LOTS of unsweetened Kool-Aid packets (figure at least 3 packets per ounce of yarn unless you want pastel colorways). The citric acid in the Kool-Aid is what sets the color.
Food dyes, if you want more variety of color than you can find in Kool-Aid at your local supermarket
Glass or finished ceramic bowls (large glass lasagna pans work as well, as long as they will fit in your microwave)
Glass measuring cups to mix color packets and water
Old towels
Tongs or plastic gloves to handle the wet (and eventually screamin’ hot) yarn

The Step Before Step One.
Decide what delicious color(s) you would like to try. I highly recommend this site, she has great info, including photo charts of what flavors mix to make what color combinations. There’s also a Ravelry group called What a Kool Way to Dye, it’s awesome.

We decided, with the limited Kool-Aid packet colors we could find, to make green; purple; red and purple; and potpourri (a hodgepodge of what packets were left at the end).

OK, Step One.
Soak all the yarn hanks in cool water for 20 minutes, or until the fibers are thoroughly wet. Keep each in its own bowl, so they don’t get all tangled with each other. It’s also helpful to tie an additional string very loosely around your hank in a few places to keep the strands neater.


While you’re waiting for your yarn to retain water like it’s got PMS, start mixing the Kool-Aid with water in glass measuring cups, about 4 oz. high-quality H-2-O per packet used. The amount of water isn’t important, as the yarn doesn’t actually absorb it, just the dye.

Step Two.
Drain the water from the yarn, and gently squish out most of the remaining water from the hanks, being careful not to damage the fibers.

Step Three.
Settle the hank in the bottom of the now empty bowl so most of the yarn is exposed. Gently pour the color mix over your yarn; swish around with tongs if you want an overall color, or pour in sections if you want it striped. Turn the yarn over, or move it around so you can see where there may be blank spots that need more color.


Step Four.
Put the bowl in the microwave, and cook on High for about 2 minutes. Let rest and cool for 2 minutes. Repeat this process until the water is clear. The yarn will absorb all the color, but not the actual liquid; there will be water in the bottom of your bowl, that’s OK as long as it’s clear. **If the water starts to boil, STOP. This will felt a wool hank (superwash will be OK). Let it cool a bit before cooking again. Trust me on this one.**

Step Five.
Once your yarn is the hue of your desiring, pour off the excess water (careful, it’s really hot at this point!) and let it sit and cool to about room temp. Once cool enough to touch, rinse out the yarn in similar-temperature water, wrap it in a towel, get a cute kid to squeeze it…


…then drape it somewhere to dry completely.

Drum roll, please…
Here are the final results and roughly the colors and amounts we used to get them, which came out pretty awesome (except for my potpourri option, which, after all, was intended as an experiment).

Patty’s Abby Cadabby Purple
2 Grape
1 Berry Blue (flavors combined before dyeing)
Dyed on KnitPicks Preciosa Tonal – worsted wt.


Diane’s Berry Cherry
2 Tropical Punch
2 Grape (each color added separately)
Dyed on KnitPicks Gloss merino/silk – fingering wt.


Sammy’s Barney Camo
1 Grape
4 Purple food dye batches
Dyed on KnitPicks Swish Superwash – worsted wt.

Sammy’s Choppin’ Broccoli
4 Lemon Lime
2 Green Apple (each color added separately)
Dyed on KnitPicks Swish Superwash – worsted wt.

Annie’s Tutti Frutti
2 Green Apple
2 Tropical Punch
Yellow food dye (each color added separately)
Dyed on KnitPicks Preciosa Tonal – worsted wt.


Things I learned:
• Kool-Aid stains counters. Put an old towel or some plastic wrap down first.
• Don’t let the water boil! It will felt the yarn together and make it really hard to get apart/wind into some semblance of a usable ball afterwards.
• Nephews make the best yarn squishers.
• Dyed yarn smells like wet sheep that got caught in a Kool-Aid shower. Yummy and a little repulsive at the same time.
• Superwash wool will absorb color as soon as you pour it on. I mean, immediately. Use this fiber content only if you want a mottled result like Choppin’ Broccoli or Barney Camo.

Bottom line.
Kool-Aid dyeing was super fun, and really very easy (it looks like a lot of steps, but goes very quickly). And it doesn’t require any special chemicals or ventilation like the acid dyeing does. Of course, the female company made it even more fun. Gotta love girls that will give anything a try.


I think we might need to add some vodka to the Kool-Aid next time, though… for internal use only, of course.


One Comment Add yours

  1. Wendy says:

    Looks like everyone had a fun time. Please post the knitted items that you made from this yarn!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s