Fit to be Dyed
I present to you: A kool-aid yarn dyeing photo tutorial. Special thanks to my secret pal for providing the yarn!
To start my dyeing project, I headed to Google to find some information on using kool aid to dye yarn. I found good articles on Knitters Review and Knitty, but neither covered exactly what I wanted to do... make a self striping yarn. So, I took the instructions and modified them slightly to (hopefully) accomplish what I wanted in the least messy way possible.
In order to get my yarn in long enough lengths to dye large sections at a time, I wound it around the backs of two chairs placed about 7-8 feet apart. I then used small pieces of yarn to loosely tie the wound yarn together in about 6 places (approximately every 2-3 feet). Be sure to tie loosely, or you'll end up with a tye-dyed effect when you dye the yarn because the dye won't absorb evenly under the ties (ask me how I know). Using the ties is critical, or you'll end up with a tangled mess of yarn. After tying off the yarn, I soaked it in warm water for about a half hour.
Here's a picture of the Kool-Aid flavors I bought: Cherry, Orange, Pink Lemonade, Lemonade, Green Apple, Lemon Lime, Berry Blue, and Grape. I didn't end up using the orange, but I used all of the other packets!
I decided that the stovetop method would work best for dyeing, because I wanted long strips of color and didn't want to worry about getting dye all over my kitchen and white tile/grout countertips. Here's the setup that I came up with in order to dye multiple colors in one pot. I used a large stainless steel roasting pan filled about half full of water over two burners on the stove. In the roaster, I placed a small stainless steel bowl and a small pyrex bowl that fit next to each other. I used these bowls because they were the only ones I had that fit in the roaster together. I put my first dye color (cherry) in one bowl.
My very unscientific dye formula: 4 packets Kool Aid, 2/3 bowl of water (leaving room for yarn) and a dash of vinegar (probably a couple tablespoons).
I heated up the dye and water to near boiling and placed about 1/3 of the yarn in the red dye and the remaining yarn in the clear water of the 2nd bowl.
After the red yarn had absorbed all of the dye from the water and the water was clear, I used stainless steel tongs to gently pull the red yarn out of the dye water and placed it in the clean water in the roasting pan next two the two bowls. I then removed the dye bowl using tongs and an oven mitt, filled it with Grape kool-aid dye and put it back in the roaster. After the dye warmed up, I transferred about half of the remaining yarn from the clear water into the dye bowl using the tongs.
I then mixed my last dye color (Pink Lemonade) in a glass and poured it into the clear bowl, mixing gently to ensure even dye distribution. I kept the water very hot (near boiling) the entire time.
After the pink & purple dye had completely absorbed, I gently removed the yarn from the water with tongs and placed it on a plate to cool slightly. I then put it in a large bowl of warm water and rinsed it until the water was clear. The water was pretty clear after the first rinse, but I rinsed it a couple of times just to be sure.
Here's the pink/purple/red yarn drying on a chair on my patio. Looks good so far!
I used the same process for the next yarn, but with four colors instead of three: Lemonade, Green Apple, Berry Blue, and Lemon Lime. I wasn't really happy with the way the green apple turned out - it was a little too pastel looking.
Here's all of the yarn, drying in the sunshine.
Finally dry yarn!
And here it is wound into two 440-yard center pull balls.
All in all, I like the way my yarn turned out, but will have to see how it looks when I start knitting it into socks. I considered knitting a few rows of a sock with the yarn before I dyed it, ripping it out to see how much yarn was used, and using maths to calculate how long each strip of color should be to give me stripes of optimal width. Instead, I decided to just have fun with it. I think this should give me nice stripes and no pooling, but I'll have to knit it up to see.
After seeing what the color combinations look like, there are a few other combos that I'd try next time - Pink Lemonade with Green Apple (pastel pink & green stripes), and Lemonade, Green Apple, and Orange+Lemonade (pastel sherbet stripe). Also, I noticed that the Kool Aid flavors that are cloudy (lemonade, pink lemonade, green apple) make much more muted/pastel colors than the flavors that are clear (lemon lime, grape, cherry, berry blue, orange).
The verdict - Dyeing yarn with kool aid is fun! Try it yourself! It's going to take me forever to knit up all 880 yards though!