Dying is super fun and rewarding (and surprisingly easy). It’s a great way to play with yarn when it’s too hot to sit around with a big pile of sweater on your lap.
There are a million ways to dye yarn, but this is the easiest one I’ve found. You probably have everything that you need in your kitchen right now. I’ll do further yarn dying posts about more complicated dying processes later, but this should get you started (and you end up with a whole bunch of fruity-smelling yarn).
Please note, this will only work with wool or animal fibers (cashmere, angora, silk, etc.). Dying other fibers (cotton, linen, anything synthetic etc.) takes a lot more effort as well as some fairly toxic chemicals, so I don’t bother with that. But doing this is super easy and fun. It’s a little like making magic potions, and you can do it with kids, if you’ve got some around that want to help.
You’ll only need a couple things to dye your wool:
- Wool. Duh. You can use a wool blend, but know that the wool fibers and the acrylic (or whatever) fibers will take up the dye differently, which can give you a heathered look. Superwash wool works well, and you won’t have to worry about your yarn getting felted in the process. You can dye colored yarn or white yarn, just know that if you start with dark yarn, you’ll never dye it so that it ends up lighter. If you’re trying to get bright or pastel colors, start with white.
- Kool-Aid (in the color of your choice) I’m using “Ice Blue Raspberry Lemonade”. Get the kind in packets, not the kind in the big tubs with sugar pre-added.
- Water-From the tap. Nothing fancy.
- A non-reactive pot in which to do your dying. A stainless steel, enamel or non-stick pot works well if you’re trying to get a solid (or mostly solid) color. Copper or cast iron pots can cause weirdness when you try to dye in them.
So how do you do it?
- Soak your yarn in warm water. Make sure it’s nice and wet through. If the yarn is wet to start with, it will take up color more evenly.
- Mix up your dye. Just add a packet or two (or three or four) of Kool-Aid to a pot full of water. It’s better to err on the too light side than the too dark side, since you can always add more color, but you can’t remove it. I’m going for a pastel blue color, so I’m going with just one packet of color. Heat up your dye until you just barely start to see little bubbles. Don’t actually boil the water, but get it close.
- When your dye is steaming hot, and just about to start simmering, turn the heat way down and throw in your yarn. Submerge all your yarn at once, and poke it around a little bit, so that each strand of yarn gets plenty of exposure to the dye.
- Set the color. Keep your dyepot nice and hot, until the color transfers from the dye water to the yarn. You know you’re done when the water is no longer colored. Adjust the temperature to make sure that the dye stays nice and hot, but make sure not to burn or boil the yarn. (Most Kool-Aid flavors will end up turning totally clear. I picked one of their lemonade flavors, which they put something in to turn the water cloudy. You’ll never get lemonade colors totally clear, but as long as the water turns white instead of blue (or yellow or whatever), you’re good to go.)
- Carefully (without burning yourself) move the yarn to a colander, and rinse the yarn under hot water from the tap. Slowly lower the temperature of the rinse water until you can touch it without burning yourself. Don’t immediately shock the yarn with cold water, because it can damage the yarn and cause felting. Once you can touch the yarn without screaming in pain, keep rinsing out the yarn, gently flipping and turning it until no more color rinses out of the yarn.
- If you are happy with your color, hang up the yarn to dry. If you want to add more color (this is called over-dying) go through the steps again with more dye.
- Knit something fabulous with your new hand-dyed yarn.