The Electric Kool-Aid Dyeing Test: Psychedelic Sock Yarn Dyeing Is a Blast

comments (1) July 24th, 2008     

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Tina_Hilton Tina Hilton, contributor
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Beautiful hand-dyed yarn is drying in the warm summer breeze.
Kool-Aid dye will stain your hands, so its best to wear gloves.
Squirt dye and work it into the yarn fibers.
Beautiful hand-dyed yarn is drying in the warm summer breeze.

Beautiful hand-dyed yarn is drying in the warm summer breeze.

Photo: Tina Hilton

I am fascinated by the wide variety of wonderful hand-dyed yarns that are widely available today. Why should Fiesta, Cherry Tree Hill, Conjoined Creations, and Lorna’s Lace have all the fun? Hand-dying your own yarn at home is fun and surprisingly easy!

What You Will Need:

  • Undyed super wash wool/wool blend sock yarn in a loose skein
  • Rubber gloves
  • Unsweetened Kool-Aid
  • 1 cup squeeze bottles with a pointed tip
  • White vinegar
  • Saran Wrap
  • Gallon-sized plastic bag
  • Microwave
  • Paper towels (this can get messy!)
  • Uninhibited state of mind

I recommend soaking the yarn overnight or at least for 30 minutes prior to dyeing. This step prepares the yarn for the dye to saturate the fibers. Soak it in a mixture of 1/4 cup white vinegar in a quart of water. After the soak, squeeze as much water out as possible, then wrap in a towel to get out most of the moisture. The wool should be damp but not wet, which will help the dye soak in for maximum intensity.

Prepare the dye by putting about 2 tablespoons of vinegar to a cup of water. Dump in some Kool-Aid to get the color you like. A half of a packet will give you a pastel, a full pack a good mid tone, and a double pack a deep, rich saturation of color. Mix and match the Kool-Aid to get a variety of colors. Try mixing cherry, tropical punch, and black cherry together for a deep, rich red. Lemon Lime and Berry Blue create a Navaho turquoise. Kool-Aid comes in a spectrum of 13 colors from Lemonade to Grape, so there are countless combinations to experiment with. Remember, this is not an exact science, so be a kid and have fun playing with the colors!

Prepare your surface for dying by covering it with a sheet of heavy plastic (available at your local home center). You may also want to cover the floor to prevent the inevitable spills from hitting you flooring. I like to dye outside so I can be my carefree self!

Tip: Make sure to wear an apron or old clothes and gloves as the Kool-Aid will stain!

Tear off a generous length of Saran Wrap, several inches longer than your skein of yarn, and lay it on the table. Position the damp skein of yarn on the table.

Kool-Aid dye will stain your hands, so it's best to wear gloves.

Squirt the dye mixture onto the yarn and work it into all the layers with your fingers.

Squirt dye and work it into the yarn fibers.

Mix and match the colors to suit your own color style. Totally saturate the skein with color or leave winks of white to add a little sparkle to the finished sock.

Leaving some of the yarn undyed will add a twinkle.

Once you have finished creating your masterpiece, finish it off with a dunk into a container of vinegar water and gently squeeze the liquid out. Lay the skein out on a fresh piece of Saran Wrap and cover it with another. Fold over the edges to seal, and roll it up like a jelly roll. Place the roll in a double plastic bag, but do not seal the bag. Place in the microwave, making sure that it is standing upright so any liquids don’t spill out. Nuke for 3 minutes, let it rest, and nuke and rest for a total of three cycles.

Using the microwave to steam-set the dye is safe.

This process will steam the dye into the fibers, locking in the color. Let it cool enough so you can handle the yarn, squeeze any remaining water, and hang your masterpiece to dry.

Hang to dry away from direct sunlight.

Once the yarn is completely dry, it’s fun to ball it or wind it to see how the colors blend together.

I love the way the colors pop!


It looks so different when put up in a skein.


My friend Lorie's pastel blues and pinks are sublime.

Knit a swatch or begin your sock-knitting project to get the full effect of your dyeing escapade.

Debbie ran home and knitted up a swatch that is drop-dead gorgeous!

You may notice the yarn smells a bit vinegary, but once you wash the completed socks, the odor will disappear!

Yarn Resources:

Henry’s Attic Kona Super Wash Merino

Knit Picks Bare Super Wash Merino Nylon

Dharma Trading Wildefoot Luxury Sock yarn

Kool-Aid yarn-dyeing Web sites:

Debi Tuttle has it down to a science!

Wool Festival has alternative ideas about setting the dye.

Knitty offers a fun take on the process.

posted in: Hand dyed yarn, Kool-aid dyed yarn, sock yarn

Comments (1)

drummergirl writes: Why wouldn't this technique work for dying silk for a scarf?
Posted: 7:55 pm on June 21st
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