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Kool-Aid Colors:
Quick, Fun Dyeing for Beginners

You don't need to wear a mask or use toxic chemicals to experiment with dyeing. Simply pick a few packets of any standard powdered drink mix and let your imagination run wild.

Because the process is quick and safe, it's a great project for kids. It also provides a great excuse to have friends over. The invitation could read, "I'm dyeing to see you!"

Materials Checklist

Here's what you'll need to get started:

Color:  Kool Aid or any other concentrated powdered beverage mix works fine. Just make sure you use the unsweetened type. Barbara M. Harris-Pruitt has compiled an excellent chart of all Kool Aid colors, which you can view at http://www.thepiper.com/fiberart/koolaid/.

Fiber:  You need to use protein fiber for this type of dying. Wool, silk, and mohair work especially well. I've had great success with Brown Sheep yarns.

Large Pot:  Generally speaking, a stainless steel or enamel pot works best. Normally you won't mix your dye pot with cooking pots, simply because of the toxic materials you'll be using. In this case, however, it's safe to use any cooking pot.

Heat Source:  In order for the color to absorb fully, the yarns need to simmer on the stovetop for several minutes.

Water:  Purists use distilled water for best results. That's because the presence of too many minerals will impact the resulting color. Iron, for example, will dull dyes. For this experiment, tap water should be fine.

Gloves and Stirrer:  Gloves aren't exactly necessary since you're using nontoxic dyes. If you don't want your hands to be tinted with color for a day or so, you'll want to wear gloves. You'll also need something to stir the fibers so that the color distributes evenly. Any normal spoon should do fine.

Vinegar:  This is optional and serves as a mordant to help make the dyes more lightfast. Make sure the vinegar is basic white vinegar.

Next: arrow  Step-by-step instructions

  Quick checklist
  • Color
  • Fiber
  • Big pot
  • Heat source
  • Water
  • Gloves and stirrer
  • Vinegar
Additional Resources
arrow Reading List

arrow Introduction to Natural Dyes

arrow Gallery of Kool Aid-Dyed Yarns

Where to Buy Natural Dye Kits
arrow Carol Leigh’s Natural Dye Kits for Natural Fibers

arrow Earthues / Color Trends Natural Dye Extract Kit

Where to Buy Natural Dyes (pick your own)
arrow Hillcreek Fiber Studio

arrow The Mannings Handweaving School and Supply Center

Where to Buy Acid Dyes
arrow One-Step Country Classic Dyes

arrow Wash Fast Acid Dyes

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