You may not even know about these, but way back at the beginning of this blog, almost 3 years ago, I did a couple of kool-aid yarn dyeing tutorials. They were specifically how-tos for getting particular kinds of variegation (as opposed to dyeing basics) – part 1 being three blending colors, part 2 longer stripes of random-order solids. (I’ve just gone back and edited these old posts a little, changing some bad advice I’d given and some minor details, but not anything major.)
So, after 3 years and countless skeins of dyeing experience have now passed, I want to do a couple of new dyeing tutorials for you! (For the basics of dyeing, if you’re new to it, see the link list in my first tutorial, since this post is only meant for this particular variegation method, not for kool-aid dyeing in general.)
I recently dyed up a skein of bulky yarn (Imperial Stock Ranch Lopi) with 5 different colors in my crock pot, for a spotty, kettle dyed kind of look, as you can see above. Dyeing in a crock pot is different from dyeing in a pot on the stove because the water is more still, so the dye tends to stick to the yarn where it falls more, and colors tend to blend together less. This makes a variegated yarn with more defined colors, instead of just a few colors which are blended together. My specific flavors used were: Lemon Lime, Orange, Strawberry, Berry Blue, and Lemonade.
To get this look, you’ll need a crock pot (I got mine at my local Goodwill outlet for around $5), wool yarn (or a blend with other animal fibers like alpaca, angora, cashmere – a small percentage, like 15% or less, of something man made, like nylon or rayon, would be ok) in hank form, several colors of kool-aid, a large spoon, a colander, and vinegar is optional since kool-aid already has acid, but I usually use a little anyway because I feel like it might help with colorfastness.
So, start by filling the crock pot with water (and a little vinegar if you want) and submerging the yarn in there. Let it soak a bit, then turn on the heat and put the lid on – the yarn should soak for at least 15 minutes or so (longer is fine) before dyeing, and the lid should fog up to show that it’s hot. (My vintage pot only has two settings – medium and high – so I usually use medium and it works well.)
Now you can add your first colors – this is all up to you, but I’ll just tell you exactly how I made this particular yarn. First, I covered one half of the yarn in the pot with orange, and the other half with green (lemon lime), sprinkled directly from the packet into the pot. Orange and green are complimentary colors (edit: no they’re not! what was I thinking?! but they don’t always blend well, which I what I meant), which means you need to be careful about putting them together, but it doesn’t have to be avoided completely – green with some orange makes an olive green color, and orange with a little green makes a darker orange. So, I tried not to overlap them at all on purpose, but I knew that if they bled into each other a little, it would be fine.
Cover with the lid and let it sit until the dye fully absorbs into the yarn, so the water looks clear and the yarn is colored. Now use your spoon to turn the yarn over, so all the undyed yarn from the bottom is now on top. I tried to keep it arranged the way it was, just flipped, so that the bottom layer stayed orange on one side and green on the other side. I poured blue on the half that had green below, and red on the side that had orange below. This was because green and blue blend well, as do red and orange (blue+orange or red+green, not so much) and the top colors were likely to do some blending with the bottom colors. Red and blue were chosen to add next to each other for the same reason, to make some purple when they touch and blend.
Cover and let the dye absorb again, then use your spoon to turn the yarn around and search for white spots. I used my last color, yellow (lemonade), which would blend well with all of the other colors, especially since lemonade kool-aid is really light and subtle, to fill in any white spots I could find. When I found white, I’d arrange the yarn with the spoon so as much white as possible was on top, sprinkle on some lemonade, and cover to let it dye. Then I kept repeating the white investigation and dyeing until the yellow packet was all used up. (As you can see, the powder sits on the water surface a little before sinking to the yarn – if it doesn’t sink down right away, you can push it down with the spoon, but this might mix the colors more than you want.)
Once the dyeing is complete, turn off the heat, and let it sit in the water to cool for awhile (until cooled to room temperature is best, but not totally necessary). Now scoop the skein out with the spoon, into the colander in the sink, and let it cool all the way to room temperature there. Rinse a bit, with water of the same temperature, and squeeze the water out as much as you can, without twisting. Roll up in a towel to dry more, shake it out, then hang to dry (in the shower, or on a hanger in a doorway, or on a coat rack, etc) overnight or until totally dry. Ball up and knit!
A note about my yarn, and the colors I used… red bleeds like crazy, way more than any other color, so even though I used exactly equal amounts of the 5 colors, the red really took over the skein. (The photo below shows how much red there is.) So, if you are using the same (or similar) colors as me, and want more even variegation of the colors, I think it would be wise to use about half a packet of red instead of a whole packet.
But, that said, I still love this yarn, and knitting with hand-dyed variegated yarn (that you dyed yourself!) is unbelievably fun and satisfying, an experience I think every knitter should try! With yarn like this, every stitch is different from the last!
Oh yeah, I should show you, this is the same method I used to dye these yarns (and more):
Fun! Yay! And I’d love to see your yarns dyed using this how-to! (you could link to photos in the comments, or add them to the leethal flickr group!)