February 25, 2010

Tutorial: Crock Pot Yarn Dyeing!

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.)

crock pot dyed yarn!

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.

crock pot dyeing crock pot dyeing

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.)

crock pot dyeing

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.

crock pot dyeing crock pot dyeing

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.

crock pot dyeing

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.)

crock pot dyeing

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!

crock pot dyed yarn! crock pot dyed yarn!

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.

crock pot dyed yarn!

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!

crock pot dyed yarn! crock pot dyed yarn!

Oh yeah, I should show you, this is the same method I used to dye these yarns (and more):

Razzle Dazzle Rose

crockpotmanycolored05 fierysunset04


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!)

Filed under: tutorials,yarn — leethal @ 8:16 pm
  • Chloe

    This would be great to try with my seven-year-old niece. Looks completely child-safe. And somehow over the years I’ve managed to collect a superfluity of crockpots. I knew there was a reason!

  • Justmegrama

    Try you tube or class at a local yarn store I did both at 52 and I love it :)

  • Could you please take photos of what Kool-Aid mixes make what colors? I have searched search engines but only found one that I like and it didn’t have many colors. I know MANY people would appreciate it and could you also show how you twisted the yarn up to dye it? Thank you!!!

  • Cathy Junga

    This makes me want to run out and get some Kool Aid…thanks for the great tute!

  • You tube is very good to show you how to knit. You should start with sashey scarf……. By a ball of sashey wool and needle 5 and you tube your good to go

  • do you set the color with cold water and vinegar after?

  • patricia kesinger

    awesome, I will try this.

  • Sandra

    Can you use white red heart super saver yarn?

  • Terry Devine

    when you wash it after making something with it, does the color wash out ? or is it permanent ?

  • I followed your tutorial and didn’t get the same results. when I put the koolaid on the first side and waited until the water was clear and flipped it to the other side, the colors absorbed all the day through. I started with blue and violet and when I flipped the blue had colored the yarn all the way through. Any ideas on what I did wrong? I did add vinegar to the crockpot water and let the water heat up before adding the yard. I let the yarn soak for about 15 minutes and then added my first two colors of koolaid.

  • I have had interesting results with Lion’s Brand’s “Wool-Ease” which is 80% Acrylic/20% wool… it just gives a more pastel effect

  • There are really only 2 main stitches in knitting…everything else is a variant of those 2

  • How cool! Kool-aid is seriously so amazing.

  • QTownMayor

    I cannot wait to try this – always wanted to dye my own yarn. Thank you, thank you, thank you, for posting this tutorial.

  • nicole

    hello there! I’m a crocheter and lover of yarn…and recently inherited a wicked stash of yarn from a woman who knit and crocheted but since she has arthritis, hasn’t been able to create anything. My question is this, if the various yarns I have are still in their original wrapping, do I need to unwind them to dye them as you have so beautifully shared?

  • Prudence Vesta Clark

    does the kool-aid wash out? If I wanted to make a sweater, would I be able to wash it? If I sweat does it bleed onto my skin?

  • Tracy Goree Was Gosling

    I’m in the UK. Where do I get kool-aid?!! This a fab idea and a great way of getting kids involved in yarn crafts.

  • 1A

    Do you have to unwind the entire skein to do this?

  • captiria

    doesn’t the yarn fade with washing? I’ve seen this before and wondered!

  • DebZam

    So many variations though.

  • DebZam

    I learned when I was about 8. My dad and I opened a World Book Encyclopedia and did what it said. Pre-internet days.

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