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
  • Wonderful and such vibrant colors. Cant wait to try this out when it gets a little warmer here and I can hang all my colorful yarn outside to dry.

  • How cool is this? Love it! Love my slow cookers for making dinner, and now another use for them…you just can’t beat that with a stick!

  • Laloo

    Hello! I can’t tell, did you use sugar free kool aid? Or doesn’t it matter ? Thank you!! I’m getting ready to try it right now with some sugar free!!!

  • Lee

    oh it definitely matters – no sugar! sugar could make for a disastrously sticky wool situation ;)

  • D K Piippo

    I have been a knitter since I was in fifth grade, and I am now almost 60. This is a crazy wonderful idea. One more step to making it just a little more homemade! Thank you sincerely, Diane

  • Jessica

    Do you have a problem with the color washing almost completely out when you rinse it after it’s been in the koolaid? I dyed some today, and when I rinsed it with cool water, the color was almost gone! = / I went looking for the label after I saw your blog and thought that perhaps it’s the type of yarn (i.e. mostly cotton), could that be the problem? Your yarns are beautiful! I knew that’s what they were supposed to look like, so I was surprised and disappointed when I did mine!

  • Lee

    yeah, it only works with animal fibers (wool, angora, alpaca, cashmere, etc). plant fibers (cotton, bamboo, hemp, etc) need to use completely different kinds of dyes/mordants, not acid dyes, like kool-aid. try again with wool :)

  • Ana Silva

    Does this work with ANY kind of yarn or it has to be wool only? Thanks.

  • Lee

    it only works with animal fibers (wool, angora, alpaca, cashmere, etc). plant fibers (cotton, bamboo, hemp, etc) and man-made fibers (acrylic, nylon, etc) both need to be dyed with completely different kinds of dyes/mordants, not acid dyes, like kool-aid.

  • Actually, nylon WILL take acid dye. It’s not a protein fiber, but it’s pretty close chemically.

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  • Usman

    hello my name rana   usman  iwant to yarn dyeinge proces

  • Usman_

    i totally want to do this

  • I can not wait to try this. I am going to make some for my hats that I make! I just need to go get some kool-aid all i have is flavored water packets

  • Fantastic tutorial! Really easy to follow, and makes it a lot less daunting than I thought it would be. However, I’m in the UK, and finding Kool-Aid is basically impossible, do you know of anything else I could use? Thanks in advance! 

  • Lee

    Thanks! You can use food coloring, but need to add vinegar or it won’t work; easter egg dyes are great as well. Do some googling for details about how these might work differently than kool-aid, but you can use the same crock pot idea to get the variegation. I think Knitty.com has an article on dyeing with food coloring, if I’m remembering correctly. Good luck!

  • Dor

    Looks nice,I may try it.

  • Rachelharville

    I wanna learn to knit so bad im 20 and i have always wanted to learn how but my grandmother was never able to teach me so i never learned i would love to learn!

  • CO-Kandi

    Check out Youtube. I wanted to learn to crochet but again my grandma never got to show me. My aunt suggested You Tube. She was right! I have learned so much! It’s all I do in my free time now lol

  • Lee

    i never had a grandmother who could teach me, so i just taught myself! i mostly used books, but these days you’ll probably be fine with the internet alone. or check out your local yarn store, they probably have learn-to-knit classes!

  • Prissymomof4

    This is great! I am going to try it. Thanks for sharing it.

  • candyacorns

    This is fantastic! I used black cherry on one side and pink lemonade on the other, but I sloshed the water around too much while it was dying, so it’s all one color now…. but it is beautiful!

    I’m going to the store tomorrow to get more kool-aid flavors and try again :D

    Great tutorial, thank you

  • Brittany

    I just tried this and nothing worked. The kool aid didn’t set into the yarn. My water just turned the color….. Not sure what I am doing wrong?

  • Lee

    was your yarn 100% wool? fiber content is the only thing I can think of that could have made that happen…

  • Renee Hall

    So not to contradict you at all BUT this website says that you can do cotton tees. http://maryeaudet.hubpages.com/hub/How-to-Dye-with-Kool-Aid-Drink-Mix SO I made a schwack of tshirt scarves and dyed them. Instead of ironing them (haha as if!) I will throw them in the dryer on super duper high and see what happens. I will update when I am done.

  • Linda

    Will try this, ” Awesome ” Linda

  • I agree with the others.  I had one grandmother who taught me two stitches in knitting and nothing in crochet.   Anyway, she was out of my life by the time I was 8 anyway — and she didn’t like me — but I loved knitting.  So I took my allowance and went to the local variety store around the corner and bought the now-famous Red Heart learning-how books and I taught myself.   I can only imagine if I had the internet.   There are terrific videos on YouTube.  You’ll find that no matter how long you have these skills you can always learn something new and YouTube has been invaluable.   Good luck and have fun.   One of my favs for knitting is The Knit Witch on YouTube.  Very nice video tutorials, extremely well-done.  

  • Ronda

    I just stumbled across your amazing tutorial and have to tell you that I was given the same crock pot as an engagement gift in 1979! I still use it for cooking but would be keen to try the wool dyeing one day. Thanks!

  • Sweetpea

    How would the sweater, scarf, etc. be laundered?  Doesn’t the color get washed away?

  • Jamie Parsons

    This is so cool. I want to try something like it with natural dyes…

  • Christi

    I just posted on my own blog about this (and a couple other methods)–this is great, and I can’t wait to try your other striping method–maybe next week.  :)


  • Jillshope

    Smart girl! I love varigated yarn and this even I can do! Thanks for the info!

  • Melaniehlewis

    I went to Walmart and Michaels and bought a knitters loom, I make scarfs, afghans, hats, all kinds of things with it.  There are several videos on youtube if you would like to watch them show you how easy it is to do.  It is sooooo easy, my 9 year old uses it to make hats.  Good Luck!

  • Amandalee1023

    does the yarn get very tangled doing this?

  • Amandalee1023

    sorry, another question.
    since this works on yarn, i imagine it would work with clothing?? true?

  • Lee

    not if you tie it up well and be careful while dyeing and drying it :)

  • Terrymendicino

    That was great!  I cant wait to go find my crock pot!

  • PeabuttonsMom

    I have never seen this before! The yarn colors are so pretty!!! I’m definitely trying this!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! Oh, one quick question, are the colors stedfast or will they bleed when the item is washed?

  • Embleier

    roughly how long does it have to soak in?

  • Nat

    The public library usually has some kind of knitting/ crochet group and people ready o help

  • glenda lovelady

    This is wonderful. Can wait to try on my next project

  • Sue Vandee

    loved do this I dyed 4 skeins of wool yarn today  . had so much fun I will do this again . thanks  for the info it plain and to the point .

  • Agilholm

    I was reading my Slow Cooker Recipe Newsletter and there you were. This is wonderful, I have 11 Grand Children and this is exactly what I want to teach them! Thank you so much for the creativity.

  • Pebblesshady

    I would love to try dying, this would b a great place to start, but guess what I live in UK! No cool aid!!! I’m sure a little Internet searching would remedy that

  • Pmg

    Did you ever tried use fabric dye?? Because I m trying to make dark forest green and gold or yellow color along with white…. As mixed…. I don’t know where to find those colors in stores as mixed one like yours. I d hope of you ll tell me if you have used fabric dye before?? Email me at pmgarrison@yahoo.com. Thanks!

  • Lkzachary19

    How did you wind the yarn before putting it in the crockpot?

  • Mcgimjrt96

    OMG i think i am going to try this 

  • Nola

     www.dtcrafts.co.uk sell Kool-Aid, maybe not the full range, but certainly a lot of them.

    Thanks, Lee, for the clear tutorial. I shall try this soon.

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