My friend Abby came over on Sunday and we spent a lovely afternoon hand-dyeing yarn with Kool-Aid, and then I spent over an hour on Sunday evening uploading all the photos and writing up a lengthy blog post about it, and THEN I accidentally (and unknowingly) closed the window I was working in and lost. the. entire. post. Drrrrr.
I’ve spent the past few days pouting, but this morning I’ve decided it’s time to just suck it up and rewrite the post (being sure to save changes every two minutes….).
So! I’m not going to write out a long tutorial because there are some great tutorials tutorials out there, but I will share a few things that I learned that maybe weren’t mentioned in the other tutorials.
Unwinding and winding the yarn:
I think most tutorials out there are for dyeing self-striping sock yarn, so they suggested winding yarn around chairs that are set about 9 feet apart. We were using worsted weight yarn, so we set our chairs about 15 feet apart to get bigger stripes.
A long dowel (or, retractable back scratcher, in our case) helps unwind the yarn from the hank more quickly. (Just stick the dowel through the hank and then spin it off.) That way, one person can hold the dowel and unwind the yarn while the other person winds it around the chairs.
I divided my hank into 1/3s and Abby divided hers into 1/4s. Next time I think I’ll divide my hank into 1/4s because the smaller sections absorbed the dye better.
Tie off the yarn with scraps of acrylic yarn. That way the scrap yarn won’t absorb the dye AND the scrap yarn won’t bleed into the yarn you’re dyeing.
Selecting the dye:
Knitty catalogued all the Kool-Aid colors and we should have looked here first when trying to find blue because we thought Tropical Punch would be blue (because the packet was BLUE!?) but it ended up being red. Also, there is no difference between Tropical Punch or Cherry or Strawberry. They’re all just RED.
And grape SUCKS. Really. The dye in the yarn was really spotty and even the intense spots were very muted.
Dyeing the yarn:
I read somewhere that Disney’s Cool Splashers work better than Kool-Aid. The colors are apparently more intense and vibrant than the Kool-Aid. (And you can usually find Cool Splashers on sale!) I didn’t really notice a difference between the two…. but I thought I’d pass along this observation anyway.
Big, wide-mouthed canning jars work best. Canning jars work well in general because then you can level all the jars and minimize the amount of yarn straddling between the jars, and wide-mouth jars eliminate this gap even more. We used narrow-mouthed 1-quart jars and they were just a little TOO small to hold all my yarn. (I divided my hank into 1/3s and Abby divided hers into 1/4s and she got a more even distribution of dye in her yarn. This may be because she let her yarn soak a little longer, but I think it’s because she had a higher liquid to yarn ratio.
If you’re lucky enough to have a big cauldron and canning tongs, those help out too. And latex gloves, so you don’t get dye all over your hands.
Rinsing and finishing up
After soaking the yarn in the dye for 45 minutes, it is really REALLY REALLY hot. We were impatient and didn’t let the jars cool before removing them from the cauldron (because we had our canning tongs) but then I nearly burned my fingers off when removing the hot hot yarn from the jars. So. Either let the jars cool before removing them from the cauldron, or use tongs when removing yarn from the jars.
I rinsed the yarn until it ran clear in the sink and then I let it soak for a bit in a little bit of Soak. This made it smell all nice and pretty instead of nasty, wet wool.
(We used Lion Brand Fisherman’s Wool.)