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How-To: Kool-Aid Dye with a Microwave

July 8th, 2010

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I love the new colors of Sock-Ease, but I needed a small amount of bright yellow yarn for an upcoming sock project. My solution: dye Sock-Ease with Kool-Aid! This method works great for any animal fibers, including wool, alpaca, mohair, and more. Nylon will also absorb the dye, so sock yarns are great for dyeing. Here’s the process that I used. You’ll need your yarn, some sugar-free Kool-Aid or other comparable drink mix (1 or 2 packets per ounce of yarn dyed), a microwave-safe container, plastic gloves, some scrap yarn, and food coloring (optional).
step 1
Step 1: If your yarn isn’t already in a hank, wind it into a large circle. I wound my Marshmallow Sock-Ease around a binder. Loosely tie a few pieces of scrap yarn around your yarn as shown to keep everything untangled. Note: If you tie the scrap yarn too tightly, the sections of yarn under the ties won’t get dyed!

Step 2: Soak your yarn in some lukewarm water and mild soap. If your yarn isn’t machine washable, be careful not to felt it!

step 3
Step 3: Put on your rubber gloves. Add your sugar-free Kool-Aid to water and stir until the powder is fully dissolved. I used one packet of Lemonade Kool-Aid and a few drops of yellow food dye to make my color really pop. Next, place your yarn into the dye bath and add enough water to completely cover the yarn. Don’t worry if you add a lot of water; this will not dilute the dye.

Step 4: Microwave your yarn in its bath for about two minutes. Let the yarn sit for a minute or two, and then check the color of the dye bath. Repeat the microwave/rest process until the dye bath is clear.

Step 5: After the yarn cools, remove it from the dye bath. Wash the yarn as in step 2 and hang to dry. After the yarn has dried, you can wind it into a ball.
Finish product
My finished yarn was the perfect beautiful, bold yellow, and it’s still machine-washable! I’m so happy with my results that I want to Kool-Aid dye everything.

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  • DCAlaneKnits

    I’d planned to do this sometime this summer with my daughter. By sugar-free, do you mean the smaller packets before the sugar is added?

    Jess Says: Yes, the packets say “unsweetened soft drink mix” under the Kool-Aid logo and also note to add sugar. The larger plastic containers of Kool-Aid mix usually have sugar already added, so you shouldn’t use those because the sugar tends to melt or burn. Have fun dyeing with your daughter!

  • http://www.restlessgrace.blogspot.com Grace

    AWESOME! I love that yellow! I bought a skein of Marshmellow with the exact same idea in mind. I’ve used my crock pot in the past, but I’m going to try the micorwave next time.

  • Kelly

    I love this tutorial! Dying yarn in a pot or over a stove seems like so much work. Now dying in a microwave – how simple is that? I never even thought of using a microwave for dying purposes. Thanks for this great tutorial! It inspires me to do this on a free weekend. Love it!

  • Marissa

    Do you have to rinse the soap out from Step 2 before Step 3? Or does the soap help with the whole process? Also how much soap should be added?

    I love this whole idea. I have always wanted to dye my own yarn. Love this and that yellow is fabulous.

    Thanks

    Jess Says: Hi, Marissa. Yes, you’ll want to run a bit of water over your yarn to rinse out the soap. Make sure that it’s a similar temperature to the water you were using to soak the yarn. You want to wash the yarn to get rid of any dust or dirt that may have accumulated while the yarn was waiting to be sold or while it was stashed. I only added a small squirt of mild soap, which was enough to make the water just a bit bubbly. You can also use a wool wash, gentle detergent, or even shampoo. Remember to not use a dyed soap, as that dye may end up on your yarn. I hope that helps!

  • http://www.kathleenscatholic.blogspot.com Kathleen Blease

    I recommended this a friend who has a blog called Catholic Icing, http://www.catholicicing.blogspot.com, where she provides lots of instructions for crafts and baking. I think she’ll like this.

  • Audrey

    I love Kool-Aid dying you can get the best colors. One thing I really liked about using the Kool-Aid instead of other dyes was you didn’t have to “cook it”. I’ve died big batches of wool before spinning right in the bathtub. Have you ever tried to get red Kool-Aid out of a carpet?

    • Ohhhdear

      Yes. Dilute the red immediately with at least a 2 quart pitcher of cold water. Then blot the area with a clean towel to soak up the liquid.

  • http://www.securityville.blogspot.com Kelly

    Thank you so much for this tutorial! I have some undyed yarn I think I want to try this on. And it sounds like something fun my 12 year old son might like to help me with!

  • http://jewelrybyNaLa.etsy.com jewelry by NaLa

    How cool is this? I’ve used tea and coffee to dye various materials, but now I’m “dying” to try Kool-Aid, too. Thanks for the info … furiously looking for something I can dye … ;)

  • Julie

    In Step 2 you say “be careful not to felt it.” How do you avoid that?

    I was given some yarn from friends who raise sheep and had some of the wool spun into yarn. I’d love to dye it and the above process seems really do-able for me. If I manage not to felt it by dying it, is it possible to felt it after it’s been knit?

    Jess says: Hi, Julie. Mandy is absolutely correct; felting may occur if you rub or otherwise agitate the yarn (assuming it’s not superwash). You can absolutely felt the yarn after it has been dyed.

  • http://mandarellaknits.blogspot.com Mandy

    @ Julie – If your yarn is not superwash (the yarn you received from your friends is probably not superwash) it will felt. Felting can happen if you agitate the wet yarn too much, so be careful not to handle it a lot while it is in the dye bath (especially while it is hot – heat will accelerate the felting process) and you should be fine. In fact, some handspun yarns (usually singles rather than plied yarns) are deliberately fulled slightly to help them hold together.

    And yes, you can still felt it after it has been knit, so handle it just as carefully when you wash and/or block your handknit items, unless you want them to felt.

  • Diane Ward

    Love this idea. Does the color need to be set so that it doesn’t bleed during washing?

    Hi, Diane. The acidity of the Kool-Aid itself is enough to set the dye. While the color may fade a little over time, you’ll find that the results are quite colorfast.

  • Kathleen Lunday

    I’ve been told that one must add white vinegar to any dye bath…but not in what proportion to the dye (food coloring) or amount of water. Do you have a recommendation? What does the white vinegar do? Can this Kool-Aid process also be used for cotton & for linnen yarns? Silk, Corn or milk based yarns?

    Jess says: Hi, Kathleen. You don’t actually need any vinegar to set a Kool-Aid dye; the acidity of the Kool-Aid does the job of the vinegar. You will need vinegar if you’re using acid dyes, though. In that case, just use a quick pour of it (no real measurement required) per pot. Unfortunately, Kool-Aid dyeing doesn’t work very well for non-animal fibers. For plant fibers, try using any standard clothing or fiber reactive dyes. I hope that helps!

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  • Hatwoman20

     just tried this, I LOVE IT ! !  So awsome! I had something I had already made and once I got tarted decided I didnt like the color, then I cam across this. Well it worked fabulous! My item is now blocked and drying a very pretty purple.

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  • Jldlds88

    Do you have to doing anything to it so the color doesn’t run?

    • Anonymous

       The heat of the microwave and the acidity of the Kool-Aid should set your dye. I dyed this yarn almost 2 years ago, and I haven’t had any problems with fading or color bleeding. If you do run into these problems, you can reset the dye with a vinegar bath. To make this, just add a cup of distilled white vinegar to 2 cups of water and boil. Reduce to a simmer and add your yarn/handmade item, and let simmer for 15-30 minutes. Cool in the bath, then rinse and let your yarn/item air dry.

  • https://sites.google.com/site/oftroysgoldenapples/ Helen

    I prefer food coloring (and add my own vinegar) to Kool-Aid (i dislike the fake fruit smell)–and I love sock ease (marshmallow) as a yarn.  

    In this past month (30 days) I’ve done some nectarine colorway, (apricot base, with yellow orange, crimson and red violet over lay–and a spring time color way (light green, with deep turquoise and lemon yellow) and I still have one more skeins (soon to be  cherry red–semi solid)–example can be seen on my blog.

    Its basically the same process–and just as much fun.. (but for 100gm of yarn, I nuke for 5 minutes, cool for 15 (repeat as needed)–
    I have also used food coloring to dye LB Superwash merino–(in the white color way)  I never had a real failure–(that is some thing ugly or unusable) and each time, i get better!  

  • mireya garcia

    I have done this many times and it is so much fun! I found a great tutorial from on how to make your yarn gradient in colors, hers is on the stovetop but it also works in the microwave.I’ve also dyed with red onion skins in the microwave with out any mordant and its pretty color fast ,for any natural dyers out there :)
    my blog:
    http://abeadedyear.blogspot.com/

    http://theworkisgettingtome.blogspot.com/2011/09/how-to-dye-long-gradient-with-wool-and.html

  • shelly7200

    Do I microwave on high or medium or some other setting?

    • Anonymous

      Great question! I microwaved on high.

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  • carma

    LB FISHERMEN’S WOOL says handwash in 104°, what will happen to the yarn if microwaved at high tempertures. Will it lose its memory, stretch beyond control, or shrink up??? Confused about boiling and cooling, seems like it would bloom and affect my project later.

  • Knitladycg

    How do you know what colors will result from difference flavors of Kool-Aid?

  • Dianne C.

    When using mild soap. Does dawn or palmolive work? Also do you need to add any salt to your water?

    • Devin

      Yes, Dawn or Palmolive will work. You do not need to add salt to the water.

  • Jessica Cali

    This is awesome!! Think this could be done with acrylic or cotton yarn?

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