Toxic chemicals, separate vessels, many precautions, like many people I look for alternatives to chemical dyes. Ideally they would be easy to do, safe around children and pets, and wouldn’t absolutely require me to use different tools and pots (because I don’t know where to put them).
Inventive knitter and dyer Lee Meredith comes rushing to my rescue. You’ve read about Lee before. I’ve profiled her, tried her hand-dyed yarns recycled from sweaters, and adapted her game knitting ideas to needlepoint. Today I want to talk about her wonderful tutorials on dyeing.
Lee’s first two tutorials about Kool-aid dyeing have been updated. The first part discusses her basic method and how to get a variegated yarn with Kool-aid. This part also has some great links to other sites about Kool-aid dyeing, including one to a color chart. The second part covers making self-striped yarns. These yarns are wrapped and then painted with dyes in irregular stripes. In knitting they make striped patterns which give the yarns their name. Many multi-color needlepoint yarns are made this way as well.
Earlier this week she refined her methods showing us how to use a Crock-pot and several kinds of Kool-aid to get a wonderful spotty hand-dyed yarn.
There are several things I love about this method, which Lee does incredibly well. First off it’s non-toxic, so you can do it in your kitchen with no problems. Second, it’s incredibly cheap. Kool-aid is often 10 cents at the grocery store, crockpots are always available at thrift shops, and animal fiber yarns (i.e.wool) can be easy to find or are already in your stash. Third, with experimentation you can get colors and effects that will be unique and not found in commercial thread.
One note for success in dyeing (Lee also notes this). There are three types of fibers: animal (silk and wool of various kinds(, vegetable (cotton and linen) and man-made. Each type of fiber needs to be dyed with different dyes and reacts with color differently. Kool-aid works with animal fibers. I’ve tried it with cotton and the results are much lighter and less stable.
Dyeing my own threads is something I have dabbled with since I was a teenager. My first needlepoint stitch sampler, done in 1977, used all hand-dyed yarns. I have taken classes, tried many techniques and still find the process fascinating. I’m off to find a crock pot (it’s 50% off day at one local thrift store) and I’m pulling some of my lighter wools and silk wools from my stash for dyeing.