Saturday, November 7, 2009

Dyeing Play Silks with Kool-aid

Remember that sickly sweet drink we used to have as children, kool-aid? You know, the stuff we'd never in a million years serve to our own children nowadays? Well, turns out there's a use to the stuff! Besides making the yummiest smelling playdough, you can dye protein fabrics and wools with it! I had ordered some 30x30 Habotai Silk Scarves ( as playsilks for the toddler's Christmas gift. But who wants to play with boring all white scarves? Yeah, me either! But I wanted something less toxic and less expensive than most of the dyes available but still wanted bright vibrant colours. Enter KOOL-AID!

First off, you're probably wondering what play silks are aren't you? Well, they are only one of the world's most open ended toy ever! They're fabulous scarves that encourages use of imagination and creativity. I've seen children use them as a peek-a-boo prop (my toddler's fave right now), a cape, a sling for their dolls, a dress, to build a fort, use a blue one for the ocean or green one for a pasture for farm animals, etc. The possibilities are endless! I really encourage you to go out and make your own playsilks or purchase a set and just sit back and watch your children play.
There are so many tutorials available online on how to dye using kool-aid that I didn't know where to begin. I decided on trying out this one:
Here's some pics showing how we dyed 4 scarves (I plan on making two more: yellow and blue but ran out of mason jars):
This is what the Habotai scarf looked like fresh from the mail. Kinda boring, huh?

While you're getting everything ready, soak all your scarves in a big bowl (I'm using the insert of our crockpot) with warm tap water and a few tablespoons of vinegar. It should sit for about half hour.
In a big mason jar (the tutorial I used suggested using old spaghetti jars even) put in 1.5 cups of hot water with a tablespoon of vinegar. Add in 4 or 5 packages of kool-aid in each jar. I used 4 mason jars so I ended up with 4 different coloured scarves in the end. Make sure it's mixed well.
In a large pot, bring a few inches of water to a simmer. Place one silk scarf in each mason jar and mix well. Place as many jars as you can fit in the pot. The tutorial I used never said how long to let it sit but I'd say about 20 minutes is good, just make sure you come back and stir often to ensure an even distribution of colour.
After about 20 minutes, you'll notice that the coloured water in the jars has began to really fade. In lighter colours (such as the green) it may even take on a milky colour when the dye has been absorbed. When this happens, remove the jars (careful, they're hot) from the pot and empty in the sink. You need to rinse them and here's what surprised me: I was expecting excess dye to run out and thought it was going to take forever to rinse (for those of you who have coloured your hair and spent forever rinsing out the colour, that's what I was thinking). But that's not what it was like at all! It was so easy to rinse, no colour came out at all! Here's a green one finished:
Here's all four of them finished and ready to be hung out to dry (notice how enthusiastic the teenager looks):
What I learned from this:
~ 5 packets of kool-aid probably wasn't needed. I could have gotten away with 3 I'm thinking.
~ The mason jars were great but a little small. Next time I'd use something bigger so the scarf doesn't have to be bunched up. Or maybe more solution even. They all came out slightly mottled (the green and purple especially) but I think it looks great anyways!
~ Kool-aid stains everything. My light coloured countertops have splatters of red and orange all over them from me being sloppy. Oops!
~ And finally, I learned that dyeing is really fun and if I was a knitter I'd definitely try my hand at dyeing some yarn.

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