I’ve been reluctant to learn to dye my own yarn. Many dyes are more toxic than I’m willing to deal with. Even if I managed not to poison myself, I wasn’t sure how to safely dispose of the waste. And while natural dyes may be safer, the colors haven’t appealed to me. Kool-Aid dyeing sounded like my best option if I was going to try this at all. Luckily for my crafting bucket list (no, not really—I don’t formally have one), the November meeting of the Minnesota Knitters’ Guild was a hands-on session on Kool-Aid dyeing. Years ago, I bought a hank of Knit Picks Color Your Own fingering weight yarn and still hadn’t used it, so this was a fine opportunity. The Guild set up tables so that we could either dye the yarn a solid color (my choice) or use pipettes to dribble different colors onto the yarn.
The major drawback to Kool-Aid dyeing is the limited color selection. Kool-Aid tries to imitate fruit, so there are several shades of pink/red/purple, but only one shade each of orange (orange), yellow (lemon), green (lime), and electric blue (“blue raspberry,” which is about as natural as it sounds). I thought the orange was the loveliest of the lot, but in the interests of dyeing the yarn a color I would actually wear, I decided on watermelon, which makes a coral pink. The recommended ratio was one packet of Kool-Aid for each ounce of yarn to get an intense color. For my 100 g (3½ ounces) hank, I went with three packets of watermelon and half a packet of blue raspberry, hoping that the hint of blue would cool the pink down, maybe even make it a bit purple.
The major hitch was a shortage of microwave ovens. There was good attendance at this meeting, which is great for the Knitters’ Guild as a whole, but made for delays in the dyeing. I used one of the smallest ovens and discovered that my bowl wouldn’t fit inside. I had to try two more bowls before I found one that would work, and each time I moved to a smaller bowl, I lost dye bath in the process. Good thing I wanted pastel yarn. Then the oven was too weak to heat the water quickly. You have to get the dye bath hot enough that the yarn soaks up the dye, leaving the water more or less clear. I could see that my yarn was pink, but after six minutes in the oven, the water was also still pink (if less so) and hadn’t made it past tepid. Aargh! Meanwhile, the line behind me was growing. I decided to take my chances, and moved on to rinsing the yarn. If the difference in temperature between the yarn and the rinse water is too great, the yarn may felt. There’s this to be said for tepidity: I didn’t have to wait for my yarn to cool to rinsing temperature. Running water, a bit of dish detergent (no one was really sure what the detergent was for, except to reduce the smell of Kool-Aid), and the yarn was ready to be taken home and left to dry.
The end result is yarn that is a nice shade of salmon pink with a delicate fruit scent. It’s a warmer color than I was hoping for, but it’s not orange by any means. And now that I’ve been reminded that I own this yarn, I may even make something with it (!).