Saturday, December 27, 2008

How to Kool-Aid Dye Sheep's Wool

I reported earlier on how to wash a fleece so now I'll show you the progression of dyeing a sheep's fleece with Kool Aid. (This was my first but successful attempt :)

I first spun my washed and carded my wool from Francis the sheep and then spun it on my spinning wheel. I wanted a bulky yarn that wasn't perfectly even so I spun it to be a little larger. I didn't use the whole fleece - I just created 3 skeins and then I was ready to dye it. I chose not to dye the wool roving and also I chose not to ply the yarn until after the dye process was completed.

Here are the steps to Kool Aid dyeing your wool:

Use unsweetened Kool-Aid for this recipe.
  1. Open the skeins and tie them loosely and then soak them in room temperature water for 30 minutes or so. This helps them better soak up the dye. You can had a 1/4 cup of vinegar to create acidity but many reports on this process say the Kool-Aid is acidic and it isn't necessary (I went ahead and added vinegar to mine). Also, because Kool-Aid is approved as a food you don't 'have to' dedicate your cook pot as a dye pot, although it would probably not be a bad idea if you did.
  2. Fill a metal (non aluminium) container with water and add packets of Kool-Aid. I used five 8 gram packets of the colour Ice Blue because I had three skeins and I wanted a fairly strong colour. Stir to disolve all the crystals. The amount of water used isn't the issue to the strength of colour taken up by the wool - it's the number of packets that you use that make the colour stronger.

  3. Remove the wool from the water and place the skeins into the dye pot. Press them down gently until they are covered in the water.

  4. Turn on the stove and simmer (not boil) for 30 minutes. You can stir--very gently and slowly--but be careful not to agitate the wool or it will felt.

  5. After 30 minutes you'll see that your coloured water has become clear because the dye has been completely absorbed by the wool (note that the water showing in the spoon is clear--and yes I have a very ugly harvest gold stove!)

  6. Remove the wool from the pot and place in the sink to drain and cool.

  7. Hang to dry. The wool will have a lovely Kool-Aid smell which really makes up for the poopy smell before washing it! The smell will come out eventually.
  8. Hang your wool to dry.

Now I went one step farther. The blue came out more a sea foam colour which was fine but I really wanted a purple-blue colour. So once the wool had cooled down to room temperature I repeated the above process and added five 6 gram packets of Grape Kool-Aid to a fresh pot of room temperature water on the stove. Note that you can re-dye and also mix your colours too.

I simmered the seafoam coloured wool for 30 minutes (per directions above). My thinking was that the colours would layer (same technique I use when painting watercolours) so I wanted to build the colour. Also, I wanted to blue to show through the purple.

After the skeins were dry I plyed them on the spinning wheel. I really love the end result--the dye colour varies slightly from raisin to purple to blue-purple and the two-ply helps to show off the colour differences.

I plan to knit a vest with this wool.

If these directions were helpful, please leave your comments to let me know.


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