For an introduction to what goes on in this column, click here.
For the first part of this adventure, click here.
And so I undertook to do something further with my second cake of Kinky Yarn, which didn’t look to be too interesting since the painted bits that were so cute on the cake…
…didn’t penetrate past the exterior. Most of the strand remained untouched, as was immediately apparent when I uncoiled the cake.
Keep in mind that I am neither an experienced nor an enthusiastic dyer. My next move, therefore, was based on convenience rather than wisdom. I had used up my supplies of Textil Marabu fabric paint and Fashion Spray Marabu. So I bought the least expensive, most readily available dye I knew of.
You’ve probably heard about Kool-Aid’s potential use as a dye; but in case you haven’t, here are some of points in its favor:
• It’s non-toxic.
• It’s cheap.
• It’s easy to find.
• It’s easy to use.
• It doesn’t require the use of additional acids.
And some points against it:
• It’s neither very strong nor very brilliant.
• It works only with animal fibers (it will not dye cotton, linen, or synthetics).
• Others may drink it before you can use it.
• It may tempt an enormous, anthropomorphic jug to bust through your kitchen wall.
As I stood in line at the supermarket, I realized I hadn’t made or consumed Kool-Aid since leaving home to go to college. Prior to that, I must have drunk hundreds of millions of gallons during a childhood that straddled the 1970s and 1980s.
Ours was not a progressive household where food was concerned. My mother thought whole wheat bread was un-American and my father refused to eat it. He still does. We had dinner with the kitchen television on. All our vegetables–such as there were–came from cans. My school lunches always included a gooey, unnatural cake of some kind from Hostess, and on fancy days the standard entrée of a peanut butter sandwich was replaced by the ultimate culinary luxury–a thermos full of Spaghetti-Os.
We were not, in short, the sort of family in which one turned up one’s nose at Kool-Aid. We drank it by the gallon. It was the first thing I ever made in the kitchen, and there was a violently orange Tupperware pitcher devoted to it. It was the only beverage to which we children had free access, the only thing we could take from the fridge without permission. Thirsty? Drink some Kool-Aid. Drink as much Kool-Aid as you want, was my mother’s policy–just please stay outside during all daylight hours and don’t bother me unless somebody is broken or bleeding.
This may shock younger readers. I hasten to reassure them that my mother was not uncaring or unfeeling–quite the opposite. This is just how it used to be in America, especially during the summer. Every house in our neighborhood had a Kool-Aid pitcher, and every house had a mother who wanted to be left alone from June to September.
Out of loyalty to my longtime favorite flavor, I bought two packs of Orange. I always preferred Orange. Grape was a distant second. Fruit Punch was tolerated but never loved; to me it tasted like birthday parties. The more exotic options like Lime and Apple weren’t even on my radar. I didn’t know anyone who drank those. Maybe people who ate whole wheat bread.
Enough about drinking Kool-Aid. How do you dye with it?
Kool Aid Dyeing: A Brief and Inexpert Guide
First, if your yarn is brand new, I’d give it a wash. Nothing fancy, just wash the skein–following the manufacturer’s guidelines for fiber content–with a little soap. Then rinse out absolutely all the soap. Your water should run clear.
Then soak the yarn in clean water while you prepare your dye pot.
If you are going to work with “real” chemical dyes, that’s a big undertaking and among many other precautions, you need to use pots and spoons dedicated solely to dyeing.
With Kool-Aid, however, just grab a deepish pot that looks like it will comfortably hold your yarn.
(You can do Kool-Aid dyeing in the microwave, but my microwave is on the blink and so I’m only going to talk about the stove top.)
Dump your Kool-Aid powder into the pot. The general principle, which is not difficult to grasp, is that more powder gives deeper color. There’s a practical limit, though, so don’t go nuts. That’s all I got for you. If you’d like an extended treatise on the subject, I refer you to this splendid article from Knitty.
Pour in some water–don’t fill the pot–and stir until the powder dissolves.
Put in your yarn.
Add enough water to cover the yarn.
Put the pot over the flame and heat it until the water is just shy of boiling. Then turn off the flame, cover the pot, and let it sit for a good half hour. Stir it from time to time, if you can remember. I forgot.
In a half hour, maybe a bit more, you should hope to see that the water is clear–that means your yarn has absorbed the dye.
If the water isn’t clear, try heating up the pot again, and letting the yarn sit until the water cools.
Then rinse the yarn thoroughly and let it dry. Use warm water to rinse, as shocking hot wool with cold water may encourage felting.
I was deeply alarmed to see that when removed from the bath, my yarn was a dead ringer for Cheetohs. I hate Cheetohs.
Kinky is knit into a tight strip, which inevitably prevents dye from reaching every spot on the strand equally. So I hoped the lurid glow of the exterior fiber would probably be moderated by some paleness in the interior.
I wound my Kinky into a hank on my niddy noddy so that it would dry more quickly…
…and then hung the tied hank in the shower to let it dry.
You do not, of course, want to wind yarn that is even a little wet into a ball.
Sure enough, the wound yarn was only moderately Cheetoh-esque. It was actually rather closer to Spaghetti-Os, of which I have only fond memories Quite a relief. And in spite of the thorough soakings and washings, much of the kink remained as gentle waves.
Now, as to what to make with it? I can’t decide. I’m still swatching.
But I’ve have had fun playing with dye, and I plan to do it again. That Kinky has encouraged me to try dyeing (not a favorite thing) and knit with bulky (also not a favorite thing) and helped me to enjoy both is nothing short of remarkable.
Next time, we’ll revisit a project I’ve set aside for a while–and talk about an exciting new direction for “Fridays with Franklin.” See you in two weeks!
Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue
Designer, teacher, author and illustrator Franklin Habit is the author of It Itches: A Stash of Knitting Cartoons (Interweave Press, 2008). His newest book, I Dream of Yarn: A Knit and Crochet Coloring Bookwas brought out by Soho Publishing.
He travels constantly to teach knitters at shops and guilds across the country and internationally; and has been a popular member of the faculties of such festivals as Vogue Knitting Live!, STITCHES Events, the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, Squam Arts Workshops, the Taos Wool Festival, Sock Summit, and the Madrona Fiber Arts Winter Retreat.
Franklin’s varied experience in the fiber world includes contributions of writing and design to Vogue Knitting, Yarn Market News, Interweave Knits, Interweave Crochet, PieceWork, Twist Collective; and a regular columns and cartoons for Mason-Dixon Knitting, PLY Magazine, Lion Brand Yarns, and Skacel Collection/Makers’ Mercantile. Many of his independently published designs are available via Ravelry.com.
He is the longtime proprietor of The Panopticon, one of the most popular knitting blogs on the Internet (presently on hiatus).
Franklin lives in Chicago, Illinois, cohabiting shamelessly with 15,000 books, a Schacht spinning wheel, four looms, and a colony of yarn that multiplies whenever his back is turned.