Fridays with Franklin: Hot, Wet, and Kinky

Fridays with Franklin logo

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.

strip of uncoiled kinky yarn showing limits of painting
Too much white.

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.

Kool-Aid.

Oh yeahhhhhhh.

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.

Oh, dear.

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.

Gently kinky.

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

Kinky Yarn (100% superwash wool)
addi Click Turbo Interchangeable Needle Set
Textil Marabu fabric paint
Fashion Spray Marabu textile spray paint

About Franklin

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.

Follow Franklin online via Twitter (@franklinhabit), Instagram (@franklin.habit), his Web site (franklinhabit.com) or his Facebook page.

Fridays with Franklin: I Get Kinky

Fridays with Franklin Logo

For an introduction to what goes on in this column, click here.

I get the darnedest stuff in the mail from Makers’ Mercantile. The latest box was preceded by a note that said, “I’m send you something kinky.”

I’m not a prude, but that did give me pause.

What arrived in the mail was yarn. Oddly packaged yarn. I’ve had yarn in skeins and balls; but this arrived as two neat little cakes.

Two new cakes of Kinky Yarn.
The only yarn I’ve ever seen that includes the word “badass” on the tag.

Cute, right? Turns out this is a new yarn, and it’s called Kinky. And you buy it in a cake. It looks like this.

The cake is plain, and that’s the point. The note enclosed said that decorating a cake of Kinky is step one before using it. Decorate it with what? Just about anything, apparently. Dye, paint, markers–whatever will leave permanent mark on the fiber–it’s 100% superwash wool.

Which explained why these were also in the box.

Marabu Textil and Marabu Fashion Spray
Interesting…

I’m not a dyer, and I admit that on the list of things you can do with yarn, dyeing it is way down my list. We all have our limits; that’s one of mine.

I’ve dabbled in dyeing, and the process reminds me of the fishing trips I was forced to endure as a child. You drop in the string, and you wait. And wait. And wait. And wait. And wait. Then you pull the string out and see what you got.

Just not my cup of tea.

But this was different. The Kinky Yarn cake is made up of a knitted tube, rolled and tied. The instructions suggested that I could unroll and decorate it, or not.

I decided to leave the cake intact. That way it would feel less like dyeing, and more like putting the finishing touches on a fancy dessert.

For cake one, I pulled out a paint brush and a couple bottles of Textil Marabu textile paint. This stuff looks like poster paint and acts like it, too–it’s got the same consistency. But instead of using it to announce a bake sale or the drama club’s production of Glengarry Glen Ross, you use it to paint fiber or fabric.

This was, wonder of wonders, fun. It didn’t take long for me to have this little cutie sitting on my work table.

Kinky Yarn cake painted with Textil Marabu paints.
Note the foil-covered surface. Also, I was wearing one of daddy’s old shirts as a paint smock.

This would be neat way of getting the kiddies involved in your fiber work, if you can trust the kiddies with paint or markers. Put on the smocks, cover the table, and let them go to town. Keeping an eye on them, of course. Then knit, weave or crochet with what they’ve created.

Sort of be a fun gift to a knitter or crocheter, too. Paint it up for them with Bon Voyage, Happy Birthday, or a portrait of the cat. Or put out one for each guest at yarn lover’s party, with markers and paints for decorating in the center of the table.

For the other Kinky cake, I used Fashion Spray Marabu, which comes in a little spritz bottle. Unlike Textil Marabu, which is pretty thick, Fashion Spray Marabu is what the name suggests–a spray.

Word to the wise: when you press the nozzle the first time to test it, aim it a scrap of paper or cloth. Like this.

Test spray on paper towel.
Pfffffffffffffffft…

Do not, I repeat do not, accidentally aim the nozzle at your face. I learned that the hard way. There is no photograph, because I was busy going ack ack gah cough ack while wondering if I were now Permanently Smurfed.

The spray was super fun. Spritz here, spritz there. I used two colors, and had a good time applying them over each other and watching how they blended where they touched.

Kinky Yarn cake sprayed with Fashion Spray Marabu.
Good enough to eat.

I let both cakes dry thoroughly, which is also recommend for Kinky. Only after it’s dry do you undo the cake, unravel the tube, and wind the dyed yarn into a ball. The yarn will be kinked–therefore the name. The kinks can be left in, to add interest to your fabric. Or, if you don’t like the kinks, block the finished piece and they disappear.

After drying, I was pleased with the appearance of both cakes, but checked the spray version and noted that of course the spray liquid hadn’t penetrated far beyond the surface.

The untouched interior of the yarn cake.

That’s part of the fun of the knitted cake structure; it means some parts of the fiber are likely to remain untouched and produce unexpected effects–sort of like the game you play whentie-dyeing t-shirts. But I didn’t want this much of my cake to stay white. So I did one more thing.

I took what was left of my blue fashion spray and diluted it with enough water to allow me to dip half the cake into it. There I let it stand for a few hours.

Then I took out the cake, and prepared a similar bath with the remains of the purple spray. I dipped the other half and let it stand for a few hours.

Kinky Yarn cake half submerged in dye bath.
Exciting action shot.

Next time, I’ll show you what sort of yarn I got from each cake, and knit some up to check out the results.

See you in two weeks…

Tools and Materials Appearing in This Issue

Kinky Yarn (100% superwash wool)
Textil Marabu fabric paint
Fashion Spray Marabu textile spray paint

About Franklin

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 Book was 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.

Follow Franklin online via Twitter (@franklinhabit), Instagram (@franklin.habit), his Web site (franklinhabit.com) or his Facebook page.

Kinky Techniques

Kinky Techniques

Experimenting is part of the fun! Check out some of the different ways we have dyed Kinky Yarn!


Sharpie Marker Dyeing

  • Just the Facts
  • Longer, Bantier Version


Speckled Yarn Dyeing