Playing at Dyeing

Lately I’ve been testing new waters and, while not getting quite the outcomes in mind, having fun. A tendency to avoid a great deal of pre-study and reading on a new interest, instead plunging in almost directly means I get to explore without a lot of rules. True there’s lots of trial and error which can energize my brain.

I love wrapping a Turkish spindle in a silk hankie to send to the person purchasing the spindle. Every spinner should spin silk at least once in their spinning life.  It didn’t take long to go through several packages of hankies paying full retail price, and while I did swap with a person who sent some beautiful silk, she’s in nursing school and has a busy life.  It was time to try dyeing silk hankies to cut down on the cost.

Koolaid was my choice: convenient and non-toxic. The first go around I split the 8 ounce pack in two. I’d read of people laying roving on plastic wrap, squirting it with the dyes, rolling it up and microwaving it. That’s what I did. Mixing a packet of Grape Koolaid with about 1/2 c of water and a glog of vinegar in one jar, a packet of Black Cherry in another, Lemon-Lime, Strawberry… there was soon a regiment of Koolaid filled jars parading across the counter. Syringes were employed to anoint the silk with dye which promptly ran off the silk, off the plastic wrap, spilled over the counter and made a mess.

Plan Two: Put the 4 ounces, laying on the plastic wrap, into a glass baking dish to contain the dyes. Syringes worked for getting the dye on the top layer but soon my fingers were stained from trying to gently coax the Koolaid through the layers. At last the hankies are rolled and put into the microwave for a minute of cooking followed by a minute of cooling. And more minutes of cooking and cooling until the dye was exhausted (no color left floating in the dish). So was the wrap. Fried. Sort of melted onto the silk. A rinsing in warm water didn’t get the plastic off the silk and the first couple of ruined silk hankies were unavoidedly removed with the plastic.

Plan Three: While the first 4 ounces were going through cycles of cooking and cooling it seemed wise to try soaking the other 4 ounces in water with a splash of vinegar so the fibers would more readily absord the Koolaid. A 20 minute soak seemed reasonable. Carefully squeezing out the water I then laid the batch flat in another glass dish. The soaked silk took the Koolaid much better. Blotting up the excess dye with paper towels the hankies were loosely rolled up in the dish and set in the oven was set at 180 degrees. No plastic wrap or microwave. The silk absorbed heat and dye for around 30 minutes followed by rinsing then laying the stack on a towel to dry.

I was tickled red by how the second batch turned out.  I have tons to learn yet but that’s part of the fun. Experimenting with colors and concentrations. This is the year for learning about colors.


Author: Wanda J

I never dreamed my life would be entangled with fiber and the tools used to produce fibery items. When I bought a boat shuttle used in weaving Ed looked at it, decided to make a better one and the rest is history. For a decade he made shuttles, crochet hooks, knitting needles, until his spindles became so popular that he had to devote his time to making them, as well as Walking Wheels. Free time is spent reading, trying to coax food from the ground, and playing in the creek near our place. I love long walks and camping far from crowds. Playing a fiddle beside a stream or with good friends brings sweetness to my soul. Sundays are set aside for worshiping God with our small Quaker meeting.

14 thoughts on “Playing at Dyeing”

  1. What bright vibrant colours you have, I don’t think it matters what you read about dyeing, from experience I have found that it is the most unpredictable process you can play with, that’s probably why I like it so much, I can hang fibres out to dry, thinking they look a bit rubbish and might need another dyebath, and once they fluff up they look completely different. I’m having a similar fight with some silk in camel silk roving, even after 2 visits to the dyebath I still have some light patches!

  2. Heeee. The first plan had me in a heap of giggles, SO been there, done that. I learned to soak the fibre first, remove excess water, THEN apply the dye. Learning is so much fun.
    I do personally vouch for the stunning little hankies you dye, they smell good too :^)

  3. They are lovely! Did you wet the hankies before beginning dyeing? That’s the only reason I can think that the dye would run off…if the hankies were dry at the start.

  4. They are gorgeous! I love reading about your experimentation; you’re right, trying it that way means that you a) get to play more with fiber, and b) learn a lot 🙂 As the recipient and overjoyed spinner of some of that silk you send out, I must say that I, at least, am grateful for the tradition!

  5. Yes! You were so kind to send me a gorgeous green silk hanky and I have to tell you – I was shocked to read it’d been dyed with Kool-Aid! It’s so pretty!!! Thank you! (again!)

  6. I hate to admit I was giggling over plan A and cringing with plan B. But the final results are lovely. And a good time was had by all the humans involved.

  7. Oh, I love those colours!I’ve been wanting to try dyeing some undyed sock yarn with Kool-Aid, to make my own unique socks. I’ve just gotten out the lovely hankie you sent me, and I’m following your instructions. So far I’ve got a small hole in the middle, which I’m enlarging. Thanks for your inspiration! By the way, Kool-Aid really leaves stains, doesn’t it? I know because my son dyed his hair with it once. Drip, drip, all over the bathroom–not to mention down his neck, etc.

  8. I am in a dyeing mood…maybe all the colours are lifting our spirits and this time of year can esily bring me down…beautiful colours now that you have learnt not to fry your hankies!

  9. Wow, I never thought about using koolade for silk! I’ve used it several different ways with wool and mohair and that works well. I tend to use a microwave to speed the process, but also have used the sun’s heat in summer by placing the wool that is pre-soaked in vinegar water and then srinkle on the koolade directly. Wearing gloves-I “massage” the dye a bit into the fibers and then put it outside. There is a bit of the unexpected with that as some of the dye is not just one color and can separate into different hues with this and the microwave method. I have gotten blues and purple with the grape. Thanks for the inspiration!

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