05 October 2012

Rainbow Dyeing with Kool-Aid: Instructions

When I showed my rainbow dyed yarn last week some of you showed interest in learning how it's done, as there is no spinning class this week I thought I'd write that Rainbow Dyeing post with instructions :)

What you will need: 

  • undyed yarn/top/fibre/scoured fleece
  • three different coloured powder dyes. I'm using Kool-Aid today because that's all I have at home. But you can use any acid based dyes or food colourings.
  • a frying pan or shallow cooking pot, or electric frying pan.
  • a pair of tongs (if you don't want dyeing your fingers too, or burn them!)
  • a pair of rubber gloves
  • a plastic spoon (mine gives a perfect measure of 5g/0.18oz of powder)
  • white vinegar 
  • dish washing liquid
  • a colander for draining
  • a bucket for soaking and rinsing
  • a water jug for adding water if needed
N.B.  You should always keep dyeing equipments separate, I bought this old pan and tongs from an op-shop (shrift store). I should find another colander too, but as I'm using Kool-Aid I'll be let off today ;)

Step-by-Step Instructions:

1. Weigh your dry material. The ratio for powdered dye and undyed material is 1:10.  For example I'm using 100g of yarn, so I need 10g of dye all together. The 3 packets of Kool-Aid is roughly 10g.

2. Tie your yarn in several places to prevent tangling during the process. If you're using fibre top or scoured fleece you don't need to tie them. (N.B. make sure you don't tie too tightly if you don't want rings of undyed spots where the ties had been)

 3. Soak your yarn/fibre/fleece for at least 1 hour, better result if soaked overnight. (N.B. if using commercial yarn you might need to soak with some dish washing liquid to help dye absorption).

4. Drain the yarn/fibre/fleece to get rid of excess water. Your undyed material should be thoroughly wet but not dripping.

5. Add some water to the pan, not too much because you don't want to submerge the material. Then add a dash of dish washing liquid and a dash of vinegar.  - can you see the dish washing liquid in the pan? No need to mix or stir.
 6. Add the material to the pan and arrange it so that there is no empty space at all. There should be enough water for cooking (so that it doesn't run dry) but not covering the material - this is very important as too much liquid will allow the dyes to travel in the pan and merge together to make the colour murky. (if you have less material try using a smaller pan to fill the gap with other fibre things like a clean old tea towel that you don't mind ruining)
 7. Now the fun part!! Sprinkle the dye powder over the material in three sections, the colours next to each other will merge and make new colours.
8. Start heating and bring it to a simmer - do not boil! Once the pan starts to simmer set the timer for 10 minutes (if you are using commercial dye), I actually waited 15 minutes as I was using Kool-Aid. Do not be tempted to stir or fiddle with it, but you can poke it with tongs if you think the powder is not dissolving - make sure you wipe the tongs clean or rinse them before touching another colour.

9. After 10 (or 15) minutes turn off the heat and let it cool for 10 minutes. The picture below is after cooking.
10. Using your tongs to take out the yarn/fibre (it could still be hot) and let it drain in the colander.
11. Once drained and completely cool, rinse in cold water until the water runs clear, squeeze out the water (do not wring) or roll in a clean towel, then hang in the shade to dry.
And there you are, beautiful rainbow dyed yarn! or fibre :)

Of course you can use any colour combination, last week one of my classmates only used 2 colours (purple and pine green) and the result was stunning. You can also do this in a microwave or an oven, but I haven't tried those methods yet.  Knitting-And.com has a post on rainbow dyeing using pre-mixed dye in which you mix the dyes into liquid and pour over the undyed yarn, the result is the same. On reflection I think you can use just one colour and you might get different shades of the same colour or have an semi-solide effect. In fact next time I might do just that :)

Now it's your turn to have fun with Rainbow Dyeing, please do show us what you have created :)

Thanks for dropping by, there is more fibre arts fun at Wisdom Begins in Wonder. Indulge your creative side and join the party!

P.S. Last week someone asked how I got the dark denim blue colour from Kool-Aid, well that's a mix of grape and blueberry, interesting result isn't it  :)


  1. Super tutorial!! Thanks for sharing! XO-

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  3. Thanks for sharing. I have tried this with Easter Egg dyes but never with Koolaid. I have a 3 year old packet in my cupboard - I think I might just check it out.

  4. I'm with Heather - nice tutorial. And of course great result!

  5. Great job explaining the process. I love dyeing and always get out the kool aid when my kids want to help. Your yarn is sassy!

  6. Thanks for posting the tutorial! You make it looks so easy, I really need to try it with the food colorings I have hiding around.

    1. It really is quite easy when you do it :) I've got some food colouring as well, think I will try that when I have more yarn spun up.

  7. That looks great but not sure I would actually do it!

  8. Thanks for posting the tutorial. It looks fantastic! i love how the colours turned out!

  9. I don't know how I missed reading this earlier, but here I am! Vivian is right, you made it look so easy! I have "dyeing yarn" on my big list for a Year of Projects and I'm really excited about giving it a try. We always have Kool-Aid at home - I really like the grape and blueberry combo. I think I'll try that and maybe add cherry to get more purples in there!
    Now what are you going to make??