This summer, I learned how to spin my own wool yarn, with the help of a lovely lady by the name of Chris. It was such a wonderful experience, and I became pretty darn good at working with the drop spindle by the end of the season. As a goodbye present, Chris gave me something else fiber-related with which to experiment: Dyeing! So today’s post will follow my stovetop dyeing-with-Koolaid adventures with some constructive(-ish) input from the characters of one of my favorite shows: Avatar: The Last Airbender. I had to tie it into my cine-theme somehow, you know. So off we go!
Dyeing Wool with Koolaid
- Unsweetened Koolaid
1. If your (preferably white) 100% wool is in skeins, roll them into balls or cakes before beginning the dye process. This makes them easier to handle as you’re scootching them around.
2. Dampen the balls of wool in water. They don’t need to be soaking wet, just damp. Also, though I’m sure you already know this, do not twist the yarn to get the water out, just squeeze gently. This will prevent your strands from turning into an inadvertently felty monstrosity.
3. I chose lemon-lime, berry, and grape as my flavor/colors for this experiment. After that nerve-wracking decision (what if it doesn’t work?? What if they look weird?? My poor yarn!), dissolve 1 packet of koolaid in 2 cups of water and 2 tablespoons of vinegar in a large-ish pot. You can use less water if you would like a darker color, but make sure the amount of water will immerse your yarn.
4. Place your damp wool in the pot of liquid. I chose to throw caution to the wind and tied the ends of my two cakes together, pulled the middles out, and mixed up which pots they were in to create a varigated look. This will be a hot mess to untangle later, but that’s a worry for… later.
5. Place your pots on the stove and simmer for 20-30 minutes on low heat, or until the water in your pot is clear.
– There was a mild emergency during this part. I was puzting around, cleaning up, when I smelled burning wool. One of my strands stretching between the pots had rested on the stove top and was burning merrily. I pulled it off the stove, put it out, and cut off the charred part, tying the unburned ends together. So the moral of that story is: make sure you know where your strands are, gentle readers, lest your yarn be charred.
-Another tip not having to do with fire:
- Stir your yarn around a bit, but don’t get too excited. The stirring will help keep the yarn at the bottom of the pot from sticking and burning in unpleasantness. But if you stir it too much, it will felt up something fierce. Try to find a happy medium – two or three stirs during the 30 minutes is plenty.
6. Once your yarn has soaked up all of the color it can hold, take it out and let it cool. I spread a few paper towels on a cookie sheet and plopped them on that, trying to keep them in some semblance of order.
7.Once your yarn has cooled enough to handle, rinse the cakes in cool water until the water runs clear.
8. Extract the water, either by spinning in one of those fancy baskets, or going the peasant route like me and rolling the cakes in a dry towel.
9. Dry the yarn. You can either let it sit as it is on another towel, or drive yourself insane by winding it onto a random tub lid so it will dry faster. And make a cool picture. Guess which option I went with, fool that I am.
10. Just kidding, there is no 10. You have successfully dyed yarn with a childhood beverage. Kudos!
While mildly tricky, this is a simple project for any novice yarn-dyer. It’s really fun, and can also be done as an in-the-sun project, rather than on the stove. The color will be more on the pastel side, but it’s a great project to do with kids.
As for Avatar: The Last Airbender, can you tell I friggin’ love this show? I do. I love it so much. The characters, plot, animation, voice acting, direction…. I honestly can’t say enough good things about it. Clocking in at three seasons, it is one of the most tightly made, well-written shows I have ever seen. It tackles so many complex themes, like the use of power, dealing with conflict, and friendship among people with very different beliefs. It is a masterful blend of humor and drama, with surprisingly high stakes for the young protagonists, and moral grey areas abound, inviting critical thinking as to how morals affect decisions. Don’t be deterred by the fact that is is marketed as a children’s show – it is far more adult – and considerably more nuanced and well-done – than most “adult” shows I have watched in my day. I highly recommend it, whether you are of the Fire Nation, Water Tribe, Earth Kingdom, or Air Nomads.
Until next time, gentle readers!