Blue Fingernails & Trying Something New

I’ve said repeatedly that there are a few things that I just have no plans to do. Dyeing yarn or fiber is one of those things. I have limited space and time and this is one area where I am happy to defer to experts. I appreciate that there is no shortage of talented dyers and I’m more than happy to support them. This week, however, I made a short foray into the dyeing world and tried something new: Kool-Aid dyeing.

kool-aidYou’ll remember that since I received some Natural Skeins from Kraemer Yarns, I made it one of my +1 goals for this final quarter of the year. Now it’s worth noting that one skein, a base named “Patti,” is 100% US Organic Combed Cotton and thus is not possible to Kool-Aid dye — I’ll have to look into other options for it. The other two, however, are wool blends, so I set to it.

Right up front, it’s worth noting that if you look through the different bases of the Kraemer Yarns Natural Skeins that the the wool & cotton is sourced within the US — for those who believe in buring US-produced fibers, this is great news! The first I’ll tell you about is the Jane base. This is 60% US Superwash Merino + 40% Nylon in a DK weight. It’s very soft and squishy and a fun yarn to play with — if you’re looking to just try some Kool-Aid dyeing, this would be a great base to start with because it feels nice and it’ll knit up relatively quickly so you can see the results of your efforts pretty immediately.

Now I read a few posts on Kool-Aid dyeing, but when it came time I had this Knitty.com tutorial open on my computer for reference — it was pretty basic, easy to follow, and worked like a charm. For my Jane skein, I added 5 packs of Mixed Berry Kool-Aid and dissolved them in just the minimum amount of water. Then I added a bit more water, took a big breath, and added the yarn.

img_5135I tried to make it so the dye was applied evenly. I didn’t realize how quickly I’d have to move to make this happen though and in the excitement I totally spaced on sticking my hands in plastic bags to protect them…

img_5137And I spent the day with blue fingernails to prove it.

In any case, from here I microwaved my yarn in two minute intervals with a rest in between until the water was mostly clear and I had this pretty cool, pretty vibrant turquoise color. And then my curiosity got the better of me and I sprinkled a little Cherry Kool-Aid on some of the spots where the Mixed Berry was a little light. And then the sprinkle kind of turned a little heavier. You know how it goes…

img_5142I’ve got a skein with a very clumsy & hefty purple section in it. Ah, the interesting results of those experimental impulses.

img_5143Suffice to say, this skein is totally fun and use-able and a great learning experience, but I won’t be quitting my day job any time soon.

I decided that I should probably have more of a plan for my second skein. The “Beth” base is 30% US Merino + 20% Silk + 50% Alpaca and — having used all my blue dye and some of my red on the last skein, I thought I would try hand-painting. I mixed 4 packs of Pink Lemonade (pink) and 4 packs of Lemonade (yellow) in separate plastic cups and I untwisted and carefully laid out my yarn in a rectangular glass container. And then, very glamorously I grabbed my turkey baster and applied my dye.

img_5136This was decidedly more nerve-wracking as I tried to get the dye all the way through the yarn without having it bleed. Turns out, it really wasn’t much of an issue and this turned out much better than I expected.

img_5144This skein is decidedly not evenly dyed, but I think I managed to avoid any total misses where the yarn is white and I remembered to wear plastic bags on my hands, too, so it was pretty much a win in my book.

img_5145I very much like where the yarn is most saturated so I will definitely make a note of that for future reference.

And yes! I did say “for future reference.” Now I definitely won’t be pursuing the world of dyeing on any major scale, but I think it would be a fun project with the kids. I’ve been wanting to have them each knit their own hat and I thought it might be fun to get a chunky weight Natural Skein like “Eleanor” and let the kids dye their own yarn and then knit their own hats. Plus, I’ll be honest, dyeing on this kind of small scale just to see how it works is kind of fun. I think we’d all enjoy it.

If you have any curiosity about dyeing at all or you just feel like trying something new, I definitely recommend getting yourself some Kraemer Natural Skeins & Kool-Aid packets and give it a try. It’s totally different from knitting or spinning, you learn a lot about how different colorways are made, and it’s a great way to break out of your comfort zone and just try something new. Plus, as far as trying new things go, it’s pretty inexpensive. My favorite part, though, the biggest lesson I’ve walked away with is that I have a whole new and enhanced respect and appreciation for my favorite yarn & fiber dyers. Indie dyers have got some serious skills!

12 responses to “Blue Fingernails & Trying Something New

  1. I love the adventure and how well yours turned out. I have not interest in dyeing, but it’s fun to see it happen. Makes me appreciate the indie dyers a lot more!

    • I agree! I am in no danger of falling down this rabbit whole on any large scale. I think it’d be fun for the kiddos, but that’s about it. I don’t have the space or patience for it (or the eye). I’m extremely happy to support my fave indie dyers instead!

  2. If you can get some Sharkleberry Fin, it makes the best pinky melony yarn. Your pink loving daughter would like it!

  3. Great job! I have played about with dying (and like you, will continue to support the indie dyers who are actually good at this!) and I really enjoy it. But when a skein or roving turns out well, I feel that is a fluke. 🙂

    I did find it fun to use the crock pot for “kettle” dying – I put the yarn and water and a touch of vinegar in, sprinkled the kool aid on top, put the lid on and went to work. While supper wasn’t ready when I got home, yarn was, and that was fun.

    You don’t mention the fragrance of the yarn – I found it took me a very long time to get the fruity smell of the kool aid out!

    I think your kids are going to have fun with this project. 🙂 And the blue of your nails will fade eventually. 🙂

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