How to Kool-Aid Dye Silk Scarves (and Other Stuff)

Silk, wool, cashmere--if it's from an animal, here's how to dye it

I love KoolAid. Good grief, not to drink! To dye stuff with!

KoolAid is a ready-made acid dye, suitable for any protein fiber. That means silk, soy silk and wool, fiber fans. Usually I dye wool with it, or its close relative, Easter egg dye.

yarn spun from fibers dyed in Easter egg dye

This yarn is a combination of odd bits of fibers I had, including wool and soy silk, mostly dyed with Easter egg dye left over from egg dyeing in 2006.

So when our friend Karen had a birthday recently, Anhata decided it would be fun if we KoolAid-dyed her a silk scarf in her favorite colors, Berry Blue, Grape and Lemon-Lime--er, blue, purple and green. As long as we were at it, we dyed scarves for ourselves and for another friend who's having a birthday soon.

dyed fan folded scarf in ziptop bagFirst we got the scarves good and wet. Then we fan-folded them. Some of them we then rubber-banded, like tie-dye. We put the wet scarves inside zip-top freezer bags and then took the straight KoolAid powder (no sugar!) and sprinkled it over the scarves where we wanted the color. We flipped the scarves over and did the back sides, then sorta smooshed the silk in the bag to work the color into the layers.

(That smell! Even if you don't drink the stuff any more, it really takes you back. "I'm having a grade-school flashback!" said Anhata. Grade school--heck, I craved Black Cherry KoolAid in the worst way when I was pregnant with Josie, with hardly any sugar in it. Yes, I admit it, I drank it. Pregnant womens is crazy. But I digress.)

Then we took the bags and popped them one at a time into the microwave on high for two minutes. We watched to make sure the bags didn't pop from the steam.

Then we left them overnight until they cooled. When I rinsed out the two pieces I had, the dye had completely struck; the water left in the silk was clear, and no amount of rinsing brought any of the dye out of the fabric. (That's what you want.) The results:

KoolAid dyed silk scarveswatermelon scarf

Whaddaya think?
This is a fun project with kids. The dye is non-toxic, and it's quick--almost instant-gratification. You can get silk scarf blanks at Dharma Trading. Remember: This only works on fibers like silk and wool. It won't work on cotton, linen or polyesters of any kind.

Lynn Siprelle loves fiber.