When I was three, I was having lunch at my godmother’s house. She offered me a glass of Koolaid. My response, according to family legend, was polite but firm. “No, thank you,” I said. “I don’t drink dye.”
These days I do actually have Koolaid in my house. It lives in little packets on top of the fridge, and every once a while, when I have finished a new skein of yarn, I take down a little of it and use it to dye my yarn. My mother taught me this. She has a pair of socks that she dyed in red, orange and purple stripes using Koolaid. She says that separating out the rounds of the skein (she used Fibonacci’s series) caused the yarn to end up as wet spaghetti by the end, but she’d invested so much time by that point that she took the time to sort it out into dried linguine in the box again. The socks smelled like Koolaid for a long time.
So I spun up some very nice bamboo on my drop spindle and plied it. One of these days I need to figure out how to do three- or more-ply without a Lazy Kate.
Next, I mixed up, at very high concentration, bright blue and red Koolaid. I used the sugarless kind, as I didn’t really want people trying to eat my yarn. I got the skein of yarn wet all the way through in a bowl of water. Then I added the red on this part of the yarn and the blue on that part of the yarn, covered the entire bowl in microwaveable plastic wrap, and put it in the microwave on high for three minutes.
I put the bowl on the table for two minutes to cool, and then back in for a second three minutes.
And finally a second cool down and a third three minutes. After each successive heating, the plastic wrap clung closer and closer to the bottom of the bowl. I could tell I was done because the water in the bowl was almost entirely clear, just a little cloudy, but with no color left.
Unfortunately, the red kind of overwhelmed the blue, so it wasn’t quite as variegated as I’d wanted, but it was still two distinct colors. I left it to cool on the kitchen counter is a piece of paper towel on top.
Please Do Not Disturb Roza’s Dyeing
It was pretty yarn!
I knit it into a headband for my mother and forgot to take a picture before I gave it to her. As she taught me to knit, spin, and dye (not to mention all the other fiber things I do), I figured she should get the first of my attempt at all three. Mind, none of the things she taught me stuck the first time. It took ten years. But when I was calling her on the phone from college to remind me how to cast on for knitting a decade after she first taught me, I figured that craftiness was in my blood after all.
The next time I decided to die, I mean dye, a little differently. I mixed the Koolaid in small glasses, which I put in a square Pyrex pan. I divided up the lovely alpaca yarn into the red, bright blue, and purple glasses. This left a little bit of white yarn between each glass, but I decided that was okay. I covered the entire thing with plastic wrap, and put it through the 3-2-3-2-3 cycle. It was fun watching some of the color creep out of the glasses and wick up the yarn to make the white bits smaller. I think I should have made the color changes further apart, but it did come out very nicely. I knit it up with a braided cable, just to see.
Six months later, it still smells like artificial fruits.
While we were in Maine, Mama pointed out some nice lichen to me. She said they were on their way to her grandmother’s funeral when her mother made her get out of the car and go and pick some lichen for my mom to do dyeing experiments with. I have a whole bag of that lichen, that I picked my very own self. I think it will go nicely with my new gray wool, as it is supposed to be a nice purple color. I have decided not to use the most convenient source of ammonia to set the dye, as a favor to my housemates.