Dyeing Some Woolie Things

After having more fun than should be legal with my big, fat white wool last week, I was left with this:

5065096806_22d0bd82ec_zThree lacy scarves, two pairs of wrist warmers, one pointy hat (....and a partridge in a pear tree!).

Lovely, yes, but oh-so-very white.  So, I decided to dye them.

First things first--if I had this to do over again, I would have dyed the yarn before knitting it into things.  It seems inherent in hand-dyeing that you get little uneven bits here and there, and when you dye the finished objects those spots end up all in blotches rather than spread out evenly all over the project.  

With that caveat, the dyeing process was fairly easy, a lot of fun, and I was really happy with the results.  

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I did these with a combination of Kool-Aid and paste (Wilton's) food coloring.  When I said I was thinking of trying to dye woolens with food coloring all three of my favorite art school grads (Sweet Husband included) got that furrowed, worried, "I don't know if I would do it quite that way...." look on their faces.  In the past I've learned to heed that look (because they've generally been there, done that, and lived to tell the tale), but I decided to give it a try anyway for two reasons:

  1. I didn't have that much time or money invested in these knitting projects.  I also did the smaller pieces before the scarves, that way if they didn't work out I could just forget about it.
  2. I wanted to see if I could make something pretty in my own kitchen.  Using food safe dyes meant I could just use my big canning pot and rinse it out afterwards.  Also, although I've pretty much chucked the pregnancy food "thou shall nots" out the window (which is a whole 'nother post), I've been a stickler for avoiding exposure to chemicals.  Regular fabric dyes are pretty hardcore, so I didn't think playing with them would be the greatest idea right now.

For reference, I used this article on Kool-Aid dyeing and this one on using food coloring.  I followed the Kool-Aid instructions to the letter, but with the food coloring I added generous glugs of vinegar at just about every stage--for pre-soaking the scarves, in mixing the dye bath, and a nice shot for good luck as I put the object in the dye bath.  In the end, I much preferred the results from the food coloring method--I got deeper, more even color, without the sickly-sweet fruity smell.  

Now on to the finished goods! 

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This little guy started out with a dip in orange Kool-Aid in the microwave.  The result ended up very orange and a little blotchy, so I decided to overdye (definition: to dye over an existing color) it with brown food coloring.  I love how the overdyeing made the color more interesting--less "pumpkin", more "Fall".

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These two were also started with Kool-Aid in the microwave--grape and black cherry, respectively.  They were my favorite of the Kool-Aid dyed projects, but both were still lacking a little somethin' somethin', so I decided to overdye them with food coloring as well.  The purple one got a dip in aqua food coloring, the red one went in some brown.  These were the only projects I really regretted not dyeing the yarn first, as under the lips of the edges never got as much color as I wanted.  No big deal--you'll never see that spot when they're worn--but lesson learned for next time.

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This scarf was done in blue raspberry Kool-Aid on the stove top, but the color ended up uneven.  A little aqua food coloring fixed it perfectly.

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These two scarves were done in straight food coloring--orange and kelly green.  I thought about overdyeing them with brown--as I did to the hat--to make the colors a little less bold, but after looking at them for a few days the colors grew on me.  I always feel like I need boosts of bright color in the winter time, and I'm hoping the people these scarves are going to will feel the same.