Sunday, December 19, 2010

Hey Kool-Aid, Come dye silk!

I can think of only one good use for Kool-Aid but it's to dye for – beautifully colorful silks and other natural fibers.  After some experimenting with various methods I read about online, here's my take on the best way to dye silk with Kool-Aid:

How to Dye Silk

  1. Soak your silk in a bowl of warm water.  I learned the hard way that it is important to give it a good soaking.  I add a touch of vinegar to the water just to make sure the PH is low enough for the dye to stick. I read this isn't strictly necessary since Kool-Aid is already acidic, but why take chances.
  2. Cover your work counter with plastic wrap unless you want it multi-colored for good.
  3. All the methods I read about would have you dip your silk in containers full of the Kool-Aid mixed with water.  However, what I found worked more easily and neatly, was to lay my silk on the covered work surface and apply the Kool-Aid with a paintbrush.  You can dip your paintbrush right into the Kool-Aid and it will dissolve on the silk, or you can add just enough water to make the Kool-Aid liquid.  An added bonus is that this concentration helps produce more vibrant colors.  Be prepared that the colors will spread and run into each other to some extent but that is part of the beauty.
    1. For the tie-dye look, scrunch the silk with elastics before painting.
    2. For your own design, lay the silk flat and use it as your canvas.
    3. For a repeating pattern, fold the silk before painting.

  1. Set the color with steam.  The method I chose was to put the silk in a partly closed zip lock bag and microwave it for 2 minutes.  The key here is to not catch your silk on fire.  (I did this once .)  This is why a good soaking is so important in step 1.  I also now use a reduced power setting and only do 15 second intervals, watching continually.  Be careful when removing the bag.  Like when you microwave popcorn, stay clear of the bag opening or you can burn your hand with the steam.  (I did this too.)  (A nice alternative to using the microwave is leaving the zip-lock bag in the sunshine to steam; too bad that just works in the heat of the summer.)
  2. Rinse in cold water.  I was amazed at how the water immediately runs perfectly clear after the steaming.  All the color is absorbed by the silk. 
  3. Hang to dry.

Kool-Aid Colors
Orange is a bright favorite.  Lemonade's a mellow yellow.   Twists is azure blue.  Make green by adding a little bit of Twist to Lemonade.  Cherry and Tropical Punch are both strong reds.  Grape is the only real surprise;  it comes out black with only the slightest hint of the expected purple, so unless black is what you are looking for, use it sparingly.

Avoid getting the Kool-Aid on your hands or they will stay Kool-Aid colors for several days. 

Pictured above is two silk scarves that I made for my children to dance with and one silk Lexter puppet that I made to use during school readings of my book, Lexter, the Mixed-up Rooster.

By Cara Eisenberg
Please visit for information about Cara's children's books.