Last week I spent my Tuesday evening playing with yarn. It had been a grey weekend, and I badly needed some color in my life. I had recently purchased a fat lot of naked Fishermen's Wool from Michaels when it was on sale, and set about to dye up a bunch samples, in preparation for a project I've had brewing in my yarn brain for a while.
This yarn comes in a pretty big ball, 8 ounces worth, or 465 yards. I had read that you could use one packet of Kool Aid to dye one ounce of yarn, so I had to figure out how to measure out 8 hanks from each ball without any kind of yarn meter. Some household measuring and some simple math problems led me to the discovery that if I wrapped the yarn around the leaf of my dining room table 26 times, I would end up with approximately one ounce of yarn! Yay! So then there was a lot of winding and tying into hanks.
I've been collecting Kool Aid now for a while too, sussing out which "flavors" are available at which stores, and buying bunches of it on sale. I think I went through something like 50 packets on Tuesday. But that's OK, because I can always get more! It's not like I have to order it over the internet, or get any kind of mordant. The citric acid in the Kool Aid is all you really need to set the color in wool. Bonus, the whole process is food safe, so when I wanted to do more hanks at one time I just busted out a regular old stainless steel saucepan and went to town, not worried that I would have to relegate it to the craft cabinet as no longer food safe.
There are a ton of great tutorials all over the internet about how to do this on your stovetop. If you understand what happens to yarn to make it felt, you can use that knowledge to avoid it. Basically don't shock your yarn with rapid temperature transitions, and don't agitate it much while it is dyeing. A bit of stirring is ok.
You can tell when it is done because the yarn will exhaust the dyebath. When your water is clear, you are good to go. In all my experimenting, I used up to 5 packets of Kool Aid to one ounce of yarn and had no color left behind in the water.
Each hank was cooled and rinsed and hung to dry in my bathtub. I let them dry overnight with a fan on, and in the morning just twisted them up all nice to protect them from the cats. I made little tags for the blended colors, hopefully I will find some way to match the recipe to the right yarn before my mind disconnects that information. Now, if only I had a ball winder! It took me one night to dye all this yarn, it is going to take me 2 weeks to ball it up so I can knit with it!