Monday, September 19, 2011

How to dye a long gradient with wool and Kool Aid

This tutorial is going to show you how to dye a 200 yard skein of plain wool to have a long, slow gradient. This sort of coloring is popular this season in a lot of trendy sweaters from Urban Outfitters. It is also similar to a lot of self striping yarns, just a bigger stripe. Here is a picture of a shawl that I made using some wool that was dyed with this technique.

You can see that the gradient is not entirely smooth, it is kind of variegated, which I think is a nice effect.This is because the wool is essentially tie dyed.

OK, lets start the tut...

You will need:

2-3 packets of kool-aid in your favorite color.
A skein of 100% wool, I used Paton's classic wool
A pot
A stove
A spoon or tongs
Rubber gloves, unless you don't mind chromatic fingertips.

Take your skein...

And roll it into a ball. Don't wrap loosely, make sure there is some tension on the yarn as you wrap. 

Put about 1.5" of water into your pot and add a packet of kool aid. Heat the mixture on the stove until it is steaming.

Add the ball of yarn to the hot pot.

Use the spoon or your hands to move the ball around and to cover all sides with dye.

You will know when to take the yarn out of the pot because the color will be sucked out of the liquid and into the fibers. The kool aid water will be almost totally clear.

Take the ball to the sink and run water over it until the entire ball is soaked.

Fill the pot again, this time with 3" of water and 1 pack of kool aid. Heat the pot until the liquid begins to steam.

Put the wet ball of yarn into the pot, this time, the capillary action of the wet yarn will draw the dye deeper into the ball.

Make sure to roll the ball around and cover every side with dye. When you feel you are done, take the yarn out of the pot and rinse it under cold water.

When the ball cools, you can wind the yarn into a skein.

you will see the inside of the ball slowly getting lighter. Take the skein and wrap it in a towel to take out some of the moisture.

Hang it on a hanger to dry.

There are a lot of projects that you can do with this yarn. some of you may remember the ironic gnome and some chrysanthemum hats that I made with yarn dyed this way.

raspberry lemonade flavor on white yarn

This uses black Rit dye on aqua wool instead of kool aid.

This uses cherry kool aid with a bit of orange on pink yarn.
I hope this is useful for everyone who has asked how to make the gradient. Please post pictures of your projects if you use this yarn, it will be a lot of fun to see what people do with it.


  1. Awesome! I can't wait to try this!

  2. Thanks, this is far easier than other methods I had imagined.. there is a surprise geode effect as well.. very cool. I bet it would be fun to go on and wrap the yarn in reverse, so the colored exterior became the core, and then over dye in a complimentary color...

  3. i have not seen wool dyed with kool aid before! so cool! does the kool aid bleed? is it washable?

  4. Kool aid will not bleed. It is surprisingly colorfast. If you wash it in hot water it may fade a bit over time. Of course if you wash wool in hot water it will felt.

  5. Such a cool way to dye yarn. Really want to try this out.

  6. Can you do this with fibers other than wool? Thanks so much for sharing, can't wait to try!

  7. Hi Kristen,
    I mentioned that once I used Rit dye on a ball of yarn. I think that might be OK for fibers other than wool, but I can't guarantee that it will work for you.

  8. This looks a lot easier than I was expecting, and the effects are gorgeous. I have to give it a shot. Thanks for the tutorial!

  9. Oh that is SO NEAT! Thank you so much for sharing!

    Found you via KnitHacker :)

  10. I will try it. It looks so cool. Thank you for the post.

  11. AweSome!!!!Thank You!!!!

  12. Thank you so much for the tutorial. This would also work for Acid dyes that use heat to set. At least I think it would. This would be a fun way to get into dyeing yarn. Thanks, again!

  13. I co-host a blog and I reposted this yesterday. This makes me so so happy as I love all things ombre!! My BFF and I are going to be trying this TONIGHT! I'm very excited to see what kind of colors we can create. Once we finish a project we'll share!

  14. Thank you so much for this!! I have a couple of sheep who after having sheared last year, I learned to spin the wool. I have a lot of cream colored wool...this is awesome.

  15. This is the best dying tip I've found in a long time! I can't wait to try it! Thank you soooo much for posting.

  16. Hi Xandy,
    I love this! Is there any way you could put the shawl pattern on Ravelry to sell? I would definitely be a taker.



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  18. Thanks for posting this! Nice work!

    I have just been thinking of how to do this on 400yds and working it out in my head! Think it might just end up being one MASSIVE ball...gulp.


  19. I noticed that nobody answered this question. You can only use Kool-Aid to dye animal fibers it only works on protein based yarn. I'm going to make my husband pull my cones of cream wool out of the shed though. I'm so ready to try this tip out it's miles easier than any other gradient tutorial I've seen.

  20. How much Rit Dye do you use if you choose not to do the Kool Aide method? I want to do a black and white ombre yarn but am unsure of how much actual dye to use. Any help would be appreciated!

  21. I do not have the bottle of rit dye on hand, but follow the instructions on the package, they are by weight. You will end up using more dye than is absorbed, but you will need that much more to soak the outer layer of the ball.

    Hope that makes sense.

  22. If I have a yarn winder, do you think this technique will work to some degree, with the outside getting dyed and the inside not? I could wind it quite tightly if necessary - thanks!

  23. Hi Katjoy, I have not tried using a yarn winder for this project so I cannot say exactly what will happen but -

    the idea of the ball is that the inside is completely wrapped so that dye does not reach it. In the ball from a winder, the center yarn is exposed on the top and bottom of the ball, it is not entirely wrapped. You might be able to get a slight gradient within a space dyed effect, but there will be at least some dyed spots all the way along the yarn.

  24. No Way! This is so awesome. I saw your Ironic Gnome pattern first and thought that gradient dyeing had to be super difficult.
    This is such a clever method. Thank you so much! I can't wait to do this.

  25. Wow! Awesome. Would tis work if you left it in a center pull skein???

  26. A center pull skein would dye differently because more yarn is exposed.

  27. HEY ready to try something new...awesome....

  28. Thanks for the great idea! However, I'm a bit confused: you put a ball into your dye pot and then pulled out a skein. Does this mean the WET wool is wrapped into a skein after dying and prior to drying?

  29. Yes, wrap the skein gently when the wet wool has cooled.

    Leaving the wool to dry in a ball will lead to mildew or mold because it would take a very long time for the ball to dry.

  30. Yes, wrap the skein gently when the wet wool has cooled.

    Leaving the wool to dry in a ball will lead to mildew or mold because it
    would take a very long time for the ball to dry.

  31. Great! Thanks so much for your prompt follow-up. This makes perfect sense, and I appreciate your helpful feedback.

  32. P.S.
    My apologies: I just now noticed I somehow missed seeing the photo of you wrapping the skein on my original review. Not sure how that happened, but thanks again!

  33. Just Formi, formi, for me, ;) FORTmidaBLEEee

  34. I love the the gradient result! Thank you so much for the tutorial, gorgeous! Can other dyes be used as well? Here inSpain cool-aid is not on sale...

  35. Most food coloring can be used as long as you add some vinegar to the water.

  36. how do you set the dye without it washing away

  37. The heat and acidity set the color. Kool aid is magic too.

  38. I didn't know until today that I could dye anything with Kool Aid.


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