Dyeing Fabric With Kool-aid

I had long been intrigued by the possibilities of Kool-aid as a dye. So I went and got some bleached muslin and a handful of instant drink envelopes and set about to make magic in my kitchen. The cotton fabric was pre-washed in plain hot water with no soap and torn into fat quarters.

I chose two packets each of five different "colors" to experiment with: Kool-aid brand Tropical Punch, Grape, Oh Yeah Orange Pineapple, and Kiwi-Lime, and Fla-vor-aid brand Raspberry. They all had different dyes in them, except the tropical punch and the raspberry, both with the same red.

The idea was to try different colors and see how they worked. I chose the two brands with the same red dye to see if there was a difference in the final outcome.

I put the Kiwi-Lime envelopes into a pan with 4 cups of water. I got a wonderful bright yellow-green, in which I simmered a fat quarter for half an hour. Kiwi-Lime smells really good. I reserved a pinch of the mix and sprinkled it over the fabric after removing it from the saucepan. Most of the color drained out of it. The Kiwi-Lime mix didn't seem to add much texture, though I did get a few blue dots out of it. So I went into my own stash and got an envelope of Kool-aid brand Lemon-Lime mix and tried that. It has a much brighter green and I got some good spots. I let that sit for another 15-20 minutes or so.

When I rinsed the fabric I lost almost all the color. I was left with a very pale yellow-green with light to medium green splotches.

Meanwhile I started the Raspberry. I laid a damp fat quarter on a cookie sheet and sprinkled powder all over it. Within about 5 minutes it had absorbed in and made a beautiful speckled pattern, reminiscent of tiger lillies. I rinsed it (cold water), because the pattern was begining to smear too much, and found that almost all the color washed out. The dye also moved into the whole piece, so I had a light pink with darker spots. I put it back in the pan with more powder and let it sit for another 10 minutes. Rinsed it again, but still had only pink spots. Still, it made a nice pastel pink with texture.

The third experiment was with the Grape and the remaining open Lemon-Lime packets. I put a damp fat quarter on the cookie sheet and sprinkled Grape and Lemon-Lime over it in random patches. The Grape pretty quickly separated out into pink and blue-grey spots. I let it sit about 15 minutes, because, again, I was loosing the sprinkled pattern and starting to get blotches. Rinsed in cold water and was left with pinkish-purple spots with some very pale gren. Decided right away I didn't like it.

The final experiment was with the Orange Pineapple mix. Again in the cookie sheet, but this time very liberally with the powder. This packet smelled really good to me, too. I left this one to sit for about half an hour, hoping to get more intense coloring. I got a bright yellow-orange color on the damp fat quarter, which, of course, rinsed out to be much paler, but not too bad.

The first three (Raspberry, Grape and Lemon-Lime, and Kiwi-Lime) went into the dryer on the hot heat setting until they were done. The Raspberry and Grape spotted the Kiwi piece in a few places. I dried the Orange Pineapple piece separately.

I decided I didn't like the first three I'd done. The Raspberry did make a very nice pastel pink, but I wasn't thrilled with it. The other two looked like what they were: accidents with Kool-aid. So I dunked the three into the wash with some bleach to see if I could reverse the damage. The Kiwi-Lime came out completely. It's as white as the undyed muslin. The other two are still faintly pink (this should come as no surprise to mothers with young children). I have not tried a second bleach rinse on the two pink pieces. They are undistiguishable as far as "grape" or "raspberry" goes.

I really like the yellow I got with the Orange Pineapple mix. I've already ironed it and put it in my stash.

I didn't get to try the Tropical Punch and compare it to the Raspberry, as I had planned. Maybe someday when I need more pastel pink....

After reading my experiences above, Lani sent me the following:

Hello Dawn,

I am a quilter taking a fabric dyeing class in Ft Bragg, Ca. I have instuctions for using the Kool Aid dye. It is mostly used on protien substances such as wool, silk, or animal hair, human hair also.

1. Wet the wool.. make sure it's throughly washed and wet.
2. Add two packages of surgarless KOOL-AID to a crockpot of water. (You may use one package for a lighter shade, two for medium and three for darkest.)
3. stir.
4. Add wool.
5. Turn crockpot on high.
6. When the crockpot is hot and steaming you may turn the temperature down to "simmer"or "low" for 30 minutes.
7. At the end of the 30 minutes, turn the crockpot off, the dye bath should be "exhausted".
8. Now, rinse the wool and wash with soap or detergent. (Please make sure the water temperature is consistant, do not plunge hot wool into cold water!

This was given to me by Lolli Jacobson fabric teacher at the College of the Redwoods in Fort Bragg, Ca. There is a web site and she has e-mail if you wish to ask her any questions.

I'm glad to pass on this information and so is Lolli.



Becky sent this to me:

I was reading with interest your experiments on dying fabric with Kool-Aid. I have a piece of fabric that I have dyed with watered down Ceramacoat acrylic paints. It was a birthday party activity and made a really nice effect. I filled small spray bottles with diluted paint and let the kids spray the fabric. Each child had a different color. It was hung on a wire fence to dry, which made an interesting pattern in the fabric as well. I would recommend drying it flat as the paint will congregate in the bottom of the fabric and make it heavier there if you hang it up. I was going to make a shirt for my son, but never got to it. I imagine it will become a baby quilt when he has his first child (a looooooooooooooooooong time from now). Anyway, it is another dying idea for you to try.

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Last modified on June 28, 2000


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