Dyeing Rainbow Silks with Kool-Aid

Jun 19, 2019

I have avoided using Kool-Aid as dye for years because, well, it's Kool-Aid! I typically dye with plants but it can be hard to get all the colors we want from the plants that grow locally. We wanted to make a rainbow silk with vibrant colors and decided to give Kool-Aid a try. I wish we had tried it years ago!

This is an easy project with beautiful results. 

Materials needed:
- white vinegar
- silks (we used the 15" x 60" Habotai scarves from Dharma Trading)

- Kool-Aid packets: One packet for each color of the rainbow (see colors below).
*If you are planning to dye your silk one solid color, you will need 2-3 packets in that color per silk.
- large pot for soaking silks
- glass or stainless bowls for each color
- a place to dry


Red: cherry kool-aid
Orange:  orange kool-aid
Yellow: lemonade kool-aid
Green: lemon-lime kool-aid
Blue: Ice blue raspberry lemonade kool-aid
Purple: grape kool-aid
Pink: Pink lemonade

These colors are very bold. You can make the green and red less bold by mixing a little of the lemonade in with them. 

I wasn't excited about having a bunch of kool-aid packets out around preschoolers so I emptied the individual packets into small mason jars and labeled them. I called them "fairy crystals."
(You'll notice there isn't any blue. Apparently my town was sold out of blue raspberry lemonade Kool-Aid the week I did this project!)

Fill a large pot with hot water (I heat it up to almost boiling then turn off the heat) and add 1/2 cup of white vinegar. Place your silk in the water and make sure that it is completely covered with water. Give it a few swirls to ensure all folds and creases get wet. Leave it in the water for 5-10 minutes to soak.

While the silk is soaking, prepare your dye baths. First place the kool-aid powder into the bowl, then add very hot water (I use a tea kettle and heat it to almost boiling), and a splash of vinegar. You'll want enough water to color the silk when it's sitting in the bowl. For us that was about 2 cups of water. Use a spoon to gently stir and dissolve the powder.

3) SILK into DYE
Remove silk from the water and use clothespins to divide into sections. Then gently place each section in the dye. After the whole silk is sitting in the dye, use a spoon to gently press the silk into the water. You can also use the spoon to pour dye onto the parts between the two bowls. Let it sit in the dye until it reaches the desired color. (Three to four minutes is usually sufficient but there isn't harm in leaving it the dye longer.) The water will start to lose color as the dye moves from the water onto the silk.

In these pictures the silks have not yet been completely submerged in water. I gently placed the silk into the bowls and then let the children press them down and cover them with the dye.

Rinse your silk in cold water until it runs clear and hang to dry. If the sun is shining, they dry in less than an hour. If you want them to look extra lovely, iron them on low heat and store hung or folded.

You'll notice our silks look more tie-dyed. This is because we used smaller bowls for ease. It's easy to achieve a solid dye with large bowls and a little more stirring to ensure the dye reaches all the folds and wrinkles in the silk. 

Silks are one of our go to, simple, open ended toys at Little Round Schoolhouse. A basket with a few silks can lead to hours of play!

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