Thursday, January 05, 2012

Dying Play Silks With Kool-Aid

A friend and I recently purchased some silk scarves from Dharma Trading Company to use as play silks for our children.  There are many places to purchase play silks from, both plain white or pre-dyed, so if you're looking to get some yourself, do your research and get something you love!

We decided to go with the Habotais because they came well recommended from another friend who has some and they were affordable.  When we opened them we were impressed with the softness and beauty of them.

We looked into dying options and decided to use Kool-Aid.  There are lots of options out there so I suggest you do your research on dyes, too, if you decide to dye at home.  The Kool-Aid appealed to us because it was cheap, readily available, offered vibrant colour choices and only needed boiled water and vinegar to use.

We used this site and this site to help determine the colours we chose.  You'll notice both sites show a noticeable difference in the shades of red but we tried to do one long play silk in a fade effect with three shades of red and the colours look almost exactly alike on the silk.

The process we used was easy enough, we boiled a large amount of water, added a cup of vinegar to it and then poured it into the bowls with the flavour crystals (I guess I should mention that you don't add the sugar to the mixture).  Stir to dissolve the crystals and then submerse the silk.  If you want a uniform colour all across the fabric, us a lot of water and crystals for each colour.  We used about 1-1.5 litres (4-6 cups) of water and three packages of crystals per two silks and our colours are strong but came out mottled and tie-dye looking.  We like the look, ourselves, it's very natural and hippy-ish, just like us!  When you place the silk into the mixture, you can literally watch the colour leave the water and enter the silk.  After only a few moments the water is clear or nearly clear.  If the vessel isn't large enough and there isn't a lot of water in it, the silk can't open up enough to get even colour absorption all over so the outer layers get more colour and the inner layers are lighter.  With a larger bowl and more water, you'll get more even results.

I recommend using a pair of tongs or other device to work with the silks in the water as the Kool-Aid will stain your hands.  Keep in mind that it can also stain other stuff, like porous rock surfaces, woods, linoleum and laminates, among others.  You'll want to put several layers of newspaper and/or some old towels over anything you don't want getting stained.  If you do get a stain on something, bleach may help get it out if you get at it quickly.

Once the colour has all or mostly left the water, remove the silks and wring them out.  It seems that once the colour has taken to the silks the colour is not as likely to transfer so your hands should be okay at that point but please, wear gloves if you have a fancy dinner date later or are getting married the next day or something. No point risking purple fingers!

Allow the silks to hang dry, making sure they're not touching or hanging in a way that drips can fall on other silks as the colour may transfer.  Once dry, you can iron them if desired (this will help set in the colour a little more, too) or just leave the wrinkled texture that results after wringing and hang drying.  Only hand wash wash them if necessary using a very mild detergent and hang to dry again.

Now, the moment you've been waiting for!  Pictures!!!  I have photos of the dying process, the drying process and the dried scarves but none of us playing with them.  That's not for lack of use, though!  It's because we were having so much fun I couldn't be bothered to stop and grab the camera!!  The Smiler absolutely LOVES these things!  He was playing peek-a-boo, wearing them as capes and hoods, pretending they were food, putting them in a pile and just sitting in the middle, kicking his legs among them and squealing with glee, putting them on the cats and the dog, on his Uncle James, hiding his toy cars under them and then saying, "Boo!" and just running around with them all bunched up in his arms.  It's adorable, quite frankly.

The colours we used, from left to right, were Kool-Aid Cherry, Kool-Aid Orange, Crystal Light Lemonade, Kool-Aid Lemon-Lime, Kool-Aid Ice Blue Raspberry Lemonade and Kool-Aid Grape.  We used the Crystal Light because we couldn't find Kool-Aid Lemonade.  And when I say 'we' I mean 'my friend's husband who walked back and forth between two grocery stores late at night before being told to give up and come home by his wife and then my friend who went out after that to find another solution'.   It's also worth noting that Kool-Aid Tropical Punch has a dark turquoise package but is not blue, it's deep red.  The aforementioned husband got Tropical Punch to use for blue and the aforementioned friend had to run to two more stores today mid-dying to find the Ice Blue Raspberry Lemonade.  I got to play cars with the boys while she was gone :)


  1. Haha. Actually I told tyler not to get the blue that was there, or to worry about the lack of yellow, that I'd find both at Safeway. So he came home with 4 colours. Upon MY trip to safeway I bought tropical punch which looked blue but was actually red, and also the yellow. So THEN I had to go to a small local grocery, mid dye job, where they also only had tropical punch, and THEN to safeway again lol.

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Keep it clean, guys.