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Easy Way to Hand Paint Yarn with Kool-Aid, Not Just for Wool!

Editor's Note: This post was updated on July 11th.

How to Hand Paint Yarn with Kool-Aid | Lion Brand Notebook

Have you ever come across a yarn that you loved the feel and gauge of but couldn't find the color that you wanted? Well, being the savvy crafter you are you don't have to let that stop you! I found myself in a similar predicament shortly after I started working at Lion Brand. The smooth softness of the Casey yarn made me melt but it only comes in confetti colors suited for baby items. Since I rarely make baby projects, I tried to put the yarn out of my mind. But occasionally I would be digging through the yarn closets in the office and my fingers would brush a skein of Casey yarn and I would fall in love again. Then it hit me, I could dye it to make it fit my needs!


Yarn dyeing can seem like a daunting project but it doesn't have to be! There is very simple way to dye yarn using Kool-Aid. Kool-Aid is easy to get and you won't have to deal with harsh chemicals--it essentially works as an acid dye and it's food-safe.

Since this was my first time dyeing with Kool-Aid, I looked up tutorials online. All of the tutorials that I found on dyeing yarn with Kool-Aid only referred to wool yarn. But did you know that it is actually possible to dye any natural protein (animal) fiber and even nylon? Here are some useful facts about dyeing yarn with Kool-Aid:

  • Kool-Aid will work for use as a dye on any protein fiber such as wool, silk, mohair, alpaca, and camel hair. It will also work on nylon which is a synthetic protein fiber.
  • Since Kool-Aid is an acid-based dye it won't work on plant fibers such as cotton and bamboo. Other natural and commercial dyes will work, but these fibers will need to be prepared differently. Jenny Dean's Wild Color is a great resource for this information, as is this online article from Knitty.com.
  • If you are not sure about how a certain yarn will take dye you can (and it is strongly recommended that you do)  test a small portion of it. As long as your dye to yarn ratio is the same you will get the same outcome with a full skein.
  • Synthetic/natural fiber blends (as long as the majority of the percentage is a natural fiber or nylon) can be dyed. Only then natural or nylon fibers will take the dye so you might end up with a mottled effect or a more pastel color.  You will see this in the experiment that I did. Since Casey is a 60% rayon from bamboo/40% nylon blend, only the nylon fibers took the red dye and the yarn came out looking pink.
  • You can dye yarn that has previously been dyed as long as it is a light color. Once again, you can see this with my project. The yarn already had flecks of blue which accepted the dye (creating a darker indigo), and the blue did not run.

Important Note: Check the care instructions for your yarn before starting to make sure it can be set. Certain yarns cannot be subjected to high temperatures or they will melt.

Now that you've gotten the basics, let's dye some yarn!

How to Hand Paint Yarn with Kool-Aid | Lion Brand Notebook

I'm pretty pleased with my first attempt at Kool-Aid dyeiing, and I hope you'll share some of your dyeing experiments with us in the comments!