Sunday, December 09, 2007

Jello Is To Dye For

I just can't leave well enough alone.

I've been dyeing with Kool Aid and Kool Aid-like mixes for a long time now. Yes, I know gram for gram it's more expensive in the long run than all the other "legitimate" dyestuffs out there but I like Kool Aid. It's not cause I could/can in theory use any of my everyday pots, pans, and utensils, nor is it cuz I don't like the results of the other types. I've tried many of them. I like Kool Aid basically cuz it's handy. When the whim to dye something hits me, all I have to do is go to the nearest grocery store if I don't have the desired color on the pantry shelf. Placing an order for dye online then having to wait for it is a disaster. Patience isn't something I have an abundance of, thus the good fit of Kool Aid in my life.

The major problem I have with Kool Aid is, where I live it's considered a seasonal thing so the selection around this time of year dwindles....sigh....BUT there is always jello. :o)

MissVicki and ShoelessWonder are couple of really kool (snicker/groan) kids on Ravelry. MissVicki has been having great success at dyeing with pre-sweetened KA and ShoelessWonder is a chemistry wonder, so I figured the two of them would be perfect to bounce the jello dyeing off. With experience and knowledge behind them they came up with what our first experiment would be.

1/2 gal water
2 2/3 cup vinegar
tsp salt,
unsweetened Jello Red Raspberry (since MissVicki is down under, she's using their equivalent...Aero..or something like that)
70 grams of wool

The procedure we used was stove top big pot method. It was also decided to have two clear water rinse pots at the ready, simmering at the same temp as the dyepot, just in case the gelatin proved to be a problem.

I just completed my first trial dye job using Jello.

Points to be considered:
I had mixed water, vinegar, and salt in the pot then added the Jello. A clumpy skin formed and immediately sunk to the bottom. It was easy enough to break up the skin/clump but in my next experiment I'll add the Jello and then the vinegar. Not sure that is what the problem was, but I can't imagine it was the salt.

Even though the yarn or water did not feel the least bit slick like I was expecting when I removed it from the exhausted dyepot, I did follow procedure and used the two auxiliary rinse pots.

Here is a pic of the skein cooling further in a warm bath with a tad bit of Dawn.

Yep, it's bleeding a little. It's still too hot to handle much, so I don't know yet if it the dye has taken or I just wasted a bunch of time. :o)

While I was waiting for the first stove top big pot method to do it's hoped for magic, I also decided to try Jello in the microwave.

In a mixing bowl in the order listed:
5 cups water
1 tsp salt
1 pkg regular Jello Berry Blue
1 cup vinegar.
81 grams of wool
(no skin/clump this time)

I zapped it 3 times for 2 minutes, letting it rest 1.5 min in between.

Here is the zapped yarn still cooling

In the water/Dawn bath it did not bleed but the water did get milky. The sugar content??

And of being impatient as all get out, I also tried a modified sprinkle/zap method.

I soaked the yarn (104 grams) in 3 cups of hot water with 1 cup of vinegar. Then I sprinkled the jello powder on the skein. In each of two sections I sprinkled lemon and lime sugar-free jello. I liberally added the hot vinegar soaking water with a spoon when needed to help the color seep throughout the fibers. By the time I got to the 3rd section the yarn and the soaking water/vinegar were cold. The jello powder was beginning to gel in globs here and there.

See the gelled globs of orange?

I kneaded and worked as much of the globs I could and then rolled in all up in plastic wrap and zapped it.

I had to add a considerable amount of water to be able to smooch the color around enough so this plastic clad skein is pretty sloppy, and my fingers were pretty sticky when I was done rolling it up. Now sitting there still cooling it looks just fine.

The sprinkle/zapped skein is hanging with the others. I wonder if either, any, or all of them will be stiff tomorrow.

Left to right:
Lemon/Lime/Orange sugar-free sprinkle/smooch/zap method
Berry Blue regular (w/ sugar) zapped bath method
Red Raspberry sugar-free big pot stove top method

Tomorrow when all are dry and hopefully not stiff ;-) I'll try to get better pix of the colors. I definitely think Jello is a very good way to dye.

PS I tried Blackberry Fusion which I had hoped would be a deep red, if not a purple. When I poured it in the water it was a dingy, rusty, tea color. I didn't bother with it, I threw it down the drain. Perhaps it would have dyed a different color but I figured I had so many things against this going in my favor having an ugly color just didn't seem worth it.


  1. Whooo hoo! I am right behind ya :-) I am so impressed you have already tried out the microwave. Glad I am not the only impatient one too

  2. WOW! I have been waiting on the edge of my seat for your experiment! I might have to try it, exp. since we were gifted Jello a while back and NO ONE in the house eats Jello. I'll have to wait n the yarn though.

  3. THAT is absolutely brilliant, and yes its Aeroplane Jelly down here, wow and jelly is sooooo cheap! - woolie wombat

  4. Very cool, although I am still stuck on the idea of KoolAid as a seasonal product... Weird...

    Have you ever tried Wilton's food dyes? They're WAAAYYYY more concentrated than food color, and you can get them in places like Michael's or any cooking supply store. They've got some great colors, too, and -- duh -- food safe. (I get you, too, about not being able to wait -- my little monkey brain gives me a finite amount of time before I have to go off to the next thing. Whether the first thing is finished or not...)

    Thanks for sharing your play time with us.

  5. Saw this site in my copy of Anne Canadeo's WHILE MY PRETTY ONE KNITS, and I was wondering -- is this strictly for wool use, or does it work on synthetics, too? Access to yarn is limited in my area of the country (SW Louisiana), and so is my budget.


  6. To answer RedCatLady's question. No this method is not strictly for use on wool. It will work on any protien fibre. So wool, mohair, silk and anything that is the hair, fleece or fur of a critter is your friend. As for synthetics. They cannot, as a rule, be dyed in this manner. Nylon, however, is the exception. So yes you can dye synthetic yarns, but you will need to shop around as most synthetic yarns are made from acrylic. You should have no trouble finding something suitable in lighter weights though, as many baby yarns are nylon due to it's softness.