Thursday, January 08, 2009

Don't drink the Kool-Aid

A friend purchased several bags of wool roving from an online retailer a few months ago and passed on a pound of it to me. I have been looking towards getting the time to dig it out and "do something" with it ever since.

Alone for several days yet, tonight is that moment and I am presently in the midst of a craft night extravaganza. One of those rare nights when i can make a mess and noone can see it, when I can make mistakes, throw my hands in the air and say stuff it as i cram evidence of foiled artistic attempts into the garbage can then try again.

Tonight, I recreate the mess of childhood and the memory of my big sister beautifying our barbies. Tonight, I dye with Kool-Aid. I had intended to use more classic dye methods to alter the wool roving in preparation for felting projects. I had planned to follow proper traditional textile processes - right up until my research showed that many of those methods were likely hazardous in their applications, which to me seemed absurd. When the directions for natural plant based dyes direct you to use harmful chemical to set the dye, there is a logic flaw in there somewhere. Kool-Aid it is.

Funny enough, a search for Kool-Aid on Google brings up dozens of craft dye references but lacks info on potential Kool-Aid retailers. I had to follow a hunch and search several aisles of three grocery stores in order to gather the 7 packets I now possess. Kool-Aid is a dying breed it seems :)

I admit that I pondered for more than a moment whether or not I was REALLY going out at 9:30 pm, in hunt of powdered drink mix - but the fact is - yes I did. Unfortunately my color of choice eluded me. Regardless of how fervently i searched - there was no blue to be found except on the packages themselves.
Happily I made it through without having to explain to a store clerk that I was looking for a .33 cent package of kool-aid in a specific color. Unhappily though, thus far I am surrounded by several shades of red , a lovely orange and a sad purple with only the faintest hint of blue.

Using a turkey baster, I applied small amounts of several dye colors to a few test pieces of roving. The final effect provided fainter, diluted shades as the wool did not soak in a large amount of dye like the others.

I still processed the wool by placing it in the microwave for a series of two minutes on high, two minute pause, two minutes on high - then drain if water is clear, but i transferred the wool test strips to a glass bowl from the pan.

I was happily surprised to verify that the dye water really does turn clear once the dye has all been absorbed into the wool as its steamed and heated. You can see the dye water halfway up the baster, after the process has completed its session of ten minutes on high in microwave - pause for two minutes and then another two minutes on high til water is clear. I found many sites with koolaid dye directions, all similar in nature - the one i followed is linked below.

Although the process of dying wool has taken me several hours - one dye from start to finish could be completed in ten minutes then left to dry. If the wool is left to cool in the microwave, this process could be done with children safely and with less mess than some other rainy day activities. I am looking forward to testing that theory soon.

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