I love playsilks. They are squares and rectangles of single-thickness silk that can be used in imaginative play for just about anything – flags, capes, skirts, tents, horse tails, princess hats, turbans, baby blankets, picnic blankets…. pretty much anything at all. However, being of the more frugal sorts of people, i cant spend $20 or more for a piece of cloth.
However! i am a member of several Yahoo co-op groups, and have recently purchased undyed playsilks for about $4 each from one of my co-ops. I also, in that same order, got several packets of basic Kool-Aid to dye them with. And here is the tutorial on how to do it! Trust me, this is super-easy!
Here is my plain undyed playsilk, 22″ x 72″
Soak the playsilk in hot hot hot tap water with a splash of white vinegar. LEt it soak for about 20-30 minutes, or while you are setting up the dyeing equipment. Here is my playsilk soaking in a yogurt container on my stove.
While the playsilk is soaking, choose your packets of plain unsweetened Kool-Aid (or the generic equivalent). Use several packets for deep colors, fewer packets for pastels. I wanted nice dark red, so i used 5 packets of Cherry.
Pour the Kool-Aid into a non-reactive saucepan, add about 2 cups of hot hot hot water & a splash of white vinegar, stir to dissolve, and set over medium heat. You want this to come to a very slow simmer. It will be very opaque in the pan.
When it comes to a simmer, dump your silk & the soaking water into the pan and start stirring & squishing the playsilk into the dye bath. It should immediately soak up dye.
Stir continuously until the water is almost or completely clear. Some Kool-AId absorbs completely, some doesnt. I’m pretty sure the reds are the hardest to get completely absorbed. But anyway here is a pic of what the water looked like about 5 minutes into the silk being in the dye bath. You can see the bottom of the pan, unlike when you put the silk in and the water was completely opaque.
Pull the silk out and rinse under very hot water for a few seconds, then gradually get the water cooler. I just dumped the pan out in my sink & ran hot tap water over it for a minute or two. When you squeeze it, the water that comes out should be clear. Hang it to dry – outside in the sun it dried in 20 minutes – and you have a custom-dyed playsilk!
If you dont stir continuously, or you have a too-small pan and the silk is crowded, the dye takes a mottled or tie-dyed appearance. I actually like that so that is the effect i was going for. You can also overdye for a multi-colored effect, just do it like traditional tie-dye. Or try dip-dyeing for a graded effect. You can also paint the Kool-aid onto the silk, then to set the dye you put the silk in a steamer basket and steam it for a few minutes, then rinse.
This also works on wool. An old wool sweater, or yarn, or anything wool will take Kool-aid dyeing perfectly! with wool you dont want to stir quite as much, you want a bigger pot (to get a more even color), LOTS of kool-aid, and be sure to rinse in very hot water – if you rinse it in cold it will “shock” the yarn and cause it to felt. If you WANT it to felt, then by all means rinse in cold.
This will not work on cotton, rayon, synthetics, or anything other than an animal fiber. Wool, alpaca, angora, rabbit, silk, furs or human hair (ask me how i know that one!) can all be permanently dyed with Kool-aid.