The above scarves were made by my grandson when he was 9.

How to dye silk scarves with Kool-Aid

This is a fun make-it-yourself art project which is suitable for kids if they are supervised during the use of the microwave. (You can download a PDF of these instructions for easy printing and to see a larger version of the charts.)

What you need:

  • A microwave oven
  • One glass dish per scarf, preferably with a cover. (If it doesn’t have a lid, you can use plastic wrap to cover it but make sure you allow a *tiny* vent.)
  • Silk scarves: Must be all silk. 100% wool will also work, but cotton will only stain, not dye, and will eventually wash out. Here is a good source at good prices: Dharma Trading 
    I’ve not had much luck finding silk scarves locally.
  • Kool-Aid unsweetened drink mix envelopes. You can also buy the cheaper brands, but there is no predicting what colors will happen. Just make sure there is no sugar in the powder. Because Kool Aid contains citric acid, you don’t need to do anything with vinegar like you do when you’re dying Easter Eggs.

Planning your colors

Here is an image of the approximate colors that you will get with each Kool-Aid brand flavor. (Click on the image to get a bigger version.)

You would think that “grape” would make a nice purple, but unless you use it very sparingly, it comes out closer to black. Better to try to make purple by mixing blue and red, using more red than blue.

Use no more than three colors per scarf.

Be advised that if you use complementary colors on the same scarf, they may mix and you will likely get what artists call “mud,” maybe a brown or a blackish color. There is no predicting this. Complementary colors are any two hues positioned exactly opposite each other on the basic color wheel. Here is a color wheel to show you complementary colors.

Instructions

I always run the scarves through cool/cold rinse-and-spin in the washer, and a low cycle in the dryer before I dye them. If they’re going to shrink, that’s when they can do it.

Fold or scrunch or whatever the scarf so it fits in the bottom of the dish. You can also tie with string like with tie-dye. Just experiment! Round dishes will offer you different possibilities for folding and scrunching than rectangle dishes. Have fun with that! If you’ve purchased a dozen silk scarves from Dharma Trading, it will not be expensive fun.

Get the scarf totally wet in the dish, and add a bit of water for it to sit in.

Sprinkle your desired colors of Kool Aid wherever you want on the scarf. Remember the lesson about complementary colors – red/green, blue/orange, yellow/purple — you will get some sort of mud color. Sometimes it can be a nice brown, but usually it’s just yuck, not necessarily desirable unless you’re looking for unpredictable browns.

The more Kool Aid that you use, the more intense the color and the more it will spread if you’ve added water.

When you’re satisfied with your Kool Aid sprinkling amount and placement, cover the bowl and microwave on High for 2 minutes. Stop and check to make sure that nothing is drying out (fire hazard), then micro for 2-3 minutes more, depending on how “powerful” your microwave oven is.

Keep an eye on it! The silk and water in the dish will bubble and that’s good. The heat is what will set the colors. Don’t let it dry out. (That’s what the cover is for.)

Take it out of the oven and let it cool completely. This could take some time.

When it is totally cool, rinse the scarf under cold running water. Keep rinsing. When the water runs clear, you are done rinsing.

It’s okay to put them in the clothes dryer – doesn’t take long. Always on Low.

Then I like to actually iron the scarves to further set the color, if needed, and make them presentable.

Hand wash your scarf when needed to avoid the possibility that it will bleed on to other garments in the washer.

Email me with questions. Have fun! You never know, can’t predict, what you’ll get.