Okay, here's the promised post in which I tell you how to dye wool in your crockpot using Kool-Aid. Kool, huh?! At least half of the wool in the photo above was dyed using Kool-Aid.
In theory, you could probably use your regular crockpot since Kool-Aid contains food-grade dyes, but I decided I'd treat it like any other dye process and use equipment I'd set aside specifically for dyeing, so I bought a crockpot at the thrift store. Besides a crockpot, you'll also need packages of Kool-Aid, a wooden spoon, and tongs or something similar to lift the hot wool from the crockpot. The process will also require a bit of liquid dish detergent and some vinegar.
When I was doing the research on this process, I came across THIS SITE--if you scroll down a little, you'll see a chart that lists the Kool-Aid flavors and what color they result in. I suspect some of these flavors are no longer being made and others have taken their place. I've been asked if you can use powdered drink mixes other than Kool-Aid, and I don't know for certain, but I don't know why not unless they use different dyes. Also, Jello works if you can't find the color you want in Kool-Aid, but you have to use the sugar-free variety, and that's a bit limited, so I'd suggest you stick with Kool-Aid--just find a store that carries a good variety at a decent price. Finally, think about experimenting with mixing different flavors for different color results.
Now, here’s the method:
Select the wool you wish to dye. How much can you dye in one batch? Good question! Try not to overfill the crockpot with fabric--you'll want to be able to stir the fabric around so it dyes evenly. And, of course, it will depend on the size of your crockpot. I'd suggest that you'd want to fill no more than 1/5th or 1/4th of your crockpot with dry wool. Follow the steps below and see how that works out for you; adjust accordingly.
1. Presoak the wool in warm water with a little detergent and a tablespoon or two of white vinegar. (Vinegar is a mordant and will prepare the wool fibers to accept the dye.) Soak for approximately 20 minutes or longer (overnight is okay).
2. Add hot water to a crockpot and turn the control to high. Cover nose and mouth (I use a towel for this) to avoid inhaling powder and add two packages of Kool Aid; stir. (To achieve a deeper color or if you are mixing lighter colors such as green, yellow, or orange, add three or four packages rather than two.)
3. Wring out wool and add to dye liquid in uncovered crockpot; continue to stir occasionally. When liquid and wool are hot and steaming, turn crockpot control to simmer/low for 30 minutes.
4. After 30 minutes, the dye will be exhausted, which means that all of the dye will have been absorbed into the wool and the water in the crockpot will be clear. Turn crockpot off. (Water can be poured out and will not harm plumbing.)
5. Prepare a "bath" of hot water and a little bit of detergent. Transfer wool into water and agitate. Slowly add cooler water to the bath until wool has cooled enough to handle. Rinse wool free of any remaining detergent and wring water from wool. (Note wool will remain colorfast through rinsing. I do not know if the dye would wash out after repeated washings, but then again, how often would we wash wool? Still, from what I've seen so far, the color does not wash out or bleed.)
6. Dry wool in dryer on hot; remove just before wool has completely dried to prevent wrinkles.
Note: Here’s the fun part! Experiment with different base wools. In other words, try overdying wool that is already dyed; you will end up with a different shade of wool. Try dyeing gray wool for a dusky, country shade. Black and white weaves? Excellent! These are the most fun, as the white will pick up the dye color and the black will remain black. Don't forget to try overdying pastel shades, tans, etc. You'll end up with a nice variety of shades of wool, all from the one dye batch!
Previously felted or unfelted wool can be used in this process. After dyeing and drying, the wool will be felted and no further processing is necessary.