Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Color Purple

I have made two previous attempts to dye wool purple using Wilton's food coloring paste. The first used vinegar as the acid source, and the second used KoolAid Ice Blue Raspberry Lemonade. The first attempt resulted in purple, while the second did not (deep blue). I was curious if the vinegar made the difference for the color, so I decided to set up some purple tests.

2 drops of NEON blue is the same as Ice Blue Raspberry Lemonade according to a knitty article. So if I divide one packet of KoolAid into two, then I should add one NEON drop to the only vinegar sample. I added 3 mL (~16 drops/mL) + 4 drops of concentrated purple solution to each of the following:
  1. 1/2 C KoolAid, 1/2C water, 1/2T water
  2. 1/2 C KoolAid, 1/2C water, 1/2T White Vinegar
  3. 1C water, 1/2T Vinegar, 1 drop NEON Blue
  4. 1C water, 1/2T Vinegar

Samples 1-4, from left to right.

  • Soak ~13 yard skeins of wool in water until saturated
  • Add to dye solution, Microwave on High for 2 minutes (Or until the solution is boiling)
  • Allow to cool and absorb the rest of the dye
  • Examine the colors!

I had thoughts of bringing home some pH paper to test the solutions if the colors ended up different, however I discovered from samples 2-4 that the single drop of Neon Blue was enough to change the purple to a deep vibrant blue. The type of acid has a very limited effect on the color, the liquid food coloring drops must be much more concentrated than the paste I used. Once they dried, there are slight differences in the tone of #2 and#3, but this could be the result of the "dye lot" and not the acid.

To see if I could switch the blue back to purple, I added 1 drop of Neon Pink food coloring to sample #1. Success! I achieved purple again!

My samples after dyeing. #1 bottom right, #2 bottom left, #3 top right, #4 top left.

In the end, it is nice to know that the acid source (Kool Aid or vinegar) does not have much of an effect on the dyed color. I am sure that if I were to push the concentration of vinegar higher I could affect some changes with colors, but I will save that experiment for another day.


  1. I am blown away by your teaching talent. You are so clear, methodical and kind in your instruction, and I had no idea I could play around with colors on commercial yarns ... I dye a LOT of things and have a rit collection for household stuff I feel like changing the color of but it never occurred to me I could do this with some of my boring yarns I no longer like the color of. Of course dyeing already dyed yarn is a diff kind of adventure ... it should be interesting. But I look forward to whites too. Too bad I gave away my cake decorating colors when I gave up flour and sugar! Thanks so much for your beautiful work, and translation to make it user friendly! Aloha and Namaste, BarbaraL

  2. Barbara,

    Thank you for the kind comment! I started writing down instructions for myself so I could repeat my dyeing experiments (the scientist in me.) It is my pleasure to help other people discover the crafter in them.

  3. these are great,simple,clear and to the point.
    question? how do you dry the wool yarn after dying? kathy

  4. Kathy,

    I let the yarn air dry. (If there is any acrylic in the yarn, heat could melt those fibers. If the yarn is mostly full, heat and agitation could cause the fibers to felt.)

    Good luck!