Adorn Anew Blog Tour: How to dye a gradient yarn with kool-aid!

I was excited when Laura Nelkin asked me to be on the blog tour for her serialized ebook, Adorn Anew: it’s a beautiful collection of knitted & beaded jewelry and accessories, with a new pattern released each month in 2012.

Laura is well-known as the ‘knitting with beads’ goddess (okay, I made the title up, but that’s an accurate description!), and is the instructor of the crazy popular Knitting with Beads course on Craftsy.

I had never knitted with beads before, so the reason I was so stoked to be on the blog tour is that I knew it would give me a push to give knitting with beads a try. Beads add such a beautiful bling to your project without increasing the difficulty by too much. Besides, I know Laura’s work. The instructions in her patterns and accompanying videos on her site are fabulous. I wouldn’t run into any trouble.

So, anyway… (this is one of those stories where my husband would say, “where’s the point of this story?” And I would say, “I have to tell the story chronologically!”) I signed up to be on Laura’s blog tour back in early summer, when only half of the patterns had been revealed. I was anxiously awaiting November, so I’d discover which pattern I’d be knitting. I nearly fell off my chair when I found out that November’s pattern is Stellanti! It’s an amazingly beautiful shawl… and I spotted Laura wearing it at Rhinebeck, but I had no idea it would be part of Adorn Anew! I had been coveting it… and I am so excited to be knitting it!

What is a gradient yarn?

A gradient yarn is a yarn that slowly shifts from one color into deeper shade of a similar color. Although Stellanti would be beautiful is any fingering weight yarn… the gradient yarn used for the sample gives it a little extra pizzazz.

The samples were knit in Nightfall by Fibro Fibers, which is absolutely stunning. But since each skein is hand-dyed (and there’s currently a huge demand for Stellanti!), this particular yarn can be hard to get your hands on.

And since this shawl requires 490 yards, purchasing a standard 440 yard skein (of Noro or another commercial gradient yarn) won’t work… since you’d run out of yarn and would need a 2nd ball… which would mess with the gradient.

Sound like a pickle! No worries! I’m going to show you how to dye your own gradient yarn, using Kool-Aid! It’s fun, cheap and easy!

How to dye a gradient yarn

Let’s do it! You’ll need:

  • 490 yards of undyed yarn (details below)
  • 2 colors of Kool-Aid, 5 packets each
  • 4 mason jars or containers

Prepare your yarn

To begin, you’ll need 490 yards of an undyed fingering weight yarn, mostly wool (a little bit of nylon is fine, but avoid plant fibers, since these won’t take dye the same way). I’m using LB 1878 from Lion Brand, but I’ve also had great success with the bare skeins from Knit Picks:

Roll your yarn into a cake… this step is important!

Select your Kool-Aid

I’ve blogged about dyeing with Kool-Aid before (read the different techniques here!), but today we want to achieve a gradient, which means selecting only 2 colors… where one is a ‘darker’ version of the other.

I chose Tropical Punch (red) and Grape (purple). I discovered in Laura’s Ravelry group that there’s a special Halloween color called ‘Ghoul-Aid‘, which is closer to black and would work amazingly, but I didn’t know about it when I was dyeing!

Prepare your yarn and Kool-Aid

First, prepare your yarn by separating it into 4 approximately-similar-sized chunks. This is easy because you wound your ball… pull out one center chunk, then another…

Line your mason jars up in a row. Pour 2 packets of color 1 into the far left one, then 2 packets of color 2 in the far right one. For the center two jars, combine the colors to create your gradient. For example, my 2nd jar contains 1 packet of Tropical Punch and a teaspoon of grape:

Next, pour very hot water into your jars:

At this point, it would be wise to stick a little sample yarn into each jar… just to make sure you like the color. You can add more Kool-Aid to alter the color at this point.


Stick the yarn in the jars! One yarn ball per jar:

Use a utensil (remember, the water’s hot!) to poke at the yarn and make sure every bit of yarn is getting wet. If there’s a section that doesn’t absorb yarn, you’ll end up with a white blotch!

Do you notice a little section of white yarn between the jars? Be sure to dunk those sections into the dye as well!

Let dry

Remove the yarns and squeeze out the excess water:

Let these dry completely before you do anything else… you don’t want any tangles!

You have a gradient yarn!

Once dry, wind into a cake:

Ta da! Isn’t it beautiful!

Wanna see my progress?

I think my Stellanti is knitting up beautifully!

And look at my beads! Aren’t they fabulous?

Knitting with beads isn’t too complicated… the most difficult part (in my opinion) is that once pre-strung, you have to keep scooting the beads down your yarn as you work. No biggie.

Want to get started?

You can grab the Adorn Anew ebook (for the whole collection of fabulous patterns), or just the Stellanti pattern. Right now, there’s a Stellanti Knit-a-long in Laura’s Ravelry group, and I don’t think it’s too late to join in!

Hope you’ve loved this tutorial!

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Nov 19, 2012 | Posted by in Blog, Tutorials | 21 comments

Comments (21 Responses)

  1. Brigette says:

    Wow! Thanks so much for this awesome tutorial. I’m making a list for my supplies now and cannot wait to get started with creating my very own gradient yarn! This step-by-step process you’ve shown above is very, very helpful and quite an inspiration. You’re the best :)

  2. GreteJ says:

    Hi Stacey,
    It is so nice of you to share your knowledge of how to dye yarn. I found it most interesting and might have a go – If I can find the Kool-aid stuff. I haven’t seen it in Denmark – but then the Internet is really wonderful and can get you everything. I am in the Stellanti KAL too, but haven’t started yet because my yarn was a bit late and then I have to get beads too. But I read the posts and enjoy the comments. I tink your ‘story’ about PhotoShop is good too :-).
    Thank you

    • Stacey says:

      Hi GreteJ! It’s probably true that Kool-Aid might be hard to get, but there might be other brands available. Also, if you cannot find the drink, you can use a dye that you would purchase in a craft store.
      Or order it on the internet… so many possibilities! :)

  3. Tez says:

    So. awesome. even my pants are smiling!
    How does it do for washing, does the kool-aid dye hold very well?

    • Stacey says:

      @Tez- In my experience, the dye holds very well! Of course, I tend to use it for a shawl/hat that doesn’t get washed *that* often, but I’ve had pieces for 3 years (so far)!

  4. Laura Nelkin says:

    WOW! Best blog post/tutorial ever! Thanks so much for being a stop on the tour! Now you really have me wanting to break out the dyes!

  5. Cea says:

    Thank you for this awesome info. Excited to try it!

  6. Justine says:

    Thank you for explaining and showing every step. It looks so easy. I am definitely going to have some fun with yarn and Kool Aid.

  7. Donna Smith says:

    That is so cool. Thank you!

  8. Barb Boehmer says:

    That is a wonderful tutorial – have gone to a few LYS’s for yarn and they have no idea. So I can get my own yarn and have enough as well. Thanks again.

  9. Brooke says:

    This looks like so much fun! The yarn turned out beautiful.

  10. Such a great tutorial. Now I really want to try dyeing some yarn.. and learning how to knit with beads!
    I can’t wait to see your finished shawl : )

  11. Bethany says:

    Awesome!! I saw your project in the stellanti mal and was wondering how you dyed it.. and now I know!! Thanks so much!

  12. I love the Kool Aid colors you’re using! Thanks for the intro to this collection.

  13. Joan says:

    Amazing and beautiful.

  14. guylaine says:

    I love this! Do you have any instruction for washing?

  15. Mary Ann Smith says:

    Why do need 5 packs of each color? I’m only seeing 3 used.

    • Stacey says:

      5 packs is the quantity that I used to achieve the colors shown… some jars contain more than one package of color.

  16. […] is Getting to Me, so this is kind of a review of this method. Since I’ve been wanting to try this method on Fresh Stitches, but I don’t have a ball winder that can wind yarn into a cake, I will have to save Part 2 […]

  17. […] wanted to try making a gradient yarn and followed these […]