Friday, July 1, 2011

Dying Tibetan lambswool

with Kool Aid! (or any generic instant powder drink mix)


I bought a big bag of Tibetan lambswool  offcuts for an amazing price. There are some good black pieces and there are a few white scraps, but most of the offcuts are a dull ash blonde with black tips. It's supposed to resemble a wolf skin. I'd heard a rumour protein fabrics (wool and silk and fibers from animal sources) could be dyed with Kool Aid. I had enough wool to spare one for experiment, so...

And let me tell you, it's easier than it looks. Or sounds. The Kool Aid doesn't need a mordant. You don't need to add salt, like some dyes, and you don't need to add vinegar, like most methods suggest. The Kool Aid is acidic enough for the dye to be absorbed into the fiber. Just pick the colour you want, natural hues like auburn (orange) baby blonde (lemonade) or exotic shades like lime green or cherry red. I'm told you can blend colours, or carefully add dye in discrete pools, for multicoloured hair.

Method? Get a plastic tub, small enough for the piece of lambs wool you need to dye. Add enough cool water to just cover the wool. Add a dab of detergent (washing-up liquid, dishwashing liquid) and let it soak for 20 minutes. Add as many packets of whatever Kool Aid you need (two or three seem good), stir gently and let the whole thing sit overnight.

Next morning, the liquid will be mostly clear, or possibly milky, and the wool will be brightly coloured. Rinse out the wool in lukewarm water, roll in an old, clean towel to dry.


As you can see, orange gives a bright auburn red.  The final colour depends, obviously, on the colour of the wool to start with, but at ten cents a pack, you could always try out a test piece first. Pineapple, I'm told, gives a bright blonde, but I've not had much luck finding pineapple Kool Aid.

Only caveats are; use the cheap powder in the sachets, not the ready mix,. protect surfaces from staining and don't breathe in the powder (do I really need to say this?). There are some very detailed methods elsewhere on the net, with colour charts, if you need a step-by-step process, or are dying large amounts. But don't be shy, go ahead and try it.

Dyed on left. Undyed on right.

It's curiously satisfying.

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