Dyeing Playsilks and Making Streamer Wands

So, there is a lot of information out there on how to Kool-Aid dye, but I am going to repeat it anyway, and then tell you how I created the silk streamer wands with the results. They turned out great! It was very easy to do on my own, and I also made up a set of 20 “kits” for the kids to do as a craft project at the boys’ summer camp program (3-8yos). The teachers said the kids had a lot of fun making them, and then playing with them.

1) Silk scarves in either 6″x24″ or 8″x54″. I buy my silk scarf blanks at Dharma Trading. The 6×24 ones were good for the kids to do since they are very small and manageable. However, I prefer the 8×54 ones since they are nice and long, and “streamer-y”. The ones at Dharma already have rolled hems which makes things easier. You can also use this method to dye playsilks, which is a wonderful open-ended play item for young children. Most people use 8mm Habotai silk for playsilks. 35×35″ inches seems like a popular size. I think the 44×44″ ones are a bit more fun, personally, but it depends on the age of the child. 11×11″ can be nice for a small baby.

2) Kool-aid in various flavors. I used Berry Blue, Wild Cherry, Lemon-Lime, Lemonade, Strawberry, Cherry and Grape. I’ve heard that they make flavors for the Latin American market that turn out a brown color, but I’m not sure what flavors those might be. (Okay, I was very curious by what flavor ‘brown’ might be…so since Google is my friend…it’s Cola flavored! Only available in the Mexico market.)

3) White vinegar

4) 5/16″ wooden dowels. Definitely get at least 5/16″ dowels. The thinner dowels snap in half easily (I know this from experience). I bought a pack of 8 at Michael’s for less than $2.

5) “Hooks & Eyes” or screw-in eye hooks. Let’s see, the size #212 were nice and heavy duty, but I had to use pliers to get them fully screwed into the dowel. The size #216 1/2 were tiny and easy to screw in, but I’m a bit worried that they might fall out with some heavy use. I purchased these at our local hardware store.

6) Freezer weight Ziploc bags. Use a quart size for the 8×54 (or for 35×35 or larger playsilks), and a pint size for the 6×24 scarves. You can also skip these and do your dyeing right in a Pyrex dish, but that’s bit messier and will slow you down if you are doing many different colors.

7) Embroidery floss. Just one skein in a basic color like white.

8) Small Pyrex dish, measuring cup, fork to stir, water, hot pad, crochet hook, microwave, sewing machine.

Dyeing Procedure

1) Soak silk scarf in a bowl of hot water for 20 minutes.

2) Meanwhile, mix up your dye. For the small 6×24 inch scarves, you just need about 1/4 cup of liquid. For the 8×54 scarves, or for 35×35 playsilks, you’ll need about 1/2 cup of liquid. For the 6×24 inch scarves, mix in a measuring cup 1/8 cup vinegar, 1/8 cup warm water and 1 packet of Kool-Aid. (See end of tutorial for any color hints that I might have.) For the larger scarves, mix 1/4 cup vinegar, 1/4 cup warm water and 2 packets of Kool-Aid. The more Kool-Aid you use, the darker the color will be. So, if you want a really dark color, you could try 3 or 4 packets. I’ve not experimented to that extent with the color, so just have fun with it! If you are dyeing more than one silk at a time, increase the amount of liquid, but you probably don’t need to double it. You’ll just have to play around with things.

3) After the silk has soaked for 20 minutes, wring out any excess water and place silk in a Ziploc bag which you’ve set in a Pyrex dish (to catch any spills). Pour in your dye, seal the bag, and smoosh the silk around in the dye to get it evenly coated.

4) Repeat with more scarves/colors if you want. I was able to fit about 4 quart sized Ziploc bags comfortably in my 8×8 Pyrex dish.

5) IMPORTANT: Before placing in the microwave, open the Ziploc bags a little bit to vent them. The water will boil in the Ziploc and you want them vented.

6) Place in microwave, and microwave on high for 2 minutes. Let rest 2 more minutes. Using a towel or hot pad, smoosh the silk around in the dye again. (Caution! The bags are hot!) Microwave on high for another 2 minutes. If you are making the small 6×24 ones, you can probably take them out now. If you are making bigger ones, you will want to repeat this one more time: rest 2 minutes, microwave on high 2 more minutes. The key is that you don’t want all the liquid to evaporate. The silk can catch fire in the microwave if you don’t watch them and you ran out of liquid. (Thankfully, do NOT know this from experience.)

7) Take out of microwave, open up the bags and let them cool down slowly to room temperature (or just warm and easy to handle). This slow cool-down process helps set the dye.

8) Once they are cool enough, rinse in water of the same temperature as the silk. Continue to rinse out the dye with cool water until the water runs clear. Now, I sort of felt like the water never ran perfectly clear. So, when it seemed ‘good enough’ to me, I stopped.

9) Hang to dry. They will dry pretty quickly.

10) You can also decide to run them through a rinse cycle on your washing machine (no soap) to get out any remaining dye. This seemed to work well for me. I have a front-loader, so I had to put them in with a few old towels. (The spin cycle doesn’t work right with only a few tiny things in the washer.) None of them bled on the towels/rags, so I take that as a good sign. I sorted them by similar color and ran them through the washer in different loads, just in case. I didn’t want the red silk to bleed onto my yellow one! This will also fade the colors a bit, so it’s up to you if you decide to do this step at all.

11) I also suggest ironing them on a low heat / silk setting since they will be pretty wrinkly.

Making the Silk Streamer Wands

1) Once the silks are dry and ironed, you will need to do a bit of sewing. You can also decide to sew them before dyeing them. It’s up to you. Just fold over the short side of the scarf (the 6″ or 8″ side) about 1/2″. Sew a straight stitch making sure to backstitch at the beginning and end. You are just sewing a little pocket.

2) Screw your eye hooks into your wood dowels. I’ve seen people who decorate the dowels with either paint or by wrapping ribbon around them, which could look very pretty.

3) Cut a length of embroidery floss, about 8″. I tied one end around the tip of a crochet hook, and used the crochet hook to run the floss through the pocket I had sewn in the silk scarf. You can do this some other way, of course, but this seemed to work well for me.

4) Remove the crochet hook, and tie the embroidery floss together to gather the silk. Use the embroidery floss to tie the silk to the eye hook. Try to use a knot that will hold it securely. I used a square knot, I think it’s called, but whatever works for you.

Voila! Wonderful hand-dyed silk streamer wands!

Kool-Aid Color Tips and Other Random Ideas:

* The Lemonade (yellow) isn’t very bright. After running mine through my washing machine, it was really just cream. Maybe I needed more Kool-Aid. I decided to re-dye it, and not run it through the washing machine, and it’s brighter now, but still pretty light colored yellow.

* I made one with ‘Grape’ flavor, and I made another by mixing one ‘Cherry’ and one ‘Berry Blue’. They were almost the exact same shade of purple.

* This can make a fun lesson in color theory for your kids! “What will happen if we mix Berry Blue and Lemonade?”

* If you want to make a striped playsilk, you might try laying it in the Pyrex dish, and using squeeze bottles to apply the dye to specific areas. Not sure how this would turn out, but this is how I’ve heard that people do it.

* Another option instead of Kool-Aid is to use Wilton cake dyes. Just Google that and you’ll get plenty of info! The colors come out brighter and deeper, supposedly.

* Another fun idea would be to dye a silk a deep blue color and then use gold metallic paint to paint stars, comets, etc. on the silk. Wouldn’t that be cool??

5 Responses

  1. Great post & instructions. I am SO doing this!

  2. Thanks so much for the great instructions. I’m sure you put tons of time into it! I can’t wait to make some. Also, thanks for the link to the blank silks. I hadn’t come across that site. You have again foiled my plan to spend less on crafts!!!

  3. You inspire me. Your instructions and warm delivery make projects seem so easy. Thanks!

  4. WOW. Love your blog & can't wait to try this! Merci bc for checking out my blog. i am sure to be back visiting yours quite often. and, also, the tip of adding the salad on artisan bread and toasting is an awesome idea. my husband & I are going to try that next time!

  5. […] I think I might Kool-Aid dye some silk scarves in browns and dark greens to function as the base for the houses (or maybe use tea/coffee for the […]

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