Adventures in Waldorf Toy Making: Dying Play Silks with Kool Aid

How to hand dye Waldorf Play Silks

As I mentioned in Adventures in Waldorf Toy Making: Handmade Wooden Toys for Christmas I began my quest to make the bulk of my children’s Christmas presents.  This post is about making some play silks, and by making play silks, I mean buying white play silks on the cheap, and dying them with Kool-Aid.

Buying Play Silks from Sarah’s Silks(who has lovely products) will cost about $15.00.

Here is a picture of some Sarah Silk’s play silks.

So, as you can see, to have all of these beautiful play silks would start to cost quite a lot.  Here is an alternative.

There is a company called Dharma Trading that sells a 35×35 veil of pure china silk for about $5 (Link to Dharma’s $5 Silk).  I purchased about 6 of these, which cost about $35 including shipping and tax.

I purchased a lot of Kool-Aid in various shades.  Each silk takes about 3 packs of Kool-Aid to get a really good color.  I had to go to two grocery stores in order to get all of the colors I needed.  I paid about $1 per 5 packs of Kool-Aid.  This brings the total cost of a “Laura’s Play Silk” to under $6 per silk.

Here’s how I did it:

1: I boiled all of the silks in water with a half a cup of white distilled vinegar.  I have been told that this gets all of the oils and such off of the fabric that could inhibit the color process.

2: Using a large container, I mixed 3 of the flat packs of Kool-Aid Mix with regular tap water, along with about a 1/4 cup of vinegar.  I then heated this to a boil in a saucepan and added the wet clean white play silk.

3: It is very important at this stage to stir, stir, stir.  In fact, if you even lift the scarf out and totally re-arrange it, that is even better.  The silk is like a magnet to the dye.  It sucks it in and very quickly you are left with a very colorful silk and almost clear water.  This only works because silk is an animal product, and the acid dye in Kool-Aid only works on Animal based fabric.  It won’t work on cotton etc…  (At least that’s what I heard).

4: I let it boil for about 6-10 minutes so that the dye is really set in there by the heat.  Then I poured the whole thing into a pasta colander in the sink and began to pour cold water over the silk.  I rinsed until the water ran clear.

5: I rung out the now clean silk and tossed it into the dryer.  You can also put the silk into the microwave for 2 minutes, but I don’t have a microwave.  It only took about 15 minutes to dry.

IMPORTANT: Do not dry different colors in the dryer together.  I had a beautiful rainbow silk (that I will explain in a minute) that totally got ruined by a red silk in the dryer when the red silk had some left over dye on it and bled on the rainbow silk.

6: When the silk was dry, I ironed it (this is a picture of one I did using yellow and orange Kool-Aid).

Ironing a play silk

That is all there is to making a single color silk.  Not even I can mess it up… that’s not true, I did in fact mess one up when I tried to make a “grass green” by mixing raspberry ice Blue Kool Aid with Orange Kool Aid.  It made a disgusting puke greeny brown color that I tried to fix by re-dying it with Cherry Red dye.  This kind of worked and I was left with a brownish Red that looks kind of rusty and pretty.  

How to make a Rainbow Silk:

I tried two methods to make a rainbow silk.

The first time I simply dyed half of the silk in the saucepan with the Pink Kool-Aid, and left the other half hanging out of the saucepan.  I kind of dribbled a little of the Hot Kool-Aid water onto the middle of the scarf so that I would get a nice blended line where the two colors met.

Then I mixed a small amount of Lavender Kool Aid by mixing Rasberry Blue and Strawberry together.  This yielded a really pretty shade of Lavender.  I actually used a little of the Strawberry dye hot Kool-Aid water from another scarf and added the Rasberry Blue.  I mixed them in a jar, so essentially, I had a jar of Hot Kool-Aid on my counter.  I dipped the second half of the silk into that jar of hot Koolaid and let it sit for a couple minutes, sort of stirring by using a chop stick to shake it around as much as possible.  It surprisingly turned out really pretty!  This picture is not good, sorry!

Then, I made a truly amazing rainbow silk by using the hot Kool-Aid in a jar method.  I boiled a fresh white silk in vinegar water.  Then I took three jars and filled them with the hot vinegar water.  In one jar I used Pink Lemonade (just one pack), in another one pack of Blue Rasberry, and in the last one pack of Lemonade Kool-Aid.  I dipped the top of the scarf into the pink and let it sit for 2 minutes using my chop stick to move it around as much as I could in that small jar.  Then took the middle of the scarf and dipped it into the yellow jar and repeated the process.  Lastly I took the end of the scarf and repeated the process again with the blue.  It looked amazing!  I rinsed it and popped it into the dryer along with the red silk I had also just finished.  When I opened the dryer, the red silk had totally stained my lovely rainbow silk.  This is why I have no picture of it.  I was too depressed.  So, I am going to try again with another silk (that I hope is waiting for me when I get home today).  If possible I will post a quick update with that picture.

To sum up… Home made Play silks cost about $6 each
In perfect honesty, mine are not quite as beautiful and uniform as Sarah’s Silks… but I love them!  Here is a picture of some of them all ironed and ready to put under the tree!


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