March 18, 2014

Dyeing Silk

 Each Christmas my husband's grandmother has me choose presents for the children.  I think of it as the "bonus present" for the kids and I have a tendency to buy presents I think my children will love but am not positive are worth the money.  Experimental gifting.

This year, I jumped on the bandwagon and had great-grandma get the kids silk, which we dyed on Christmas Eve.  It was actually the perfect day to do it because the kids loved the whole process and it helped the time go by faster for them.
 I'm sure you've seen this idea floating around the internets.  I purchased the silks at  I bought each child three silks: a really long skinny one (I wish they had a bigger square or rectangle option), a cape-sized one, and a slightly smaller than cape-sized one.  Harriet and Oskar each received a handkerchief sized one instead of the long, skinny one.  Here's the order form I used:  The actual sizes I ordered were 22 x 90; 44 x 44; 35 x 35; and the small ones for the two youngest were 30 x 30.
 We did the whole "kool-aid as silk dye" approach instead of spending the money for a traditional fabric dye.  I highly recommend going the cheaper route.  The kool-aid dyeing process was extremely easy, surprisingly fast, and resulted in lovely colors.  We played around with mixing the colors and learned quite a bit.  One thing we learned is that blue overtakes green very quickly so the greenish-blues we were trying for usually turned out bluish-green instead.

 Cowen had a fun time being the photographer for me.

 We also learned that any color that involved even the smallest amount of red required four times the amount of rinsing time.

 Harriet's purple--the first silk we did.
Light blue.
 Light green (my favorite of all the colors).

 The dye came off our hands in a  day or two--sooner than I expected.
 Eli with one of his silks.
 Some of the colors: dark green (green mixed with blue), orange, light yellow (a favorite of almost everyone), pink, purple.

There are numerous places online where you can find precise instructions on how to do the dyeing.  Basically you take two to four (there are disagreements about this--we used two for most the projects but sometimes two and a half for fun color combos) kool-aid packets, dump them in water mixed with vinegar, stir it around, add the silk, stir that around, cover the whole thing with plastic wrap and microwave for two to four minutes (there are also disagreements about how long to microwave).  Then you rinse and dry and then rinse again.

It was easier than it sounded.

Here are some of the websites I looked at before I started:;;; (this one is the most helpful because it has a color chart).

The big question is, of course, did the children like their present?  That's a hard one.  The boys, Cowen and Eli, wore the silks pretty much every day after we made them until I packed up all the toys earlier this month (we're trying to sell our house).  So yes, the boys love them.

The girls, on the other hand, didn't use them nearly as much as I expected.  I had hoped that the long silks would be useful in tent building because I am tired of my quilts getting dragged all over, but they were too skinny to work well.  Harriet wrapped her doll up a few times and the girls made little doll clothes and houses.  They were used, just not as much as I had anticipated.

Granted, we made the silks on Christmas Eve, got a bunch of new toys for Christmas, and then packed them away in early March.  The long-term play value of the silks is still largely undetermined.  I'd have to say that I personally think the long skinny silks were a waste but the two large squares are a great investment.  Just for dress-up purposes alone it was well worth the money and time.  See Eli below.  Seriously awesome.

So try it!  You can use science as an excuse to go kool-aid crazy--chemical reactions and all that.  As a side note, I really liked wrapping a silk around my head as a turban.  Wearing a turban may lead to singing "Arabian Nights" often and loudly.  You've been warned.

PS Trying to sell the house is why I've disappeared again.

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