How To Harvest Yarn From a Sweater: Dyeing The Wool

How To Harvest Yarn From a Sweater: Dyeing The Wool

This is the third and final part of our tutorial on how to harvest yarn from a sweater. In Part 1 we looked at how to choose the right sweater to harvest. In Part 2 we showed you how to unravel a sweater. Now, in Part 3, we show you how to dye your newly harvested yarn using Kool-Aid and your stove or microwave. Using Kool-Aid to dye is fun, inexpensive, and non-toxic. Although we must say it does make us wonder about the benefits of drinking Kool-Aid after we saw what it did to the wool!

What You Need

Large soup pot (if following stove top directions)
Microwave safe glass dish (if following microwave directions)
Plastic cling wrap (if following microwave directions)
Kool-Aid packets (about 1 packet per oz of yarn)
Light colored yarn
Ball winder and swift (optional)


1. Check the figure 8 cotton twine ties on the skein. There should be 4 places in which the skein is secured. You want to make sure the knot is tight but the wrap is loose. This is to prevent the area around the tie from being in the way of the dye. If one of the ties gets unwrapped the skein is quick to devolve into a knotted mess during the dyeing process.

2. If using harvested yarn, the yarn needs to soak in water for one hour before you begin the dyeing process. Make sure to weigh the yarn down so that it is fully covered by the water. After the hour elapses, remove the yarn and empty the water from your pot/dish.

3. In the empty pot/dish, add the contents of the Kool-Aid packet. Add a small amount of water so that the Kool-Aid will dissolve. Happy with the color? Experiment with different packet combination until you reach the desired color. For us to get the sage green color we were seeking, we used 2 Ice Blue Raspberry Lemonade packets, 3 Lemonade packets, and 1 Orange packet. Continue to add water and stir until the pot/dish is about a 1/4 inch or so from being full.

4. Add the yarn. Make sure that the yarn is completely covered. If the water level is not high enough, more water may need to be added. For the microwave dish, now is the time to cover the dish using the plastic cling wrap. It is not necessary to form a tight seal with the cling wrap.

5. Insert the dish into the microwave and heat for 2 minutes. At the conclusion of the 2 minutes check the yarn, making sure it is completely submerged and then heat for another 2 minutes. Continue to heat for 2 minute intervals until the water is simmering, but do not let the water boil.

6. On the stove heat the pot until it reaches a simmering point, checking periodically to make sure the yarn is completely submerged. Once the pot reaches the simmering point remove from the heat.

7. With the dish still covered and/or the pot removed from heat, let the contents sit for about 30 minutes or until the water in the dish looks clear. This indicates that the dye has been absorbed into the yarn. Remove the cling wrap cover and let the contents of pot/dish continue to cool.

8. With the dye now absorbed into the yarn it is time to rinse. Rinse the yarn with the same temperature water that it was sitting in while in the pot/dish. Using water that it is too cold can cause the yarn to felt.

9. Hang the newly dyed skein to dry. Using a hangar works well for this purpose.

10. Once the skein is dry, use your ball winder and swift or preferred winding method to form the skein into a ball. What was once someone's cast off sweater is now custom dyed yarn just waiting to be used.

Additional Notes: When purchasing Kool-Aid for this project, make sure to buy the packets that instruct you to add sugar. The sugar-free and Kool-Aid that is sold in canisters (that includes sugar) will not work for yarn dyeing purposes.

(Images: Joelle Alcaidinho)

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