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I’ve shown you the basics of dyeing socks and how easy it is. All you need is a box of dye and some hot water. But what about styles that aren’t cotton blends? What about non RIT dye options? Well just you wait. Nothing dyes quite as wonderfully as nylon.
You can use RIT on nylon easy. Use our search to find a white nylon style, I’ve even queued up the search terms just for you! If you’re using RIT, it’s okay if it’s a fiber blend, since this dye is made to work on cotton and nylon blends. Just follow the directions on the package, or the DIY we shared with you earlier this year. So plain ol’ black and white Ribbed Pinstripe Leggings plus some RIT in Sunshine Orange can become these Halloween-tastic orange and black leggings! The dye won’t make any difference to the black stripes, so I’m free to choose what colours I want.
What’s wonderful about dyeing socks and tights is that when you can’t find the exact colour you want for something, you can make it!
Now, there is a fiber-specific way you can dye nylon, and there’s even an option at your grocery store! Join me after the jump for more nylon transformation!
Nylon, like silk and wool, is best dyed with acid dyes. Don’t worry! They’re not super-villain acidic (though you should probably wear gloves any time you dye things). Acid dyes work best with “protein” fibers like nylon. A great resource for acid dyes and dyeing in general is Dharma Trading company. But if you’re just curious about trying out dyeing nylon, then just pop over to your local grocery store and pick up a couple packs of Kool-Aid.
Kool-Aid dyeing nylon
Kool-Aid is very acidic and works great as a dye on wool and nylon. You might even remember dyeing your hair with it in middle school (or, at least, I do). It doesn’t take much effort to dye something with Kool-Aid. And though I’m going to show you the stovetop method, there’s a way to do it in the microwave too. Here’s what you’ll need to do it on the stove:
• What you’re dyeing—which sharp eyes will notice that’s what is pictured is not what I actually end up dyeing •
• A stainless steel or enamel pot or saucepan •
• Packs of unsweetened Kool-Aid in the colours you want •
Put enough water in your pot to cover what you’re dyeing. In this case, I’m dying the some Sheer Lace Top Stockings with Backseams, which don’t need much to cover them. Add packets of Kool-Aid to your pot. There’s no math involved, just more packets mean more colour! Stir to dissolve.
Now add what you are dyeing and put the pot on the stove! Heat it to almost boiling and then turn the heat off. Let it sit, covered, for about half an hour.
You’ll know that you’re done dyeing when the water is clear. All the colour is now in what you’re dyeing! Wait until it is cooled and rinse well with warm water.
And ta-da! The camera cannot convey how bright these truly are. You can also see that maybe I should have used a bigger pot, so the stockings weren’t so cramped. Giving them a stir or two would help too. These will be going back in the pot to even out the tone.
If you want to use your microwave, just dissolve your Kool-Aid into water in a microwave-safe container. Pop what you’re dyeing in and microwave for two minutes. Let it cool for a few minutes then microwave for another two minutes. And done! Just like with the stove top, you’ll know you’re done when the water is clear.
Now, are you ready for fancy acid dyes?
Acid dyeing nylon
Using acid dye is a little trickier than using RIT or Kool-Aid. The dye I’m using came from Dharma Trading Company, a great resource for dyeing. This is what you’ll need:
• What you’re dyeing, in this case the Paris Fleur De Lis Pantyhose •
• A stainless steel or enamel pot or saucepan, one that is just for dyeing, not food •
• Acid dye •
• Something to stir with that won’t stain or won’t matter if you stain. Think non-reactive stuff like wood, stainless steel and plastic •
• Vinegar •
Fill a stainless steel pot with enough water to properly cover whatever you’re dying, then turn on the stove top and add your dye.
You want about 2-4% of dye to the weight of the thing you’re dyeing. In my case that is not much. Use your eyeballs and common sense and if it turns out to light, remember you can always dye it again! As an example, to dye a pound of fabric you need 1/3 to 2/3 an ounce of dye. How much is a pound of fabric? Well, two pairs of Long Cuffable Scrunchables come to just under a pound, so that’s a lot! I found that the amount I added was more than enough and I probably could have gone with less.
Now, with everything properly stirred, add the thing that you are dyeing! Make sure what it is nice and wet, so the dye will wick in better, though it starts taking colour SUPER fast!
Bring your pot to just under boiling (185-200°F). If you don’t have a cooking thermometer, then know that you don’t want it to get to a “roiling boil.” Keep your pot simmering, but don’t let it get more feisty than that. This page has a good visual reference to the difference between boiling and simmering. Once it is simmering, add your vinegar! The proportions are about 1/4 cup vinegar to one pound of fabric. Try not to pour it directly on what you’re dyeing, use your stirrer to push it aside while you pour the vinegar in.
Keep your pot simmering, stirring regularly, for half an hour. When that time is up turn off the heat and let everything cool before rinsing in warm water. You will see that the water in the pot is clear, because all that colour went into what you were dyeing!
Probably, these were everyone’s favourite dye transformation. So purple! And look how well they match the Tibetan Flower Crews in Fuchsia!
There is so much you can do once you get dyeing! And sometimes, you learn something interesting about fiber! These Fingerless Lace Gloves with Ruffles I dyed with Kool-Aid (the red) and acid dye (the purple). They say on the label that they’re 90% nylon, but only the lace on the cuff and the fingers took the dye! Which means the body of the gloves is probably polyester, which doesn’t take acid dye. The result is pretty though, so I wasn’t too pouty about it. We’ve made a note in the Fiber Content for these gloves and are currently seeking confirmation as to what exactly they’re made of.
For more reference on dyeing protein fibers like nylon and wool, these two articles on Knitty are great jumping-off points. They refer to wool blends mostly, but the same techniques work on nylon:
If you take the plunge into a vat of colour, share your results with us on Facebook! We love seeing when folks get creative with their socks. Until then, may your experiments all be as beautiful as you are!
10 soxy thoughts:
oh dear lordie! the effect on the fleur de lis pantyhose is amazing.
i really appreciate this post for helping me reconsider items i might not have previously bought. yay for diy!
@Cole, YAY for DIY! It can take boring white things and make them eye-popping. If you experiment with dyeing and like the results, be sure to share them on our Facebook. We love seeing folks personalise their socks!
Be careful what you mix and heat dyes in. Aside from Kool-Aid, which is obviously food safe, most dyes are toxic, and you shouldn’t use pots or bowls that you will eat out of in the future! Pick up a cheap pot and mixing bowl at the thrift store for doing your dyeing.
Just make sure you know that Kool-aid (and other food coloring) dyed things may not be very lightfast.
I can’t find it right now, but there was a photo someone posted on Ravelry of skeins they had that they were drying in the sun, and one side was paler than the other because the sun faded the yarn.
@Christy, that is a good point. Food colouring specifically does not have super great lightfastness. But because it is an acid-reactive dye (or acts like one) Kool-Aid dyed nylon does have decent lightfastness. A quick search online brings up a pretty thorough discussion on a knitting forum [Link] where most folks seem to agree that Kool-Aid is pretty solidly lightfast.
@Lorien, yes! I’d thought I’d noted that in the acid dye instructions, but it looks like I didn’t. I’ve added a note about that, thank you!
I used to dye yarn for a living, and have never had a problem with Koolaid fading in the sun. And I live in Texas!! I’m pretty sure the pic you saw was from poor dye technique, not the Koolaid itself. And I second the toxicity notion! Please please PLEASE use a pot you aren’t going to use again for food. Use that old one with the wiggly handle that you didn’t like anyway.
@Stephanie, thanks for seconding the lightfastness of Kool-Aid (or, as the cool kids seem to call it, “KA”). And for sure the pot I use is just for non-food things, it even has a wobbly handle too.
Very cool post! Definitely an easy way to make your nylon’s unique!
@Bold Socks, most definitely!