Dyeing with kids/or adults with some special needs

I would welcome your input–I know several of you have done lots of dyeing with kids. Do you all use Kool-Aid or do you use regular fiber dyes? I have some Greener Shades dye I’ve used on fiber, and I have played around a bit with Kool-Aid and yarn just for fun, but I’d love to know what works best for when you’re trying incorporate newbies into the process? I have an adult niece who comes to visit me about once a year and we try to do some fun things together. However, she is slightly autistic, so learning a new skill for her is always a bit of a stretch. She does make an effort, though, when I teach her and if it’s not too complicated, she seems game for giving it a try. She does like to do some very basic loom knitting, so I thought it would be fun to have her dye some yarn that she can knit up.

Would it be best to get yarn that is already prepped with mordant? Or just use vinegar? If I remember right, the Kool-Aid already has citric acid in it, so wouldn’t need the mordant, right? I’d probably try to watch some simple dyeing videos with her on YouTube just to get her on board and get her mind ready for what we plan to do. It’s almost like working with a child in that sense and so I have to think of what will work for her.

It’s been a while since I’ve done dyeing and I want to get back into it a bit, so this will be a good motivator for me!

I used dharma or jacquard acid dyes with either vinegar or citric acid. I used food coloring to dye yarn with my grandkids and it was eh… next time I will mix up acid dyes put them in little cups and use droppers for them to color their yarn. I will cover my island top with plastic to protect it. Hope this helps.

@rkennell - there are health risks involved with using acid dyes. You need excellent ventilation and dedicated equipment - pots, tongs, microwave, etc. I would never advise using acid dyes with children or someone with special needs. You can get excellent results with food dyes (that includes Kool-Aid and Easter egg tablets). You won’t get black, navy or bright red with food dyes but there are plenty of nice colors and there are interesting techniques. One of the most fun that I did was with Easter egg tablets. Here is a link to some good videos:


My attitude with dyeing is that it is an adventure and you might not get what you originally intended but it will probably be a beautiful creation anyway. I’ve never had any dye job turn out awful.

I posted some of my dye jobs in the Adventures in Dyeing group. These were all done with food coloring:


I agree with @lovestostitch that food safe dyes are easier to manage in terms of not needing extra equipment. It is also true that results are not always what was expected, would your niece find this disappointing?

She might—and I don’t know that she would express it much if she was. I think I’ll get some Wilton’s and try those once. I think I might have better luck with those than Kool-Aid. I’ll just have to be sure and use citric acid or vinegar.

Thanks to both of you for your input.

@thasista - I like your idea of covering the work surface with plastic-totally makes sense! Also, mixing the colors ahead of time also is a good idea, esp. if you have a large group.

@lovestostitch - Good reminder about the acid dyes. I have worked with them before, although Greener shades, which is what I have, is a little less toxic, I believe. If I did use them, I would go ahead and mix up the dye and then let her help me with them. I have made my own soap and am familiar with working with ventilation and also have those same pots and pans that I can use for dyeing as well, but definitely a good reminder of the precautions. I am thinking at this point I might go with Kool-Aid simply because of the ease of it this time around and if it goes well, maybe another time we can do better dyes. I also have Wilton colors on hand, so that might be another option, as long as the colors don’t break, like when using purple or black or even some greens. Thanks for sharing the helpful links. I had forgotten about the dyeing group, so I did head over there and check out some of that information as well.