Kids Craft : : Hand Dyed Play Silks

Jammie Craft struck again on Sunday. We were getting our day started and thinking about the upcoming birthday party. And we though, "Hmm… wrapping paper."

Since we've been crafting our birthday gifts out of totally free materials it has raised our wrapping paper budget a bit. So the kids and I decided to dye some white play silks we've had around and wrap our friend's gift in them.

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Do your kids have play silks? They might be our favorite toy around. Simple and open-ended, they are  cornerstone of creative play and a Waldorf standard. We love them for costumes, doll slings, play bandages, capes, dresses, landscapes, and so much more. Truly. Their usefulness is endless. (Thinking ahead to Spring celebrations? Replace icky plastic Easter grass in your child's basket.)

You can buy beautiful dyed play silks or simply (and frugally) make your own. Sources are at the bottom of the post. 

There are dozens of different ways to dye play silks. We've dyed them with wild indigo and matter root, Easter egg dyes, and Kool Aid. This is the accessible-for-everyone Kool Aid Method. Your house will smell freakishly like fruit punch all day. Simultaneously awesome and disturbing.

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Hand Dyed Play Silks Tutorial

Materials:

Vinegar

Water

Stainless steel and/or glass mixing bowls, one per color plus one more

Kool Aid (three packets per color)

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Since I find it unlikely that you have a Kool Aid stash in your pantry, start this project at the grocery store. No, not the coop. The grocery. Choose your favorite colors or your most nostalgic scents. Blue, red, purple, orange, and green are all excellent choices and the colors take well. Purchase three packets of each color. 

Fill a large pot or bowl with a gallon of hot water. Add 2 C white vinegar. Submerge your white silks into the vinegar bath and allow to soak for 10 – 30 minutes.

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Choose a large glass or stainless mixing bowl for each color. Add 1/2 C white vinegar and 5 C hot water to each bowl. Add all three packets of Kool Aid and enter childhood-memory flashback land. After your get off of your banana-seat bike and back out of your mama's kitchen, regroup. Stir.

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Time to add your silks! You can add a whole silk to a single color or do some simple multicolor variations and tie-dyes. Since my first "business" was selling tie-dies at Dead Shows when I was 17 (embarrassing but true) we tied some up with string or rubber bands, but for everyday play I prefer the simplicity of single-color silks.

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Allow the silks to thoroughly saturate with color, then remove from dye bath and rinse.

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And rinse.

And rinse.

Keep rinsing until the water runs clear. It takes surprisingly long, but is good tactile work for kids and adults alike.

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You can also rinse in a large bowl of water if that's easier for little hands.

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 Then simply hang your silks to dry. (If not on your three year old then on a clothesline).

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There you have it. A gorgeous plaything in under an hour. (Or at the least some sweet wrapping paper.) Let me know how your silks turn out and what your kids enjoy using them for.

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A note: If you found your way here through Whip Up, Crafty Crow, Progressive Pioneer, or other crafty wonderlands, welcome! Check back with us often – we get inspired and do magical kid crafting every week, plus I post about simplification, gentle parenting, and all manner of organic, joyful living.

Love,
Rachel

Sources:

Pre-Dyed Play silks are available from plenty of lovely family-owned stores like the ones found here and here.

Blank Play silks of all sizes (as well as fancy dyes) are available here. (Worth mentioning is that silks are made in China. Because they are silk. As in China silk. This is the exception to my Made in China rule. If you find any domestic silks please let me know.)

 

39 thoughts on “Kids Craft : : Hand Dyed Play Silks

  1. denise says:

    We love silks. The boys still play with them even though they are ‘older’ as they make great super hero capes. Or lakes. Or grass. Or pirate bandanas. Or puppet show backdrops.

    We dye a lot for spring equinox each year, and I have some banners (for garden) & silk scarves to do next month. So fun! πŸ™‚

  2. Rachel Wolf says:

    Oooh! Id love the see the banners. They sound beautiful. We love dying them so much that wrapping paper seemed like the perfect excuse. (And the recipients big sister tried to make off with the silk at the party, so yes, they are a hit even with big kids.)

  3. Kara says:

    LOL I can still hear my daughters voice in my head a few months back when she realized, “wait, people DRINK this? I thought it was for making colors” πŸ™‚

    Fantastic tutorial for one of our favorite toys! Hooray for silks!

  4. Rachel Wolf says:

    Kara, I am laughing out loud. My kids think that Kool Aid is for dying fabric and that everyone colors their frosting with beet juice! Id love to connect with Simple Kids in the future. Thanks for reading.

  5. amelia says:

    lovely idea. i did this a few years ago with really large pieces of silk and they were gorgeous! what size silks do you use here?

  6. Kathleen says:

    Thank you for the great idea. I bought some after reading your post because my daughter and niece both have birthdays coming up. Of course, my daughter thinks they are all for her cousin. I had my 7yo son and my soon to be 6yo daughter help me with this today. My son, after we were done, said that this was a super fun project. I am going to have to save up and buy some more. Ours are very marbled looking since we didn’t put them into the kool-aid dye flat, but they still look so cool! Thanks again. My daughter will be so happy when she sees that she’s getting some for her birthday too. πŸ™‚

  7. Rachel Wolf says:

    Kathleen, Im so glad you jumped in! Hooray! For more uniform coverage stir the silks while the are in the bowl. Youll see the water begin to turn clear as the silk drinks up the color. Pretty cool. Your family is blessed.

  8. Jen says:

    do you use anything special to wash your play silks? Or just water? Thanks! I have read your blog before and sadly kind of forgotten about, but now ordering soap again reminded me – I am so glad! It is really life giving. Peace.

  9. Rachel Wolf says:

    Hey Jen,
    So glad you found your way back to our blog. Thank you for the kind words. We wash our play silks by hand but we have had them slip into the wash on accident with no ill results. Hand wash is best though.
    ~ Rachel

  10. Becka says:

    I work at an art center and do this with kids all the time. The color will be even more fade-resistant if you microwave them for about 2 minutes to steam set the koolaid “dye”. The heat is what makes it permanent. Just put them in a microwaveable container while they are drippy wet (if they are too dry they can scorch) and give them 2 minutes. Let cool and then rinse. The colors are even more vibrant. Koolaid works great on wool too.

    Also if you want to dye cotton, you want Dharma’s MX Procion dyes (not the acid dyes). Acid dyes are for animal fibers (wool, silk); Procion dyes are for plant fibers (cotton, linen, hemp).

  11. Rachel Wolf says:

    Great tips, Becca! Thanks. We dont have a microwave, so I left out that option. And you are so right – I mixed up the plant/animal dyes. I appreciate the correction!
    ~Rachel

  12. nicole says:

    You can just use a pot on the stove to dye them instead of the microwave. Or, if you want them more multicoloured, steam them in your vegetable steamer like you would veggies πŸ˜‰

    I’ll have to ask my mum if she’s still got some silk scarves laying around from her silkscreen painting days πŸ™‚

  13. Rachel Wolf says:

    I like the steamer idea for adults or older kids. For little ones I love the no-heat and still bright colors of the pot on the counter. Thanks for the great idea, Nicole!

    ~ Rachel

  14. Kerrie says:

    Ooooo, another lovely blog for me to drool over! πŸ˜‰

    I was shocked when I went to my local grocery store and they didn’t have Kool-Aid! (Even though the aisle listing had KOOLAID among JUICE, TEA, & COFFEE!) Would any unsweetened powdered drink mix work, or does Kool-Aid have certain ingredients the others don’t?

    Also, would you be willing to share with us what “flavor” scarf that is for the wrapping? (Grape, Lime, Orange?) It’s absolutely gorgeous, and so soothing on the soul! πŸ™‚

    And is the playstand silk home-dyed or store-bought:
    http://lusaorganics.typepad.com/.a/6a010535f3a090970c012875d2850e970c-pi

    Kerrie

  15. Rachel Wolf says:

    Welcome Kerrie! No Kool Aide. Maybe thats a good thing? You could substitue other brands as long as they are synthetic in their colors. Kool Aide has citric acid which acidifies the dye bath, but any drink mix of that type should do it. And you were right on the colors – grape, lime, and orange! We loved that one too. The silk over our playstands are cotton crepe. I cant recall who made them – I bartered with a mama for them. I wish I remembered who from!

    Blessings,
    Rachel

  16. Kymm says:

    I just found your blog via Soule Mama, and I’ve just found a new go-to gift for my GFs! Who knew silk scarves could be purchased so economically and then transformed into something so unique and lovely? Thank you!

  17. Melissa Q-M says:

    I tried this a few days ago for a gift and the scarves look fantastic. But they stink!! Is this normal? Is there a trick to minimizing the sweet smell? Thanks for any advice!! Ps- love the wrapping idea, I started sewing reusable wrap for all gifts last fall and this is a great method to add!

  18. Rachel Wolf says:

    Melissa,
    Do they smell fruity? It fades. Rinse, rinse, rinse… forever. Itll fade (the scent that is). If it is still too strong dust generously with baking soda and let them sit for a day or two. Then rinse and line dry in the sun.

    ~ Rachel

  19. Ella says:

    Hi Rachel and Readers…. I am in Australia and will be using a drink called Vitafresh which has all the same ingredients. The sachet says it makes 2litres and contains 70grams of powder…. how many grams are the Kool-Aid sachets in your tutorial please? I am trying to work out how much to use…also…can you put more than one silk in the bowl and still get good colour effects? I am SO excited to try this :):) Thanks so much for posting this tutorial and for your always inspiring blog. Love it! πŸ™‚

  20. Rachel Wolf says:

    Hi Ella,
    The Kool Aide we have here makes 2 quarts, so that is essentially the same. As long as it has food-color in it youll be set. Yes, you can put more than one silk in each bowl. Have FUN!!! Glad you enjoy the blog.

    Peace,
    Rachel

  21. Danielle says:

    I was so excited to find your simple, clear instructions for dyeing silks. I’m in Australia, but managed to buy a whole heap of kool-aid off ebay and my plain silks arrived in the post today! It’s a rainy, indoors day today, so my kids and i are looking forward to doing this activity together, thank you πŸ™‚

  22. Danielle says:

    They came out beautifully! The kids had a great time making them, loved seeing the water turn all those different colours. Can’t believe people actually drink that stuff though, lol.

  23. sproutsmama says:

    I did some last night for my little one’s upcoming birthday. After all the rinsing I could stand, I had to call it a night. I’ll have another go at them today but last night I just could not get them to rinse clear. Maybe I didn’t have the water hot enough during the dying phase?

    I only had 2 packets per color, and they all turned out vivid and bright–except the lemonade/yellow, much more muted.

  24. Rachel Wolf says:

    Eh, I gave up on one color that just never rinsed completely clear. It never bled during play either. The others did, but it took ages. Maybe fill the bath tub and rinse/soak/rinse some more. Good luck!
    Peace,

    Rachel

  25. Kimberli says:

    I’m loving this. And it strikes me that these don’t have to be just for kids. I’d like to try weaving these into a braid or something.

    My daughter was horrified to find out that crackers weren’t cookies and muffins weren’t cupcakes.

  26. Karla says:

    I just did this this morning and am in the process of making butterfly wings for my daughter. I didn’t bother with the stovetop, just soaked the silk in the hot water and vinegar solution, then mixed the kool aid with the hot water and vinegar in separate glass bowls for each color. I used three packets of grape for the purple center of the wings and 1 black cherry + 2 pink lemonade for the sides of the wings. Wasn’t sure how long to let it sit but just experimented. It’s drying right now and looks beautiful! Can’t wait till they’re all done.

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