Play Silks

10 08 2008

I was able to get one birthday gift made for Seth. I dyed a pile of various size silk scarves with kool-aid. This was a really fun inexpensive project and I plan on doing it again. I bought a pile of cheap scarves in various sizes, none over three bucks and found kool-aid on sale for ten cents a pack. Bargain! I got so carried away that I dyed the scarves I had intended for felting on to. But that’s ok, since I need to buy more scarves anyway. This is a fabulous project to do with or for a child. I’ve seen this so many times online that I can’t remember where I saw it first but I basically followed this how-to, while incorporating from what a couple others had done. And I’m happy to report I even found the elusive blue color! Here’s what worked best for me:

1. Soak 2 scarves in a bowl of hot water and a bit of vinegar, making sure the water completely covers the scarves. Note – I like the 30″ square scarves the best but think a variety can be fun. I dyed a couple sizes of squares and a couple sizes of rectangles.

2. Mix up 2 bowls of dye, one for each scarf. Add 3 packets of kool-aid to 2 cups of water and a 1/2 a cup of vinegar (the cheap stuff of course) in a microwaveable bowl. I recommend a taller, skinnier bowl rather than a wider bowl.

3. Add scarves. Stir to coat. Your goal here is to have as much of the scarves under the liquid as possible. Anything sticking out will be lighter than the rest. This is not necessarily bad as it gives the scarves a bit of a mottled look, which I like.

4. Cover with plastic wrap and microwave each for 3 minutes 3 times. Alternate the bowls so that each gets to rest for the 3 minutes the other is in the microwave. After each rest but before placing back in the microwave carefully peel back the plastic wrap, avoiding the steam that may escape, and give the scarves a stir. Make sure any parts of the scarf that were left on top the first go round are now on the bottom. I see no reason why this couldn’t be done on the stove top. For that matter, I imagine you may be able to get a more even coloring this way.

Now this is the cool part. By the time you’re done microwaving there will be no color left in the bowl! I’m serious. This was pretty wild and the part I think kids would get a kick out of. The water is left completely colorless or a cloudy white in the case of any labeled with lemonade in the flavor. The only exception to this is if you use a pretty small scarf. One I did was more like a hanky and didn’t soak up all the color. I could have added one or two more little scarves to that batch.

5. After the last 3 minute rest period carefully peel the plastic wrap off and discard. The scarves cool quickly but the water does not. So either walk away from the bowl for an hour or even over night to let the water cool or take outside a pluck the scarf out of the water, quickly throwing it into the grass. The water is really, really hot so just grab a little of the scarf that is sticking up out of the water. I don’t want to hear of any burns here. I didn’t wring them out, simply plopped them on the ground until they cooled for a minute and then laid out flat to dry. I also did not wear gloves because I like to live life dangerously. My thumbs did get a little purple but that went away after a day or two. No biggy.

6. Once dry, hand wash separately as colors may bleed a bit the first time round, though most do not. Dry on low in the dryer and then iron smooth. Enjoy.

Flavors from top to bottom: orange, pink lemonade, blue ice lemonade, lime, lemonade, grape, cherry, non-dyed white – can’t forget white.

So far Eleanor has taken to the silks much more than Seth but they’ve both played with them. What have they done with them?

  • Sensory experience – touching and running with them flying behind
  • Super hero cape
  • Simply wearing something pretty. Eleanor loves to wrap them around her neck and shoulders.
  • Peek-a-boo
  • Dressing up as a ghost
  • I’m pretty sure Eleanor thinks she’s invisible when she wears one over her head. She can still somewhat see through them since they’re so thin and she just giggles with delight as she walks by a person.
  • Dance accessories

What else can I imagine they will be used for?

  • Fort building
  • Table cloth for a tea party
  • Dressing up dolls and stuffed animals
  • Magic tricks
  • Gift wrap – Seth loves to make things for me and wrap them up himself
  • Puppet show paraphernalia
  • I could go on, but I think you get the picture

I now think play silks are a must for 1st and 2nd birthday presents, possibly 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th depending on the child. Next time I do this I’ll have Seth help me. I’ll also buy a smallish extra scarf to sew into a little drawstring bag for storing the play silks. I always think of those things after the fact.




16 responses

11 08 2008

How cute is she?!? I have dyed a few scarves, but most of ours are still white. Pure laziness. It is a trend around here.

11 08 2008

Hi there, love your site
I have been looking for affordable silk scarves for a long time. It never occurred to me to dye them, especially with kool-aid. Thanks for the link and the instructions, I have already placed my order :)

11 08 2008
Anna Y

l will have to find a cheap source of kool-aid or bribe my friends from the land of 52 States to send some. :D Our scarves have the expensive dyes (after I have used them several times for other things), tea, coffee, potassium permanganate (spelling??? dubious I know), berries, really off tomatoes that I find in the bottom of the fridge (off spinach works well too, oh and rotten onions are pretty awesome too, the compulsive composter who can’t experiments with the fungus infested items forgotten at the bottom of the vegetable crisper). All done the hard way with vinegar (sometimes even the ‘fake’ stuff, but the results are crap), salt, blending the science experiment fruit and veggies and forgetting it for several hours on the stove (well it depends on how pungent the dyeing agent is actually). And it is all a hit and miss affair. Hmmm sounds like I need to make another dodgy tutorial when I have this new computer licked! :D

11 08 2008
Anna Y

Oh your play silks are awesome. Lucky kids, CT has to be content with play scraps and yoyos. :D

11 08 2008

THis is such a great project Anna. Thanks for sharing.

11 08 2008
painted fish studio

fabulous project, great tutorial! would it be silly of me to make my own play silks?

love eleanor’s dress…

12 08 2008

I have always wanted to do this-but I better hurry before Ginger is too old to play with the scarves!

12 08 2008
Amanda @

I’ve been thinking about doing this forever, but I think I just wasn’t sure that it would really *work*. I’m so happy to see that it did! I’ve always thought that play silks would be fun, so i think I’ll be starting on a birthday gift for my boy…

21 08 2008

Oh, I’ve dyed wool yarn with koolaid, but never thought of dying silk scarves. What a lovely idea!

21 08 2008

what a cute model!!!

29 09 2008

Hello! Thank you for this fabulous tutorial and excellent photos! I can’t wait to do these for my little girls. It will save me refolding and relaundering all the bath towels in the house – silk scarves will make better capes, cloaks and blankets.

12 10 2008

HI Ladies,

My husband sent me this link last night. I thought you did a great job explaining how to dye silk. If you’re looking for other easy colors, consider saving your onion peels they make beautiful warm honey colors. And berries are all lovely.

And if you’d like to add texture to any of these you’re making, fold them into a scrunchy packet or tie dye packet -symmetrical folds and/or spiral secured closed with a rubber band.
I started my business as a homeschooling mom who bought silks and dyes on a coop just 6 years ago.
I can attest to the easy success becoming addictive in a way… see how far it has taken me. We just relaunched our site after 5 yrs on the web.

If anybody wants to get a great deal on purchasing specialty silks this fall, sign on my site as a user and I will enable a 15% PATRON discount.

Happy Dyeing and enjoy your little ones……
Fairy Cove Silks

4 11 2008

Thank you so much for this! I will be making them for my daughter as a Christmas gift.

18 02 2010

Thank you for sharing this great tutorial!

24 08 2011

i need to make my granddaughter a tutu or ladybug tutu – have you ever made a tutu out of silk scarves? I was thinking it might be really pretty, soft and flowing. Any ideas please let me know – I only have less than 2 weeks!!!
Thanks, Susie

1 10 2011

wonderful tutorial – love it! where do you buy your silks?

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