Hand-dyed Playsilks Tutorial

Psst. Have you heard about playsilks? Playsilks are one of the most open-ended, imaginative “toys” available.   Our children use playsilks as dresses, scarves, hats, veils, skirts, shirts, belts, baby doll blankets and slings, streamers, flags, stretchers, handcuffs, peek-a-boo blankets, props for dancing, forts, tents and houses.

Kool-Aid dyeing your own playsilks is simple and it’s a fun and interesting project to do with your children.  It also makes these lovely, colorful silks affordable for the rest of us, less than half the cost of purchasing already dyed silks.

Materials needed:

  • Silk material or scarves.   We used these high quality Habotai scarves from Dharma Trading Co. The traditional size for playsilks is 35 x 35. We purchased several of those as well as a few of the 55 x 108 veils for tent building.
  • A variety of colors of Kool-Aid. (I suggest using the name brand for nicer color blending.)  Pink Lemonade for pink, Grape for purple, Cherry, Strawberry, Black Cherry and Fruit Punch for red, Blue Raspberry for blue, etc.
  • Water
  • Pots
  • Quart size canning jars if you want to do a multi-color effect
  • Stirring utensils

Instructions for making a solid color playsilk:

1.  Soak the silks in hot water. (Some suggest adding white vinegar, but this is unnecessary because Kool-Aid has sufficient acid to set the dye without this addition.)

2.  Empty and mix a package of the desired flavor color of Kool-Aid into a pot of nearly boiling water on the stove top.  One package of Kool Aid for a 35×35 will yield a rich vibrant color.Kool Aid dying 1 Kool Aid dying 2

3.  Wring out excess water from the silk and add the silk to the Kool-Aid mixture over med-high heat. Stir the silk to ensure even absorption of the dye, although some variation in the saturation levels add to the hand dyed beauty and appeal of the silk.kool aid dyed playsilks 3

4. Check it often and bring it out when the color looks right to you. kool aid dying play silks 4If you want a rich shade, leave the silk in the water until the water is nearly clear. You can achieve a more subtle shade by limiting the time in the dye.kool aid dying playsilks-clear water

4.  When you are pleased with the color, rinse the silk in cold water until the water rinses clear.  Red is the only color that takes a while to rinse clear at our home.kool aid dying playsilks rinse

5.  Hang your playsilk to dry and then enjoy.

Can you believe it is that easy?Playsilk baby blanket

Instructions for making a rainbow or multi-colored playsilk:

1.  Pick the colors that you want on your playsilk. Remember to think about color mixing when deciding which colors will be next to each other.  Our favorite combination has been yellow (Lemonade) next to blue (Blue Raspberry) next to red (Cherry).  Where the colors overlapped we ended up with a lovely green and purple resulting in a beautiful rainbow.

2.  Fill 1 quart size canning jars 3/4 of the way with water and then dump one packet of Kool-Aid into each one.  dying playsilks multi color 1You should end up with one jar of colored water for each color you are planning for the playsilk.dying play silks quart jars of kool aid

3.  Place the jars in a large pot of water on the stove and heat.rainbow dying play silk

4.  Divide the silk into the sections that you want the different colors to be.Sadie rainbow dying playsilks

5.  Put each section into the appropriate jar and stir to evenly distribute the dye.  If you are doing a silk larger than 35 x 35 you may want to use 3 or 4 different pots of water to allow more room for the silk rather than the quart jars.rainbow dying playsilks

6.  Pay careful attention to the parts between the jars.  If you want the colors to overlap and mix be sure to move some of the already colored section from one jar over into the other.kool aid dying playsilk blend colorskool aid dying playsilks blending

7.  When you are happy with the color saturation of each section and the blending, remove the silk and rinse.kool aid dying playsilks remove

8.  Hang the silk to dry!

Now sit back and enjoy watching your children’s imaginations go.

kool aid dyed playsilks colby frontkool aid dyed playsilks colby backsadie kool aid dyed play silks finishedplay silk sling

Other Tuesday Tips:

Sasha at Cherished Moments is participating in Tuesday’s Tips for Mum (you’ve got to love that Australian slant) and she shares how to keep sleeping babies asleep. Can you believe that even after 9 children it is something that never occurred to me?

Kimarie at Cardamom’s Pod reminds us that they are children after all so stay flexible.



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32 Responses to Hand-dyed Playsilks Tutorial
  1. Cardamoms Pod
    May 26, 2009 | 7:28 am

    How beautiful! We love dressup – but I never thought of dyeing our own silks. We just have large pieces of material that we’ve used – I even cut a sparkly valance into squares that the girls use for everything. We will definitely have to try this.

    [Reply]

  2. Cardamoms Pod
    May 26, 2009 | 8:12 am

    Hi! I do have a post up for this, so whenever Mr. Linky shows up… thanks!

    [Reply]

  3. Laryssa @ Heaven In The Home
    May 26, 2009 | 8:16 am

    I have long admired the play silks in natural toy catalogs, but I haven’t admired the prices! Thanks for a way we can do this at home. I think this would be frugal and fun!

    [Reply]

  4. Danetta
    May 26, 2009 | 10:24 am

    Hi! I chose your blog as one to receive the One Lovely Blog award. Please visit http://goyay.blogspot.com/2009/05/one-lovely-blog-award.html

    Thanks!

    [Reply]

  5. MomStarr
    May 26, 2009 | 12:22 pm

    These are great! I know my kids will like this. My girls love to dress up and I have two boys who love it too. I just can’t find dress up things for a good price and these are perfect. The kids use receiving blankets now but they are too bulky at times so the silks are just what we need. Can you recommend other dress up ideas using things around the house or anything that doesn’t cost a bunch? As always you are my hero! :>)

    [Reply]

    Raising Olives Reply:

    MomStarr,
    Outside of the playsilks, lengths of rope and sturdy belts (you know to put stick swords in) are our most popular accessories. Please know that I’m not suggesting you allow your children to play with rope unsupervised, watch and instruct.

    The playsilks have taken the place of all the sheets and doll blankets that they used to use. As you mentioned the silks are light weight and not bulky which make them perfect for tent/fort building and storing. My children also use headbands in conjunction with the silks.

    Blessings,
    Kimberly

    I have had great success finding dress ups at yard sales, elaborate hats and lacy dresses.

    [Reply]

  6. *~Michelle~*
    May 27, 2009 | 7:42 am

    We love playsilks…..we also have those large wooden clothespins that work great to secure fort sides up!

    [Reply]

  7. Nikki
    May 27, 2009 | 7:49 am

    My daughter would love these playsilks, but I have never seen them before. What a great idea! Thanks for dropping by my blog.

    [Reply]

  8. Courtney
    May 27, 2009 | 3:58 pm

    i love this and have never even heard of it!

    [Reply]

  9. Roan
    May 28, 2009 | 12:39 am

    I had no idea these things even existed! What a wonderful idea! I plan to buy some ASAP and let my children dye them! Thank you so much for the detailed instructions, the photos, and the link for purchasing the playsilks.
    Joyfully,
    Roan

    [Reply]

  10. Mama Bear
    May 30, 2009 | 1:29 am

    I just received my silks in the mail today. The kids and I can’t wait to do this project! I had bought silk in the past at the fabric store to do some silk painting. I was in a dilemma though with how to finish the edges. It is great to see you can purchase hemmed pieces of silk to do crafts with, and at a good price! Thanks. I’ll post some pictures on my blog when we’re done.

    [Reply]

  11. LongTribe
    June 17, 2009 | 4:33 pm

    I *love* this idea, and I know my crew of 7 will enjoy the dyeing process when the scarves and veil that I just ordered arrive [although I don't think that the 1 yo will be participating as much as she might like! ;)] But I do have a question; how many scarves and veils do you have for your crew? I ordered 8 scarves (one per child with an extra) and 2 veils, but wondered what you had, since you said that these had replaced all the sheets and blankets they used to use.

    [Reply]

    Raising Olives Reply:

    LongTribe,

    We have 4 veils, 12 scarves and 4-6 smaller silks to use as hand cuffs, belts and hair accessories.

    My wish list includes more veils and some more of the smaller size silks. Our children still supplement with traditional dress-ups so one scarf per child works, but our linen closet still gets raided occasionally. Hence the desire for more of the veils. :)

    If money were not an option, I would have 3 scarves and 2 veils per child in addition to a nice array of smaller sizes.

    See how they use what you ordered and then please let us know your recommendations. I would love to hear what others have to say about amounts and unique uses!

    Blessings,
    Kimberly

    [Reply]

  12. April E.
    August 5, 2009 | 12:43 pm

    I see a Christmas gift idea here, and it would take less space than the poor quality dress-up clothes we already own. (posting on an old post, I know.)

    [Reply]

    Raising Olives Reply:

    April E.

    These were Christmas gifts last year and yes, they take up much less space!

    [Reply]

  13. Alison
    August 7, 2009 | 2:35 pm

    I was wondering if the playsilks keep their color when they are washed. Thanks!

    [Reply]

    Raising Olives Reply:

    Alison,
    Yes, they keep their color fine. The acid in the Kool Aid sets the dye nicely.

    [Reply]

  14. Shelly
    September 7, 2009 | 3:50 pm

    How neat. Katelyn loves to worship with banners and things like this. I wanted to get her a silk to use, but they are expensive….what a neat idea to make our own. Never thought about that… Thanks.

    [Reply]

  15. Angela
    September 8, 2009 | 7:58 pm

    Thank you, I will try this. I just ordered some silk from the Dharma Trading Co.

    [Reply]

  16. Kristy
    September 10, 2009 | 1:15 pm

    I’m wondering if these are washable? Do I have to worry about the fabric bleeding if I throw them in the washer?

    [Reply]

    Raising Olives Reply:

    Kristy,

    Yes, these should be washable. I hand wash ours, although you could probably put them in the washer on a delicate setting. As far as the fabric bleeding, when you rinse out the silks in cold water you are supposed to rinse until the water runs clear. If you do that then the colors shouldn’t bleed. Red (cherry) takes a very long time for the water to run clear, so those may still bleed a bit in the wash. If you do rinse those red ones until it runs clear then you should not have any problems, but I would hand wash one first to double check.

    [Reply]

  17. Suzanne
    September 26, 2009 | 11:59 am

    These look really neat. I had never heard of these. My kids use their baby blankets–swaddling blankets that I made them that are about 35×35″, for all of these uses as well as little picnic blankets and table cloths, but it looks like the silks would store in an even smaller place than our double layer flannel blankies. Thanks for sharing such a great idea!

    [Reply]

  18. Tristan from the Crew
    October 13, 2009 | 9:11 am

    Just ordered some of these to try with my crew – I’ll let you know how it goes!

    [Reply]

  19. Jama
    December 2, 2009 | 10:11 pm

    I decided to make some for Kathryn for Christmas. Thanks for sharing!

    [Reply]

  20. Amy
    December 8, 2009 | 5:54 pm

    Which flavor of the KoolAid made the peachy pink color pictured?

    [Reply]

  21. JenK
    August 20, 2010 | 3:04 pm

    Thanks for sharing this tutorial. I’ve been looking at play silks for my girls, but they’re just so pricey. I made a few of these today with the plain white ones from Dharma Trading Company. They were SO easy, and they turned out beautifully! What a wonderful project!

    [Reply]

  22. Angie @ Many Little Blessings
    December 8, 2010 | 1:14 am

    Gorgeous play silks! I really love your tutorial. It makes me want to go dye some right now. ;)

    [Reply]

  23. Marni
    December 11, 2010 | 12:09 am

    What a simple and great idea! I love it!! I will have to use it and link you!

    What would you do with a $75 gift card?  I have a  giveaway on my blog right now for just that!  

    Come on over and enter!  

    [Reply]

  24. Lisa C
    January 21, 2011 | 12:50 am

    I spent almost $15 to buy my son ONE play silk for Christmas. I’m so going to do this! Thank you!

    [Reply]

  25. Ashly
    October 1, 2011 | 12:49 am

    Just did this today with my daughter. They turned out evenly colored and awesome!! I must say that I was never able to was the red until it ran clear. I don’t think it is possible.. I was rinsing it for at least 30 minutes until I finally gave up. I think it will be okay though.

    [Reply]

    Merrilee Reply:

    I am having the same problem. I keep rinsing & rinsing the red and it will run clear. But then I go back a couple minutes later & rinse again & it is still pink!

    [Reply]

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