Playsilks!

A few days ago we had some friends over to dye playsilks. Such a fun project! Very easy, and the color transformation was quite magical to behold. If you have not yet heard of playsilks, they are a lovely, simple, open-ended creative toy, appropriate for all ages, from babies to big kids. You’ll find a rainbow array of them, I’m pretty sure, in any Waldorf classroom. (And now in our home too!)

We’ve had one green playsilk since Isaiah was about 18 months old, and he plays with it almost every day, in so many ways… often it is his “Super Isaiah!” cape, but it also finds it’s way into various other costumes, as a skirt, headscarf, belt, sling…. it’s also been a doll blanket, a carrier of wooden vegetables from here to there, a backdrop for our nature table, and, in recent months, a peek-a-boo cloth for playing with Quinn. I’ve been wanting to expand the playsilk collection beyond just the one, but they are, I think, pretty expensive if you buy them pre-dyed at the toy store. So, I did some research online for instructions (of which there are many!), ordered a stack of more reasonably priced white silks from Dharma Trading Co, and planned a playsilk dying playdate!

If you’d like to try this at home, here’s what you’ll need:

  • an assortment of scarves in whatever sizes you’d like (we used 30×30 inch ones)
  • a few stainless steel or glass pots or bowls
  • a couple of large metal spoons and/or tongs for stirring
  • distilled white vinegar (to help the color set, though some instructions say you don’t need it)
  • a whole lot of Kool-Aid (we used about three packets of the same color per silk)
  • (optionally, you can use food coloring, about 20 or more drops per silk; we used this for blue, as we couldn’t find a blue Kool-Aid)

First we soaked the silks in a big bowl of hot water, with about 1/4 cup of vinegar added. They soaked in there for 15 minutes or more, depending on how sidetracked we got. Then, in another pot, we put about 5 or 6 cups of hot (but not boiling) water, with more vinegar (again about 1/4 cup). We added three packets of one color of Kool-Aid, and mixed until it was dissolved.

We placed one silk in this pot, and swirled it around until it was submerged in the dye bath. Then we left it there a while, wandered off and played elsewhere, came back to check our silk’s progress, intermittently swirling the silk around in the dye… (side note: the smell?!? It was out of this world, and so reminded me of my childhood! Isaiah remarked that it smelled good enough to drink, “if it weren’t such junk, right Mama?” Right. While Kool-Aid shopping earlier, my friend’s son asked her why they make it look like it’s something you could eat, when it’s not? She decided to let him assume that, obviously, a packet of dye should not be ingested! You can read her post about this project here.)

Pink lemonade...

We squeezed out the excess water, rinsed it in the sink until the water ran clear (which for most of the colors was pretty immediate, though in many online tutorials the instructions call for rinsing, and rinsing, and rinsing…), and then hung the silk outside on the line to dry.

After the first one, we started dying two at once, in about 10 cups of water, or enough to cover both silks (with 6 packets of Kool-Aid.)

We soon realized that the swirling and mixing during the dying process is helpful in getting the dye evenly distributed, if that’s the look you want. When we just plopped them in there and left them, the effect was more splotchy, tie-dye style.

Overall, this was a really great project to do with preschool age and older children, with a beautiful end result that will likely be played with for years to come!

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. www.theevolvinghomemaker.com
    Mar 05, 2011 @ 08:51:53

    Love the photo of all of them on the line. I don’t have a line! When we are done dying, I am going to need to makeshift one just for this photo! Linked to you!

    🙂
    Jen

    Reply

    • earthwisemama
      Mar 05, 2011 @ 20:42:31

      cool, thanks jen, i didn’t even think about linking! i’m going to link to you in my post too! 🙂 how fun! and i have some good pics of your kiddos that i’ll email to you soon. xo

      Reply

  2. Deborah Carlyn
    Mar 08, 2011 @ 13:44:01

    Now i know what to do with my playsilks=)

    Reply

  3. Trackback: Dying Playsilks | The Evolving Homemaker
  4. Angie
    Dec 01, 2011 @ 11:01:24

    Can these be washed with the KoolAid dye or will the color wash out? Great idea and instructions–thanks!

    Reply

    • earthwisemama
      Dec 02, 2011 @ 07:49:40

      Yes, they are machine washable. Once they are dried initially, the color should set. I wash them in cold water on delicate with a very small amount of natural detergent, and hang to dry, or in the dryer on low.

      Reply

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