Thursday, March 21, 2013

Dyed Pasta Beads: Speed-Dry Method

In the past, I used this method for dying pasta for bead crafts, and I still would do it this way in a pinch if I didn't have rubbing alcohol available. Recently, however, I found this way of doing it from Totally Tots. After dying pasta with rubbing alcohol, I have to say that the tremendous increase in the speed of drying outweighs the smell of the alcohol and the fact that you need to purchase it if you don't have it on hand. (Unlike vinegar, which is always readily available at our house. It has many, many practical uses, but that's a whole other post.) Rubbing alcohol is inexpensive and one bottle should last you quite awhile. The rubbing alcohol evaporates quickly, taking the yucky smell along with it, which I think makes it reasonably safe to have little ones use pasta that has been dyed with it. This is assuming that they are not allowed to consume large amounts of the pasta, which I am certain that no parent would find acceptable in the first place. 

You can dye any type of pasta, and you certainly don't need to use name brand. This is just what I happened to have. I have done this with bowties, corkscrews, tiny stars, and Ditalini to name a few. I like the Ditalini pasta because it is about the size and shape of pony beads, but costs a small fraction of what I would pay for actual beads. In the past, I have tried gel food coloring for dying, and I can say that liquid food coloring definitely works better. It is also very inexpensive, and most stores should even have it on sale right now since Easter is approaching. Liquid food coloring is versatile. You can mix your colors any way you want, or use them straight from the bottles. The neon colors, of course, are slightly more vibrant, however, there is not much of a difference between neon pink (on the right) and red (on the left). Also, blue and neon blue were only slightly more defined than pink and red.

{Dyed Pasta Beads -- shown while drying}

  • zippered baggies (1 per color)
  • pasta (any kind with a hole will work for beads)
  • rubbing alcohol
  • food coloring
  • measuring spoon/s
  • flat surface for drying (cookie sheets work well)
  • wax paper or similar for covering cookie sheets (optional)
  1. Separate the pasta into zippered baggies according to how many colors you would like to make. Tip: If you don't have any zippered baggies, you can also use regular plastic bags, but this could be messier, and I would not suggest having little helpers. (This is a good way to use up old bags that weren't too messy, but you still may not want to use them for foods that will be eaten. I like to wash and re-use my bags from other stuff, but that's just me. Once they have food coloring in them, I usually pitch them because it's not worth it to me to wash them again at that point.)
  2. Add a small amount of rubbing alcohol (I used a teaspoon) and a few drops of food coloring. A little goes a long way so start with just a couple drops, and then add more if you want.
  3. Close the bag, and shake to cover the pasta to the desired saturation.
  4. Once the pasta is coated with food coloring, open the bags and spread the pasta out to dry. Cookie sheets work for this but you could also use plates. Tip: I first covered mine with the empty baggies that come in cereal boxes, which I had removed and opened up to make flat sheets of very cheap "wax paper." This keeps the cookie sheets clean and helps make sure that no pasta sticks to it. It is not essential, but I find it to be convenient for me.
  5. Let pasta dry completely. Ours took no more than 2 hours, I believe. Enjoy!
Some Uses for Dyed Pasta:
  • When letting kids work with pasta, you may want to first give them a cookie sheet to contain the beads since they often like to roll away and make a mess.
  • Make necklaces. I like to take a small piece of tape (Scotch or masking) and wrap one end of a piece of yarn so that it resembles the end of a shoe lace. This makes it easier for little hands to string the beads. Also, the prevent beads from slipping off one end, I suggest tying a bead onto the opposite end that you used the tape. You can always remove the bead later, if you leave a bit of extra yarn for knotting once the necklace is complete. This is an oldie but goodie Mother's Day gift idea.
  • Make bracelets. The simplest way to do this is the thread the beads onto a pipe cleaner, fit it to the child's wrist, and then twist off the ends. Cutting excess pipe cleaner is optional. You can always save the left over bits for other projects.
  • I have also packaged up some of the dyed pasta beads along with some pipe cleaners and prepped yarn for necklaces, and Mia has given this as a birthday gift to friends.
  • Make a spring Butterfly Garden Collage using dyed bowtie pasta butterflies and corkscrew pasta caterpillars. This is an idea for a Mother's Day gift.
  • Make a spring bouquet of Pasta Petals from dyed corkscrew pasta. This could also be a Mother's Day gift.
  • Make S'ghetti Skeletons for a Halloween craft.
  • Make Beaded Indian Corn Mosaics for another fall craft option. 
  • Use colored pasta in a plastic bin, cake pan, or similar container as a sensory bin. Kids can use bowls, spoons, cups, funnels, and their hands for scooping, pouring, and sorting the pasta. 

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