Friday, May 8, 2015

Dyeing drab wool to enhance your rug hooking.

When I first began Rug Hooking, I was taught by an experienced teacher just beyond our NY state border in Vermont. She was located in Pawlet and had a sign outside "Rug Hooking" by appointment. We were just riding by, so we took a chance and dropped in. I was greeted by a very nice woman who invited us in and noticed that there were rugs decorating every surface of her home. She showed us through her house telling us little stories about each rug project, she was so gracious. As the afternoon was closing in upon evening, she showed me the "tricks of the trade" she had in stock. I was able to purchase a frame, Bliss cutter, a few patterns and a couple of hooks. I later returned and sat with her to receive instruction. I had little knowledge about the craft of rug hooking and the history of its existence and the pioneers of its teaching. Now that I had the wool and all of the supplies, I sought to learn from area rug hookers and met with 2 other knowledgeable teachers and received more instruction. I learned the difference between Realistic and Primitive hooking and the characteristics that define them. I learned about "fingering" and shading flowers and leaves. I challenged myself literally by hooking Pearl McGown's pattern "The Challenge" which is bordered by large scrolls. This rug is on my bedroom floor today and over 20 years strong. I learned the professional way of finishing the edge of a rug to ensure it will last for generations. 
Finally, it was time to delve into the art of dyeing. I purchased packets and reading materials, enamel pots, measuring spoons and recipe books.
So...this is how I amused myself when faced with the last weeks of winter, the cold temperatures and ice here in the North Country. I read that you can dye with ice and I had a big mound of drab wool. I don't mean the wool itself was drab...wool is NEVER drab. But, the color was uninspiring. It was an old coat that was a very pale pink, but very fuzzy, and a plain beige skirt.
So, following the instructions the best I could, and as close to "my understanding and interpretation" of how I wanted to proceed, this is what I did.
First, I filled a 5 gallon bucket with warm water, a couple cups of white vinegar and a squirt of liquid dish detergent. I sunk the wool pieces into the water and set it outside for the night. No reason for putting it outside besides that it would get me to the next step for the morning. The next morning, I decided where I would get the ice for my dyeing project. I looked outside at our pool cover and it was covered in a foot of ice that gleamed like diamonds. I filled a bucket and started getting excited.

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The ice crystals were perfectly uniform in size and I can't think of another way of getting ice like this. The next step was to remove the wool pieces from the mordant,(vinegar/soap which makes the wool absorb the dye optimally) and gave each piece a good twist to wring out. I arranged the damp wool pieces accordion-style into a big enamel pan.

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Then covered the wool with a thick layer of ice crystals. Pretty drab looking wool, right? But the ice was so pretty and fun to run my hands through (wear plastic gloves).

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Once covered, I took three packages of powdered dye of any colors desired.

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I chose a teal, purple and evening blue. I have a lot of old packages of all different brands, and was more concerned about the colors than the brand.

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You may want to wear a mask over your nose and mouth as the dye powder is very fine and floats around in the air. You simply sprinkle the contents of all 3 packages, one at a time onto the ice crystals. I know this doesn't look like much except maybe a giant snow cone.
Now, the idea is to let all of this ice melt, allowing the dye to drain through the wool in slow motion and in its own time will naturally melt creating a pattern. But do you think I could follow a recipe exactly?

Oh No, the whole pot was placed in a 325 degree oven to make that ice melt! I couldn't wait.

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You can see why!?! After letting the pot cool, I pulled each piece from the pot carefully and ran each piece under cool water until the water ran clear. Just like dyeing your hair, right? I draped the pieces over a rack outside in the wind to dry. The pieces are so gorgeous and sun kissed in the fresh air. I laid them out so you can see all of the patterns and color variations.

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More close-up pictures. The possibilities of planning a rug with irises, paisleys, or an under the sea motif...makes me drool. I enjoyed this process so much, I did another pot using three more packets.

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They were called wine, plum and mulberry, and I used more than one brand. Remember: use what you have, especially if you live "out of town". I placed this batch in the dryer and it got fluffy and soft. Can't wait to hook a rug with this! 

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Can you stand it? Part of me was sad when the beautiful ice crystals completely melted from the pool cover, but hey, I can wait until next year. Winter was too long, besides I have this beautifully dyed wool to occupy me until then. You can use your own crushed ice or cubes for other variations. You can use large jars if you only want to try it with a small amount of wool and you can use only a single color or several colors. You can layer wool, ice, dye, wool, ice, dye with alternating colors. The rule of thumb is that when the dye water is clear, all of the dye has been absorbed. It's an outdoor project! Get outside with it, just be careful of your surfaces, wear gloves and a mask around the dye powder until its wet. Instead of making sun tea, dye some cloth in ice in a large jar. Doesn't have to be wool...but it's my favorite. Do tee shirts, skirts, napkins, tablecloths, ribbons. I know this was long, thanks for stopping by. Leave me a note, or better...a picture of what you came up with.
Until next safe.

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