Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Dye Day

I love dyeing wool. Sometimes I think that I enjoy it more than the actual hooking. There is such freedom in dyeing wool….and so much mystery at the same time. I never seem to know just exactly what I’ll be pulling out of the dryer. Oh, I have a pretty good idea, but there are always a few surprises to keep things interesting...

Dyeing wool is much like cooking food. There are many different methods and unlimited recipes. Some folks follow the recipe very carefully each and every time they create a dish, some people recreate recipes from memory, and other people pick and choose their own ingredients to create a unique version every time.
I’m definitely a pick and choose dyer. Early on in my rug hooking, I discovered that I have difficultly in choosing colours I could not see with my eyes. I tried to imagine which colours would look best together…choose some swatches I liked…and set about creating those colours. No match. The results were hideous…and I just had to dye more wool.

Now, I prefer to choose the wool for my projects off of the shelf….and I often change my mind a few times before I’m finished. I like to use lots of shades and colours in each piece of hooking, so I don’t really need big pieces of any one wool. To prepare for my big dyeing day, I rip up the wool first. In total, I riped up just over 15 yards of various wool into 1/8 yard pieces….so about 120 or so pieces of wool.

Since I only have a single sink in the kitchen, I fill a big shopping bin about ½ full with warm water and a big squirt of Jet Dry (did you know you can buy a supersize 946mL bottle at Costco for less than $10?), pick out a bunch of pieces of dry wool I want to dye first and set them to soak. While they are soaking, I set up the rest of my dye equipment: an electric wok (half full with hot water and a dash of citric acid); a deep electric frying pan (also half full with hot water and a dash of citric acid); pots for setting the colour; measuring cups; spoons; crates of dry dye….all of the usual stuff, plus a set of swatches of the basic dye colours.

Once I decide on the basic idea of the colour(s) I want to dye, I select some dry dyes and mix up some of each (the amount of dye used really depends on how much wool I plan to dye in this family). I often just take hot water out of the wok (if it’s close to boiling)….otherwise I will boil the kettle.

Depending on how concentrated I’m making the solution, the amount of water varies – usually it’s about half of a cup. I pour some of the dye into the water (some of each or just one colour), stir it around a bit and add a piece of wool to start. At any time I can pull the piece of wool out of the water – if I like it just like it is and don’t want it to change or if I hate where it’s going, I yank it out. Some of the excess water is squeezed out and I put the dyed wool into a shallow pan. Another piece of wool gets added to the wok…and maybe a bit more dye. I stir intermittently and when I like what I see, I yank the wool out. I work in both the wok and the frying pan at the same time…sometimes with a couple of pieces of wool in each one.

When things start slowing down, I add a shot of citric acid to the water. The bundles of wool in the shallow pan grows and I can see right away if they are working together or not. If some pieces need a little tweaking, I might add a mild solution of a complement. Once the shallow pan is full, the contents get put in a big pot with hot water and citric acid to “cook”.

I try to keep similar colours and values in the same pot – otherwise a rude surprise can occur (sometimes it’s a pleasant surprise…but not always ☺ )

The focus of my dye day was light and medium light values. There is definitely a shortage of such things around my place – and I’m trying to make friends with the “light side”. I also needed to dye some wool for my carousel horse (more on that very soon). Since I don’t have a washer and dryer at home….I headed out to the Laundromat with 2 bins full of sopping wet wool.

While heading out the door, I was happy to notice that my latest issue of Rug Hooking Magazine had arrived and I brought it with me to read. The wool tossed and tumbled...

...while I read. What a surprise to read Wanda Kerr’s article about values – I’d been thinking about that a lot lately (and it was my motivation for all of this dyeing!

You definitely get a few funny looks at the Laundromat when you wash your “fabric scraps”...but the results are well worth it! ;-)