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From Jane Anderson’s Dye Pot – Ice Dyeing - In my quest to continue to learn dyeing techniques I came across ice dyeing and thought I’d give it a go since it sounded to me like a good method for upcoming summertime dyeing. The thought of having a pot boiling on the stove or a pan of wool baking in the oven heating up the kitchen while the AC struggles to cool the house down on a hot summer day is less than appealing. It does use up a good bit of ice though so just remember to try to save some for your lemonade, iced tea or whatever your choice of refreshment is on a hot summer day!

There are a few methods to ice dye. I choose to do a crockpot method with an old crockpot I have designated for dyeing wool. I gathered up a couple of pieces of off-white/cream colored recycled wool I had on hand and soaked it right in the crockpot in the usual method to prepare wool for dyeing (I use a few squirts of Jet Dry in warm water and let the wool soak for at least 2 hours). The one thing I forgot to do at that point, as part of the process, was to add the mordant (citric acid crystals dissolved in warm water or some white vinegar) right in during this soaking time and so I added it at the end of the soaking period/start of the icing process instead. I’m not sure what effect, if any, that had on my end result, though I suspected the wool did not soak up as much dye as perhaps it should have - but maybe that was just because I knew I goofed on not adding it sooner? At the end of soaking the wool, I discarded all but a little water to leave in the pot (this is the point where I added about a half a cup of warm water with a couple teaspoons of citric acid crystals which I had forgotten at the start of soaking). Then I topped the wool with a good amount of ice, at least one layer of ice should be used (I had about 2 layers). At this point I sprinkled my selected powdered dye right over the ice. I choose a square double complement of 4 colors from a color wheel - in this case I used Cushing’s powdered dyes and choose violet, turquoise, coral and canary yellow. Below is a picture of the powdered dye that I sprinkled randomly over the ice. I put in about 1/8 tsp of each color.

Then I covered the crockpot and turned it on low heat. It was fun to take a peak periodically as the ice and colors melted into the wool. Here is what it looked like after 30 minutes:

After 60 minutes, a lot less ice left:

And by 90 minutes the ice was all melted. It doesn’t look too pretty in the picture, but it is in a black crockpot and there was reflection of my kitchen cabinets which I didn’t realize was there when I took the picture. Also, the water was pretty dark with color - which was expected - it won’t be clear like you would get in other dyeing methods. I saved it in a mason jar - my colors melded together into a nice violet bluish color - for future dyeing use.

At that point I removed the wool and rinsed it in cold water. Some color did wash out in the rinse, so it was lighter than it looked coming right out of the pot. I then wrung it out and dried it in the clothes dryer with a dry towel. Here is the end result - there were 3 pieces of wool crumpled up in the crockpot, one on the bottom, one in the middle and one on top. In the picture below the piece on the right was on the bottom and as you might expect it turned out the lightest, the piece in the middle was in the middle of the pot and the piece on the left was on the top in the pot, and they both look pretty similar in the picture though in person the left (top) piece is a bit darker than the middle piece. They all yielded an interesting mottling of the individual and melded colors.

The whole process was very easy to do. I was pleased with the results and inspired to try some of the other ice dyeing methods soon for comparison. With this ice dyeing method I will be ready to dye this summer without turning the house into a sauna!

From Lucy Walsh’s Dye Pot – Dyeing with Skirt Linings -- The January/February 2017 issue of Rug Hooking Magazine included an article by Karl Gimber on using the dye found in the linings of recycled skirts for an easy way to dye wool (see pages 52-54). Our Featured Member, Lucy Walsh, reported that she “tried the ‘lining dyeing’ and it worked great! The outcome was unpredictable but wow I loved the results. I used two wools, white and light blue. The lining was French blue and I added several small pieces of black. I rolled the jelly rolls on the diagonal so that the new color did not dye in vertical or horizontal stripes. I also used rubber bands to cinch the rolls, spreading the second cinch to create some additional non-dye lines. The finished pieces were teal and brown variation, with a little tan mixed in – I don’t know where that came from. Really striking. It was quick and inexpensive.”


From Aggie Harris’ Dye Pot – Let Your True Color Show or Black Might Just Be the New Orange -- If you have an adventurous nature, like I do, this may be an interesting experiment which might just yield some new and exciting colors for your wool stash.

As a new rug hooker, I often frequent thrift stores in search of that perfect garment to deconstruct and incorporate into my next project. I must admit, at this time I have enough deconstructed wool to bequeath in my will – no matter how long I live!!! I was not aware that primitive rugs did not have a true black. So, I purchased numerous black jackets. In an attempt to “tone down” the black, I boiled one piece to leach some dye into the pot to dye a light gray color. Imagine my surprise when my dye pot turned RED! I took a different garment, deconstructed it, and boiled the wool and the dye pot turned BLUE!

I spoke to one of my expert hooking friends who provided the key to this mystery. She informed me that black is sometimes a “mistake” and might be dyed black to cover the unwanted color. I did some research on line and what do you know, an article on a website entitled, “threads” provided additional information. Black is dyed in multiple dye applications using a variety of “undercolors.” It could start with green, blue, red, brown, or any other color.

If you have an interest in experimenting (like this former Science teacher), find some old black wool and boil it down to dye any number of interesting colors. To paraphrase the line from the movie “Forest Gump”: Black is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get!


From the Dye Pot – Colonial Home Dyeing The Forgotten Art of Growing, Gardening and Cooking with Herbs by Richard Bacon provides “instructions and recipes for herb planting, growing, harvesting, and drying and for gardening, housekeeping, decorating, dyeing, cooking, and eating with herbs.” A portion of the segment on traditionally successful and colorfast plants for dyeing is provided below:

  • Bloodroot – Dig this plant in the summer and use 8 ounces of chopped root with alum-mordant wool. Boil 30 minutes. Enter wool and simmer until the desired color is obtained.
  • Lady’s Bedstraw – Treat like bloodroot but boil only 15 minutes. Watch carefully, for it is delicate and the color will boil away if boiled too long.
Yellows and Golds
  • Agrimony – Crush the dried flowers which appear in the early summer and simmer 25 minutes to extract dye; then simmer the wool for 30 minutes. Alum-mordant wool dyes buff; chrome, gold; alum-chrome-vinegar, khaki.
  • Calendula – Flowers dye a clear yellow with an alum mordant; gold with chrome. The flowers of the garden marigold and the plant ops of St. Johnswort mordanted in alum will also give yellow.
Greens (soft yellow greens or gray greens)
  • Tansy – Gather spring leaves before buds form. Use alum-mordanted wool.
  • Sorrel – Pick in the spring and use alum.
  • Lily-of-the-Valley – Gather in the spring and soak overnight. Simmer one hour, enter wool, and simmer another hour. Try adding one tablespoon or more lime (slaked lime or calcium hydroxide) at the end of the dyeing process to get a brighter green.
  • Wild Marjoram – The flowering tops with alum mordant are reputed to yield violet. We have only died with the dried material, which gives a soft tan. Perhaps Wild Marjoram grown in different soil and used fresh would indeed yield violet.”

From the Dye Pot – Colonial Home Dyeing - The Forgotten Art of Growing, Gardening and Cooking with Herbs by Richard Bacon provides “instructions and recipes for herb planting, growing, harvesting, and drying and for gardening, housekeeping, decorating, dyeing, cooking, and eating with herbs.” The segment on home dyeing is provided below:

“Spinning, weaving, and dyeing were as much a part of the colonial homestead as were cooking and washing. Vegetable dyes were universally used until the late 1800s, when they were supplanted by chemical dyes. Plants grown for dyeing included bedstraw, bloodroot, anchusa, chamomile, lily-of-the-valley, dock, yellow flag, calendula, wild marjoram, safflower, St. Johnswort, dyer’s greenwood, Fuller’s teasel, and soapwort for washing wool.

“Many dye plants give different colors as the season progresses. For example, St. Johnswort dyes green in the spring, later yellow, and finally gold. As with commercial dye lots, home dyes will probably not produce exactly the same color twice. Care should therefore be taken to provide a plentiful supply for any dyeing project.

“Iron kettles were often used for mixing dyes but tended to produce ‘sad’ or grayed colors. Today we use enamel, stainless steel, or glass utensils. Wool is relatively easy to dye because animal fiber absorbs stain more readily that plant fibers like cotton and linen.

“General Directions for Dyeing Wool – Cover the plant material with cold water and let it soak overnight. Generally count on a peck (about 7 quarts) of chopped or crushed herb material or 8 ounces of chopped root to dye 1 pound of wool. Bring to a boil and simmer for the specific time recommended. When ready to dye, pour in enough warm water to cover 1 pound of wool (about 3 to 4 gallons), enter the wool into the dye pot, bring to a boil and simmer to the desired color. This will take 30-60 minutes. The color will generally be better if the plant material is left in during the dyeing process, but you may strain it out if you prefer. Put the wool in a pot of hot water to rinse. Repeat until the rinse water is clear. Dry dyed wool in the shade.”

Information on the use of specific plants will be discussed in subsequent articles.


From Jane Anderson’s Dye Pot -- Confetti Effect Using Wool Snippets – I am still learning new dyeing techniques….this one gives a confetti look to your wool by using up your wool snippets in colors you would like for the area in which you plan to use the wool. I am using this as a background for a little footstool cover I am working on.

The design has a central flower which I did in values of rose and green colors. I saved the snippet ends from hooking the flower and leaves and then sized out the amount of plain wool needed to cover the background area. Laying the piece of plain wool flat, sprinkle the snippets across the piece of wool, then carefully roll it up so that the snippets stay distributed across the piece of wool. Then twist and tie as you would for marbling. Toss in dye pot and cook up same as for marbling wool. Remove, rinse under cold water and then unroll and remove the snippets.

The photos show the dyed wool and how it looks hooked. The snippets leave a fun confetti effect on the wool


From Jane Anderson’s Dye Pot – Combined Transitional/Spot Dyeing by “Painting” the Dye on the Wool - For my current hooking project of a fairy and frog I challenged myself with dyeing almost all the wool using several techniques including over dyeing, marbling, spot dyeing and dip dyeing. But for the background sky I was looking for a transitional effect that would go across a couple of colors. My intent was to hook the wool in the order it was cut to capture that flow of one layer of color transitioning into the next layer. But for the top and largest section I also wanted a spotted/mottled effect.

I am sure there are wonderful instructions on how to do this, but I could not find any in the few books I have on dyeing or through online searching. So I decided to experiment, because that is one of the great things about dyeing, you can experiment! I actually experiment a lot with dyeing wool. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it does not turn out how I expected.

When I make “mistakes” I either put them away, and find uses for those “mistakes” in subsequent hooking projects, or continue to dye over them if possible until I get the result I am looking for. The pond water in my current rug was dyed four times before I got the desired look - first spot dyeing, then spot dyeing again to get darker results, then over dyeing to tone down colors that were coming out too bright, and then one more spot dyeing to get a bit more green tones added - and voila, it was finally what I wanted - or at least close enough!

But back to the sky - that was something I was not sure how to tackle. I wanted pastel colors, a thin peachy rose toned layer at the bottom, followed by a thin yellow layer, followed by a larger bluish layer that also had in tinges of purple, green and yellow. Here are the steps I took:

  1. I started out with a base of light yellow wool by dyeing plain white wool with Cushing’s Aqualon Yellow.
  2. Then I applied the dye for the transitional effect on flat pieces of wool that I could cure flat on racks in the oven. They needed to be flat to control where the dye was applied as much as possible.
  3. Pieces of wool were cut about the size of a cookie sheet so they would fit on an oven rack.
  4. The wool was soaked with a wetting agent - a few squirts of Jet Dry - for about an hour until they were saturated. The wool was removed but not wrung out to make sure it was quite wet so it would not dry out in the oven.
  5. Using the same process for each piece, I laid wool flat on aluminum foil that extended at least an inch beyond the wool.
  6. I had already prepared my dyes - using Woodrose for the bottom layer, the next layer
    would remain the yellow already in place, for the top I used Peacock, Aqua Blue, Blue (all colors used in the water) and Orchid (color used for fairy's dress).
  7. Using foam paintbrushes, the type used for regular house painting, one for each color - I “painted” the Woodrose in a thin uneven stripe at the bottom, left approximately the same width open for the yellow layer, and then for the top layer dabbed each remaining color across the top creating a mottled/fine spotted effect, leaving a little yellow peeking through here and there, but mainly covering with the blues (some of which over the yellow gave me a bit of the pale green desired) and the orchid colors.
  8. When I had the desired saturation and dispersion of color, an even spray of white vinegar was applied across the piece to set the dye.
  9. I wrapped the edges of the foil up over the top and added another top layer of foil to completely enclose the piece of wool.
  10. The packets were placed flat on several oven racks. I even doubled and tripled layers on top of each other per rack.
  11. The packets were left in a 350 degree oven for about 40 minutes. Then removed from the oven, carefully opening the foil with oven mitts to avoid any steam burns.
  12. Finally, each piece was rinsed under cold water, wrung out and placed in clothes dryer until dried.

The result was what I was seeking for my sky - so a successful outcome for me from this experiment!


From Mary Passerello’s Dye Pot – Use Pennies to Dull Too Bright Wool

If you have some wool that is just too bright or that needs to be blended with some old vintage colors try this “Penny Dye” trick from Cindi Gay.

  1. Fill a container with enough water to cover your wool. You can use a dye pot or a glass jar as a container. Use warm water to speed up the process. Make sure you have a lid that fits the container.
  2. Add several dollars of copper pennies to the bottom of the container. No need to count but do not be stingy. Too few may not work. Save your pennies to use over and over.
  3. Add a few glugs of ammonia (not sure what sure what a glug is, then add about 1/3 cup). The more water, the more ammonia you will need.
  4. Add the wool. Just remember, some dyes may leek and discolor your whole batch. Red may make everything pink.
  5. Add the lid and wait. Some wools may change in an hour. That brilliant red plaid could take a week. Be patient.
  6. Heat can speed up the process, but don’t use stove heat (the fumes are killers). Put the container in a sunny part of the yard and let nature do the work.
  7. Keep checking your wool, when you like the color remove the wool, do a quick wash in soapy water and send it to the dryer.

Check out Cindi Gay on the web (www.cindigayrughooking.com.) to get more info.


From Jan Cole’s Wool’n Gardener Dye Pot – Marbleizing Wool

At our last meeting Guild member Jan Cole gave an excellent presentation on the process she uses to dye wool without using commercial dyes. A summary of her presentation follows:

“I started using the marbleizing process to use up bright, solid, “uglies” or wools that were not the best quality for hooking (but good for their color value in the marbleizing process). I am pretty frugal with wool and never want to waste or throw anything away! For the most part, I use “as is” recycled wools. Once in a while, I use ¼ yard pieces of new wool.

The marbleizing procedure first bleeds the dyes from the wool. The colors that leach out of the wool are then absorbed back into the wool in a different pattern and produce, generally, more muted colors (one-of-a-kind pieces). Each piece of fabric will contain two different dye patterns – one on each side. You will always obtain a result that is unique and definitely a surprise. There are never any two that come out the same! The lighter wools will show much more variation in color; the darker wools have very subtle variation but definitely add more color to the dye pot.

Step 1 - Choose three (or more) colors – a light/med/dark value – sometimes in the same color family (e.g., all purples) or all different colors (e.g., orange/ yellow/brown, purple/pink/yellow, red/natural/burgundy). All wool is washed before marbleizing.

The pieces of wool selected are then placed in a layer. Generally, I start with one piece of wool the size of a skirt panel (front) on the bottom layer (two pieces will work also). If you want to use several different shades for one of the layers, it would be best to use them in the center section. Another option is to use three ¼ yard pieces. (I would not use larger pieces because the roll may become too bulky – see Step 2.)

Step 2 - Roll all the wools together like a jelly roll – fairly snug – then twist each end in opposite directions and bring ends together – wrap twine around the ends and secure.

The fabric on the outside of the roll will be the color to bleed the most into the dye bath so depending on which color you want to bleed most into the dye bath and be the dominant color, place that color on the bottom before rolling (one of the darker colors). Next the light color is placed in the center and another dark or medium color on top.

Step 3 - Soak the roll in hot water (enamel pot) with two tablespoons of liquid LAUNDRY detergent (I use Arm and Hammer) which helps wool to bleed and one tablespoon of Jet Dry (to help wool absorb water). Add enough water to cover the rolls. The pot should not be filled to the top.

If you have two similar rolls (using same/similar fabrics) you can put both in one pot. Most often, if rolls are using the same colors, I process them together; if different colors, I usually process separately. However, you can do two different color rolls together. Again, you will get something very unique, sometimes the greatest browns – NEVER to be duplicated! Remember – all dyeing utensils, pots, etc. are not to be used for cooking.

Soak wools anywhere from one hour to overnight. I soak wool longer rather than shorter to make sure wool is fully saturated to absorb the dyes.

Step 4 - Cook rolls (barely boiling) for at least one hour or until you see a substantial amount of color that has leached into the water. If lid is on the pot, be careful pot does not suds up and boil over.

Step 5 – When desired amount of dye has bled into the water, add about two tablespoons of citric acid or ½ cup vinegar and cook for another 20 minutes or until you see most of the color absorbed back into the wool. Most of the time, there is dye left in the pot and the water will appear slightly colored.

After the mordant has absorbed the dyes, cool the pots outside. More of the dye is absorbed back into the wool. Most times, there is a little dye left in the water but you can clearly see the bottom of the pan.

Step 6 - When cooled, untie rolls, rinse in cool water and dry in dryer with fluffy towel and dryer sheet, voila!!!! Your one-of-a-kind piece of wool for your heirloom rug, pillow back, proddy flower or ………..!”


Confederate “Butternuts”

“Butternut dye was prepared by boiling the inside bark and the nut rinds with the wool which was woven into homespun. Sometimes the brown was varied by adding walnut bark, with black as a result. This was one of the best known and most popular dyes and so many of the Confederate soldiers were dressed in homespun colored with the butter nut dye that the name “Butternuts” stuck to them for many years.”

(Source – The Hooked Rug by William Kent, page 68.)


From Douglas Leechman’s Dye Pot – The Magic Dyes of Olden Days

William Winthrop Kent’s book The Hooked Rug published in 1937 includes a chapter on “Suitable Material and Dyeing.” In that chapter reference is made to an article in the March 1930 issue of The American Home entitled “The Magic Dyes of Olden Days” written by Mr. Douglas Leechman in which he discusses using natural ingredients for dyeing wool for hooked rugs. We quote from that article:

“The following list of plants which can be used direct, without any previous preparation or mordanting of the goods to be dyed, does not pretend to be complete, nor are the dyes of equal value. Experiments should always be made before risking any valuable cloth in little-known dye baths

Red: Alder, bedstraw, bloodroot, cedar, cranberry, dogwood, elm, grape, gromwell, hemlock, hooked-crowfoot, lamb’s quarters, maple, sorrel, spruce roots, sumac, tamarack.

Yellow: Alder, barberry, beech, blue beech, crab apple, goldenrod, goldenseal, hickory, marsh marigold, oak, poplar, prickly ash, quercitron, sassafras, sumac, sunflower, touch-me-not, willow.

Black: Alder, poison ivy, sumac, walnut.

Green: Ash, hound’s tongue, mint, smartweed, walnut (young), yellow adder’s-tongue.

Purple: Blueberry, elderberry, huckleberry.

Brown: Alder, butternut, oak, walnut.

Blue: Grape, larkspur, oak, spruce bark, sycamore, toadflax.

“It will be seen that some plants, such as alder, are listed as giving more than one color. In most cases this depends on the length of time that the goods are boiled in the dye or the strength of the decoction.

“Most of these dyes of olden days were prepared in very simple ways, generally by boiling the goods with parts of the dye-bearing plant.

“Therefore, after some proficiency has been reached in the technique of hooking, it will be found very interesting not only to try certain of the old dyeing recipes, but also to make experiments along the same lines with entirely different barks, roots, leaves and blossoms. But dyeing to be successful must be carefully done and the proportions of ingredients as well as the incidents of the whole operation carefully and specifically noted, otherwise it may not be possible to secure the same result twice in succession. One thing is certain, the beginner will get better results by using pale or faded colors throughout a rug rather than very brilliant new tones.”


Ideas from Therese Shick’s Dye Pot (As learned from Cyndy Duade)

In our summer school class with Cyndy Duade we learned many things. One of my favorite dyeing techniques was a spot dye over brown wool.

Heat water in an appropriate spot dye vessel (I use my dyeing electric skillet but whatever you use for spot dyeing will work for this). Add citric acid or vinegar to the water. Place one of your “ugly” brown colors into the water, for this demonstration I used 1/2 yard. (I did not soak the wool before putting into the hot water). Work the wool into the water in one continuous mass scrunching up as you go along. Dissolve 3/4 t. of a blue, red, green (or any undertone that you might want) into a cup of boiling water. On Cyndy’s recommendation, I used a warmer green (ProChem 707 Avocado). Gradually pour this cup of dissolved dyed water over your wool,smooshing into the wool as you go along. Be sure to get a somewhat even distribution on the 1/2 yard. You can use the back of a spoon or a potato masher to help you smoosh (a dyeing term :-)

Then dissolve 1 t. of black dye (again I used ProChem 672). In the same manner as the first cup of dye, distribute over the wool, working the dye into the wool. Be careful not to stir. You are not looking for complete coverage, but a deep and dark spot dye. Leave the wool to soak in the water for 20-30 minutes on low, staying very hot but not boiling. If color remains in the water after this time, leave in for longer. I usually check in 10 minute intervals, you can always add more acid if you feel it isn’t totally absorbing.

Once the wool has absorbed the dye, I usually throw the wool into my washer (usually with other wool) run through a rinse/spin. Then I put into my dryer so it is nice and fluffy.

Thanks so much Cyndy!

Note: At the last meeting Cindy Boults and Therese brought their Summer School projects and we could see the background coloration that could be achieved with the spot dyeing technique described above.


Ideas From Stella Hay Rex’s Dye Pot - Old rug hooking books are a fun source of ideas that stand the test of time. In Practical Hooked Rugs written by Stella Hay Rex in 1949 she introduces new hookers to valuable ideas on dyeing wool. We share below some basic tips that are still valuable today

“The good old dye pot transforms nondescript material into ragbag manna. The beginner has so pitifully few colors to start with, that a lesson in dyeing becomes an important part of instruction in rug hooking.

“There are but a few simple rules to keep in mind. You cannot, of course, dye a lighter shade over a dark one, without first stripping the color, either by boiling in ammonia and water (a tablespoon of ammonia to a quart of water), or using a commercial color remover. Save all the white or very light-toned goods for dyeing the more delicate shades.

“For best results, do not try to dye too large a quantity at one time. (An exception to this is dyeing for background.) Contrary to the rules on the package, do not lift and stir. That streaked and pied effect is what we are striving for. Allow a total of 30 minutes actual boiling time.

“Different weaves and fabrics ‘take’ dye in different ways, so that even though they are dyed in the same bath, and boiled exactly the same length of time, they will not always come out the same shade. But you can dye several different colors and mixtures in the same bath, knowing that when done they will harmonize, whether they did or not before they went in.”

Note: “Boiling” wool is no longer recommended. Today simmering wool in the dye pot is encouraged.


Ideas From Cyndy Duade’s Dye Pot – Tips For Dyeing With An Open Pan — When dyeing with an open pan on the stove, do not start with the water hot. Use room temperature or tepid water. This allows the dye to be absorbed slowly and deeply into the fibers of the wool. Uniodized salt shaken into the dye bath will also help to level the rate of absorption. Add the dye to the pot first then the wool. Turn temperature up to high or medium high for 10 - 15 minutes, stirring if you want smooth saturation. Add acid and stir until you SEE the water change color. Simmer for 10 minutes or so. Then turn stove off and let the wool cool in the dye bath in order to get all or as much as dye as possible into the wool. Have fun!


Ideas From the Dye Pot – Take a First Step By Marrying Wool — Experienced instructors encourage hookers who have not yet tried dyeing wool to plunge in by trying a simple technique known as “marrying” wool. The basic process is to put several pieces of wool in the dye pot and allow the dye to leach out, mix and be absorbed by the wool. The resulting colors are muted and softened. Here is how it works:

  • Soak several pieces of different colored wools for at least an hour
  • Place in pot of warm water
  • Add one tsp. of baking soda or detergent
  • Simmer for 30 minutes
  • Observe color leaching out
  • Add “glug” of white vinegar
  • Simmer until the water is clear
  • Rinse & dry.

No fuss! No mess! Challenge yourself and give this easy dyeing process a try.


Ideas From Juliana Kapusta’s Dye Pot — Get to Know Your Dyes — One thing that I find very helpful is to dye a swatch of each of my dyes. Then I take part of that swatch and paste it right to the lid of my jars. It is a lot of work but saves time and frustration in the long run.

Take 1/32 of a yard of wool and dye it with 1/32 teaspoon of the pure dye. From this you can tell the saturation level and also the value of the pure dye. For example to keep the value the same as your sample you would use ¼ teaspoon dye over ¼ yard of wool or a ½ teaspoon dye over ½ yard of wool.

Going through all this trouble will help when you are dyeing by eye and also if you want to tweak a formula. Knowing your dyes also tells you if that formula will come out like you expect it to.


Ideas From The Dye Pot — Early Spot Dyeing — Early rug hooking books often reveal the origins of techniques that have evolved over the years and practiced today in a modified form. Choice Hooked Rugs written by Stella Hay Rex was published in 1953. In Chapter 5 on Dyeing she makes reference to how variegated dyeing was used as far back as the Civil War to enhance the appearance of plain dark or black fabric. She notes the following:

“A little historical background on variegated dyeing seems apropos. Back in the Civil War days, when women had become tired of their home-dyed dresses in plain color, they made ‘spatter prints.’ In one method, they punched small holes in the cover of a tin, put dye in the can, and sprinkled it over the cloth. Another way was to dip a paintbrush in the dissolved dye and shake it gently, letting the spots fall where they would on the material, as in doing spattered floors. Historians say this practice actually antedates the American Revolution.”

Today, contemporary dyeing books feature entire chapters on spot dyeing and instructors offer classes on the subject.


Ideas From The Dye Pot – Floating Dry Dyes - If you are looking for some new fun dyeing techniques try reading “Dyeing Wool – 20 Techniques Beginner to Advanced” by Karen Schellinger (available in our HCRAG library). One of the 20 techniques Karen discusses is floating dry dyes. Karen recommends using the process described below. The end result creates a unique blend of colors that varies with every dye batch.

• Pre-soak about ¼ yard of wool (try starting with a natural or light colored wool).
• Fill a dye pan with two-thirds of water, add 1 tablespoon CA crystals and simmer without boiling.
• Gather a number of salt shakers together (these can be found at any dollar store). Fill each shaker between 1/16 and 1/8 full with dry dye, then add enough salt to fill each shaker about 1/3 full. Cover the shaker and mix until the salt and dye are mixed well. The more colors you set up the more creative your fabric becomes.
• Place the pre-soaked wool into the dye pan. Make sure the wool creates many hills and valleys for best results.
• Salt the fabric by shaking small amounts of the dye mixtures onto the fabric. Even though you want to see the results try not to disturb the wool. The dye will settle onto the fabric in a minute or two.
• After the visible wool is dyed carefully shift the wool in the pan and start to add your remaining colors to the undyed areas.
• When you like what you see, simmer the wool, without boiling, for one hour.
• Wash you wool with detergent and admire the results.


Ideas From The Dye Pot – Marrying Colors With Onion Skins — In a 1998 article in Rug Hooking Magazine Jeanne Fallier shared ideas on how to use onion skins to marry unrelated colors that did not work together. Her process went as follows:

• Gather several handfuls of dry white or yellow onion skins
• Soak wool in warm water
• Add a pinch of alum to help the fabric absorb the color
• Fill an enamel pot with enough water to cover the wool
• Add the onion skins
• Simmer the skins to release their color, skim and discard
• Add and stir the wet wool
• Remove the wool before it takes up too much color
• Steam the dyed wool in the oven in a tightly covered pan with enough water to cover the wool.
• Bake at 250 degrees for 45 - 60 minutes
• Rinse, cool and dry the wool.

The remaining dye water can be used to dye white wool or to over-dye plaids or tweeds that need their lightest spots toned down.


Ideas from the Cynthia Norwood’s Dye Pot – More on Dyeing Gray Wool –
Years ago when I used to use dyed and over dyed fabrics and had a great stash of recycled grays, I would give them a light wash to bring a little life into the piece.  Commercially dyed grays are usually too cold for most rug hookers to use as is.  But if you look at the fabric you can usually decide if it is tending toward blue, yellow, beige or pink and then over dye with wash of appropriate dye.  These grays are then perfect to help age your rug and make a primitive immediately look more like an antique rug.


Ideas from the Gimber’s Dye Pot — Dyeing Gray Wool? — We needed wool for our current project, the Bonnel Tavern sign which has a central bee skep image. We decided to marry recycled gray herringbone wool for the skep. We used 1 Tsp. Pro-Chem Orange #233 and 1Tsp. Pro-Chem Sun Yellow #119. The results were better than expected and we learned a lesson – do not discard the grays, over dye them.

(Abraham Bonnel was granted a tavern license in 1764 and maintained it until 1797 when he was succeeded by his son Clement Bonnel. Abraham Bonnel served as Lieutenant Colonial of the Second Regiment of Hunterdon County Militia. The Bonnel Tavern still stands just beyond the Pittstown/Clinton exit of Rte. 78. The original sign has not survived.)


Ideas from Marian Hall’s Dye Pot – Antique Black Over Colored Wool — Marian Hall has been a member of the Brandywine Guild for many years. She retired recently and plans to devote more time to her favorite activity – rug hooking. As a new HCRAG member, we will be seeing more of Marian and benefiting from her expertise. Earlier she shared a dye recipe used to dye antique black over colored wool that she learned from Jeanne Field in Canada.

The recipe used Magic Carpet Dyes, but any black and dark green dye could be used.

  • Soak ½ yard of any color of wool and scrunch into a 9” x 13” pan to spot dye.
  • Mix up two solutions – 1 ¼ tsp. black in 1 ½ cups boiling water, and ¾ tsp of Bottle Green in
  • 1 ½ cups of boiling water.
  • Add vinegar or citric acid to both solutions.
  • Spot with black dye, and then spot with green dye.
  • Using gloves “squish” the wool until the dye saturates the folds.
  • Place pan in 200 degree oven for one hour or until dye is absorbed.
  • Rinse and dry

Ideas from Carrie Martin’s Dye Pot – Spot Dyed Pumpkin Pie — Carrie Martin, who was one of our camp instructors this summer, has shared with us her
“Pumpkin Pie” dye formula that is perfect for wools to be used in rugs with autumn themes featuring Halloween, fall colored landscapes and, of course, pumpkins.

She uses the following Pro-Chem Dyes that are spot dyed over ½ yard white, off white, camel, or pastel yellow or orange or pink wools:

• #199 Golden Yellow
• #135 Yellow
• #255 Brick
• #725 Forest Green


• Scrunch wool into basket of Presto cooker
• Add ¼ - #199 Golden Yellow & ¼ - #135 Yellow
• Place dye into bath, stir, place basket in cooker, turn wool in basket once
• Add glug glug of vinegar
• When water clears of dye remove basket, take wool out of basket; scrunch wool in basket
• Add ¼ - #255 Brick
• Place dye in bath, stir dye, place basket of wool in cooker
• When water clears of dye remove basket, take wool out of basket
• Add 1/8 - #725 Forest Green
• Water clears, simmer 45 minutes



Ideas from Kay Leisey’s Dye Pot – Salt Shaker Dyeing
Salt shaker dyeing is one if my favorite techniques when hand dyeing wool. It gives the effect of a knitted oatmeal tweed yarn. This look can be lost on textured wool so it is best to start with a solid color.

• Put 2 Tablespoons of non-iodized salt into a salt shaker (I used a larger handled cooking salt shaker) and add 1/16 dye color of choice, mix well.

• Lightly wring out your pre-soaked wool (I ripped my pieces into 6" strips) and lay them out in a casserole pan. Sprinkle your salt shaker over the wool strips. Salt your wool to your own taste!

• You can now stack or roll up your strips if you need more room in your pan.

• Cover with water, add some vinegar, a "glug" will do. Place a cover over all and put in the oven for 30 - 45 minutes, at 300 degrees (medium heat). Watch the water level in your pan - you want to simmer your wool not bake it!!!

• Remove the pan from the oven, let it cool down, rinse and dry.

• This wool almost has a "speckled" appearance which can really give you a nice effect when hooking mittens or a rainbow trout (you can use more than one color on a piece, just keep each color in a separate shaker!!)

As always - please keep in mind any equipment used in your dye kitchen should not be used for your food cooking!

Aren't you just dyeing to get started??? Have fun!!!!!

Kay Leisey is the proprietress of Homespun, one of the few shops in this area dedicated to the needs of rug hookers. Homespun is located at 57 Star Road, Hereford, PA 18056. You can reach Kay at 215-541-0565 or homespunhannah@yahoo.com. Visit www.homespunwoolens.com for more information about Homespun.


Ideas from Betsy Reed’s Dye Pot – Dulling Hooked Strips
Betsy Reed (Heavens to Betsy) shared many practical tips during her workshop at our recent Spring Fling. One of her tips was to use black tea to dull the color of strips already hooked.

We have all had times when loops of adjacent strips appear too bright after being hooked and need to be toned down. Sometimes this need is not seen until after much of the rug has been hooked. According to Betsy an easy way to dull the offending loops is to take a wet black tea bag and dab the lighter/brighter loops until the loops are sufficiently toned down. This is much easier than pulling the strips out and re-hooking with other wool.

Betsy Reed is the proprietress of Heaven to Betsy specializing in 100% wool for rug hookers and fiber artists. She was one of the suppliers at our 2013 Rug Festival and was an instructor at our 2014 Spring Fling. She lives in Claverack, NY and can be reached at 518-851-2149 or betsy@heavens-to-betsy.com.


Ideas from Susan Schulz’s Dye Pot – Patriotic Colors
In celebrating the red and blue of the coming summer months and patriotic holidays, I thought it would be fun to share two dye recipes that I “concocted” last summer for a primitive American flag rug. Each formula will dye ½ yard of wool. If you’d like varying shades of each color, use just a portion of the dye ~ for instance, using ½ or ¾ of the dye formula over ½ yard of wool will give you a lighter value of the red or blue.

Rosalita Red

Mix in 1 cup of boiling water:
• 1/8 tsp ProChem Brown 503
• 1/8 tsp ProChem Choc. Brown 502
• 1/8 tsp + 1/16 tsp ProChem Bright Red 351
• 3/8 tsp ProChem Fuschia 349
• 1/8 tsp ProChem Yellow 135

Glory Days Blue

Mix in 1 cup of boling water:
• ½ tsp ProChem Slate Blue 441
• 1/32 tsp ProChem Brown 503

Get out your dye pots and have fun!


Ideas from Karen Worthington’s Dye Pot — Choosing Containers to Dye Wool — I think because I’m always in search of that wonderful antique or collectible to incorporate with my felted creations (let’s face it, I prefer shopping in an antique store rather than a clothing store), that the search for dye pots was just another reason to search the shops of Pennsylvania.

You can get amazing deals in co-ops/antique stores across Pennsylvania that work wonderfully for dying your wool. I initially started purchasing only white enamel containers but now I’ve expanded my stock of pots to grey and blue that work wonderfully. I think, though, if you are somewhat new to dying wool, I suggest the white pots as you can better monitor the progress of your wool.   

In your search for dye pots, make sure that there are no major rust spots in your pot because you will, within a short amount of time have a leak. You should be able to pick up quite a large pot for $10 to $20.

Canning pots would also be a good choice as would a restaurant supply company where they have an array of different sized stainless steel containers. The look of the enamelware just can’t be beat in my opinion not to mention the search for them.

(Guild member, Karen Worthington, is the proprietress of The Blue Tulip (www.thebluetulipwoolery.com.) in Harmony, NJ where she teaches rug hooking and offers hand-dyed wool and hooking supplies for sale. She can be reached at 908-859-6350 or karen@thebluetulipwoolery.com.)


Ideas from Juliana Kapusta’s Dye Pot — How to Color Correct — Did you ever wonder what color you would get if you mixed purple and green or how to make red by mixing purple and orange?  Until I took a Wanda Kerr’s dye class I never even knew that you could mix tertiary colors and come back to a primary color. It was by learning this that I also learned how to correct colors that didn’t come up looking quite the way I expected them to. In other words, they weren’t like those tiny swatches. 

If you have a color wheel it will be helpful to look at one now.  Let’s take a look at purple and green on the color wheel. What will happen if you mix those two colors?  Well if they are pure colors (note: this doesn’t work well with Cushing’s dyes because they are such a mixture of colors.) Anyway, if they are pure colors, you will get blue.  Blue is half way between purple and green on the color wheel. 

Now let’s look at how to make red by mixing purple and orange.  Red is half way between purple and orange on the color wheel so if you make a mixture of half purple and half orange you should come up with red. Get the idea?  f your color comes out a little too blue green and you want it to be more blue then go past blue on the color wheel, maybe to violet, add that and you will come closer to blue.

I always check my colors before they go into the dye pot by using a Q-tip of dye and paint it on watercolor paper to see that I am getting the color I want. I hope you find this little tip helpful.  It sure has cut down on the frustration level on a dyeing day for me.


Ideas from Joyce Combs' Dye Pot — Dyeing to the Core — Joyce recently received the following question: “Sometimes when I cut wool that I’ve dyed, the color has not gone all the way into the wool. How can I make sure the dye penetrates to the core?”

Joyce’s Answer: Dyeing needs the following: heat, water, wool, dye and a setting agent.  Wool repels water, so it needs to be thoroughly wet before dyeing. To get the wool to absorb water use a wetting agent such as jet dry or synthrapol and let the wool soak for at least an hour before you start to dye. If you use detergent, soak the wool overnight. After adding the dye formula that you have chosen, your wool should be steamed or cooked at just below the boiling point for at least 30 minutes and then add your setting agent (either white vinegar or citrus acid) to set the color and cook for another 15 minutes.  Watch to see when the dye color clears from the water.  Sometimes if you have used more dye than you needed or if you are using a very intense color, the water will not clear entirely. If this happens first try a little more setting agent, if that does not work turn off the heat and let the wool cool in the pan. This extra step lets more dye absorb into the wool. Then rinse out the wool and dry.


Ideas from Marian Hall’s Dye Pot – Blending Black Wools — Marian Hall, who is a member of the Brandywine Rug Hooking Guild, recently shared a tip on how to blend the coloration of various shades of black.

April DeConick has a book on creating your own dye palette. For black, she suggests keeping a jar for all leftover bits of dye when you don't use it all in a recipe — just collect all colors in one jar. Put you black wool in a pot with water and simmer it with laundry soap to remove dye. Remove wool and dump water. Put more water in pot and add the jar of mixed dyes, and then add back the black wool, simmer for an hour and add vinegar and simmer for another hour. Then rinse and dry.  The time frames are hers — I don't do it for two hours, I just do it till the dye is taken up completely or for one hour if the dye absorbs quickly, putting in the vinegar or citric acid when the dye is mostly in the fabric. It produces a softer black that blends more with colors.

If I don't have any leftover dyes lying around, I just mix up some of the colors I am using in a rug and use those for the over dye. April uses only Cushing dyes, but the concept can be used with any dyes. 


Ideas from Kathleen Murray-Boyda’s Dye Pot – Sand in My Bathing Suit
I have lots memories of going to “the Beach” (I grew up in Delaware) and going “down the Shore” (now that I live in NJ …there is a clear distinction between the two!).  Playing in the sand alongside my parents and two brothers was great, but not as much fun as swimming and floating on my raft for hours.

My brothers wore swim trunks and being the only girl, I wore the traditional one piece stretchy bathing suit. It was evident early on that the boys didn’t suffer from the scourge of sand in their bathing suits, but I did…a cold, wet, heavy, and gravelly load! The only way to clear it out of the bottom of my suit was to head back into the ocean and stretch it out, while submerged, in order to empty the contents. And it never fully cleared resulting in aggravation, chafing, and walking kinda funny. Let me tell you ….there is a big difference in beach sands…Rehobeth’s sand is comparable to landscapers’ stones vs. Cape May’s more refined sand. I became somewhat of a “sand connoisseur” with each vacation.

At a guild meeting in 2012, Lamb Yankees members were “one-upping” each other with one-off dye names and, for the record, we had a blast! Hence, the genesis of the recipe entitled “Sand in My Bathing Suit” (as published in ATHA Chapter Lamb Yankees “Colors of Life: Dyeing to the Bitter End” dye book). 

I was happy with the color at the end of the dyeing experience as opposed to the soggy, sandy memories of my childhood!  The resulting color has a lovely, worn vintage hue…much like my thighs did from the sand’s chafing.  —J

Here is the “Sand in My Bathing Suit” formula for dyeing a half yard of wool using Pro Chem dyes:

1/16 tsp Chocolate Brown #502
1/16 tsp Bright Orange #233
1/32 tsp Leaf Green #728
1/8 tsp Chestnut #506   
1/64 tsp Brilliant Blue #490
1/16 tsp + 1/32 tsp Black #672
1/32 tsp + 1/16 tsp Plum #822

Method:  spot dye, with each color in its own ½ cup of boiling water. Process:  Roasting pan in the oven, covered & steamed @ 300 degrees for 35 minutes.


Ideas from Jan Cole’s Dye Pot – Use Empty Dye Packets
Want to use every last drop of dye in those packets and plastic jars?  I save each and every packet and jar that contained dry dye.   Periodically, I boil water in a large pot (turn off the stove) and add the packets and plastic jars – sometimes 30-40-50 or more. When it looks like I have a good mud (for lack of a better description) color, I remove the packets with tongs and discard them.

I restart the stove and then add the pre-soaked wool – natural/texture/oatmeal – whatever you choose in whatever quantity you choose.  Of course, the color will be lighter/darker depending on the amount of wool added.  Depending on what colors are added to the pot (more oranges or yellows, etc.) will, of course, affect the outcome of the color.

I never know what I am going to get but am always pleased with the new shade of mud!  After cooking for ½ hour or so, I add citric acid and cook for another 10 minutes – then cool the pot of wool, rinse and dry – Wahla! A new one-of-a kind color – NEVER to be duplicated!


Dye Pot Ideas – Black Walnuts as a Source of Brown Dye – This is the time of the year to collect black walnuts for use as a source of rich brown dye. The process is easy, but you do need to wear rubber gloves to avoid getting the stain from the hulls on your hands which will take weeks to wear off. 

Some use the outer hull for the dye; others prefer to use the shell and nuts.

  • Hulls — Remove the hulls and either place in a bucket of water and let soak for a week or two or put in your dye pot and bring to a slow boil.
  • Walnut Shells — The shells are thick and hard to open.  You can put them in a bag and run over them with your car to crush them.  Take the broken pieces along with the nuts put in your dye pot. Bring to a slow boil.

Strain the fluid and you have a natural dye that produces rich shades of brown.


Avocado Pits — We launch the column with a tip from “honorary member” and camp instructor Cynthia Norwood who shared with her camp students a way to use avocado pits as a source of natural dye that produces a soft pale flesh color.  Here are the easy steps:

  • Remove and wash the pits
  • Boil pits in the dye pot to produce the “blood”
  • Use the “blood” for the dye
  • Add presoaked wool
  • Simmer for at least 20 minutes
  • Stir, add vinegar, and simmer another 20 minutes, or until the water clears
  • Let dyed wool cool, rinse and dry

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