Dyeing & More Dyeing

I have decided that this is the year that I will complete the Vermont Shells hooked rug! In order to finish the rug, I needed to decide on the color for the corner shells as well as the border, plus I’d run out of greens. When reorganizing some rug hooking files and papers and notebooks recently, I came across my planning page for the rug. I began it in 1995 when we lived in Shanghai China, which I remembered, but the page also had my ideas for colors and the purple dye recipe. My plan was to take 2 or 3 days… but it took over a week… In the next house I would really like a sink and a stove that I can dedicate to dyeing rather than taking over the kitchen. Peter has been traveling during the week and luckily (I guess!) he had a cold last weekend and spent a lot of time in bed or watching football and wasn’t feeling like being in the kitchen. I finally resorted to buying a grocery store roasted chicken and frozen veggies so as not to disturb my work. Anyway.

In Shanghai, I guess, I hooked the cobalt blue shells in the right hand corner and I still think they are a good color choice. There is a thin border between the shells and the big border and I am using the different pinks that are the flowers in the green shells. My rug hooking teacher was always talking about relating colors in a rug, so I felt like the best choice for the border would be a dark purple, from the center.

Blue chosen

I usually enjoy dyeing, but getting the correct values can be tricky. The first job was the green values, and they always give me fits! I think it’s the yellow dye, which seems to vary wildly every time I make a new stock solution. And, as I mentioned, dyeing always takes much longer than I think it will. Here’s the process in a nutshell: soak the wool, dye it in pots or a roasting pan on the stove top, let it cool, wash it, dry it and then you can audition it. Dye is like paint; you can’t tell the finished color until it is dry. And I also hooked small areas so I could really see how it fit in with the other colors. Below you can see my final choice for the border color, and it was not easy to get, nor quite the color I wanted. I had the formula but remember, I dyed that in Shanghai in 1995! I was getting very frustrated because no formula I tried looked like that purple…. and then I realized – the water was very different. We did not drink the tap water in Shanghai; Lord knows what was in it! I do know that there was lots of chlorine. Every few days we’d turn on the tap and our eyes would water from the overdose. Certainly the Chinese were making an effort to make the water safe to drink, but there seemed to be no one using a formula or any consistency. Any dyer will tell you that whatever is in the water affects the dyes and so that would make this an impossible color to duplicate! {sigh} The colors in this photograph aren’t really correct, but I do think the purple border will be okay. It has to be okay.

Border check

It’s critical that the sun be shining; it’s very hard to see values when it’s overcast or dark. Here are the finished samples, which looked pretty good. The next step was to figure out how much to dye of each color and value. It was a lot of wool – hooking eats it up even if you are doing fine hooking.

Final choices?

To amuse myself while waiting for less exciting dyeing to finish, I marbelized some wool. I did two bundles that I really like. The “bleeder” was a maroon-y red (nothing I would use as is) white and an orange I wasn’t in love with either.

Marbelizing wool

The second pan had the red, the orange and a yellow. Yummy! One of the really fun things about this sort of dyeing is that the front and back of the fabrics are so different, depending on how they are wrapped. I really need to hook these to see what they will look like; some sort of yummy flower.

Marbelized wool

I also did some dyeing for another project, but that’s a story for another day.

Color consultant

And now I must finish scrubbing the kitchen and put everything away.

5 thoughts on “Dyeing & More Dyeing

  1. Sounds like when you start a rug, you should dye all the wool you will need for the project–in the local water 🙂 I know, life does not work like that. I have always liked this project so much. Sounds like I will get to see it finished!


  2. My, but you’ve been busy in the week since our Foxy Lady get-together! Did our long discussion about dying inspire you to get back to the pots? You are a great source of knowledge in this and many areas of rug hooking! I have so enjoyed getting to know you. AND, I love your blog! Pam


    • I was in the midst of dyeing last Saturday and hoped to be done on Sunday, or Monday at the latest…. I finished up Thursday night. {I did some dyeing for my project for our workshop too.} Thank you! I enjoy photographing your lovely projects and chatting with you as well. Let’s sit together at the workshop so we can keep ourselves entertained! ;-D


    • Thanks so much! I have been quilting since 1991 – I have the date on my first sampler quilt. Of course you’ll be good – make lots of quilts, take lots of classes… This is not a design of mine; I took the class with Toby Lischko. She was a good teacher.


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