I have been dyeing wool for years and years and years. My mother and I took weaving lessons when I was in college and I found that the fibers I wanted to use only came in their natural colors. Not being a beige or white person, I started to read and do research. Way back then most people were into natural dyeing, which I tried but quickly discarded. It’s anything but natural with the strong chemicals that can be needed to fix a natural substance. I discovered the go-to company for supplies and information at a Convergence – Don Weiner and his Pro Chemical & Dye Company was and is the place to find anything relating to dyes! I attended some of his lectures and bought one of the few books which he endorsed. Some years later, when getting my Professional Crafts Certificate at The Worcester Craft Center, I had a lesson on wool dyeing from my teacher, Fuyuko Matsubara. Other than that, I’m self-taught. And I often have questions and when something goes wrong, I can’t always figure out why.
The wool dyeing workshop at PRO Chem caught my eye a few years ago and when I thought I’d be hanging around waiting for the house to sell this summer (ha!), I signed up. There were 13 of us, with varied and amazing backgrounds in fiber. Introductions were the first day, when we were anxious and excited, so I don’t remember a lot, though amazingly enough there was another rug hooker in the group!!! Our instructor, Vicki Jensen, has been working at Pro Chem for 17 years, and was full of great information and inspiration.
I was quite curious about how we’d do so many dye samples in two days. We used 12 of PRO Chem’s pure colors; that is the dye powders they use to formulate their other colors. Dyeing them in their many possible combinations is a lot of samples……1000? 1200? more? Turns out we steamed the samples, which is something I’ve never done. We were assigned a color family and we had to mix the dye formulas and paint the tiny skeins. The process of steaming only takes 30 minutes, as opposed to more than an hour for an immersion bath, thus we were able to get many, many colors done each day.
After being painted, they were carefully wrapped in plastic wrap and labeled and then put in a bucket to await steaming. And then we started on another formula.
When they came out of the steamer, the plastic was wrinkly and sticky, but not melted! Vicki would sort them into their color families to cool.
Then they were rinsed and spread out to dry. Here are some wet value studies…..
We spent two days doing this. It was quite hard work as each sample had its own set of formulas. We had to concentrate to make sure that we would all get accurate samples. Aren’t these great?