What the heck is Palette dyeing and why am I doing it?


My first forays into art were as a watercolorist in my early teens. I don't recall what got me interested in watercolors, but I remember my mom agreeing to allow me to take lessons from a woman who was a well-known artist in the Traverse City area. My mom had to drive me way the heck out into the country, maybe an hour's drive, for my lessons which were given in the artist's home.

The first thing she taught me was how to wet my paper and go in with the proper amount of paint on my brush. The second thing she taught me was that all artists have a palette and that palette consists of mainly three tubes of paint: a red, a blue, and a yellow. Now because I was a beginner, she let me pick out a green tube too. But that was it. All my colors came from mixing those tubes of paint together. I came to understand that all artists have their preferred tubes and because one artist uses one yellow and another artist uses another yellow, and so forth, artist's paintings take on their own uniqueness through their choice of the first three tubes of paint and how they mixed them to create other colors.

As I grew older, I became more and more interested in textiles and less and less interested in painting. I had sewn on a machine since I was ten. But what came to fascinate me in college was felting, spinning, and weaving, although knitting, needlepoint, and cross-stick never struck a cord even though I tried all of these. It wasn't until I found rug hooking, that I finally found the medium that would allow me to be totally free as an artist, to do my own thing with textiles just as if I were painting.

Well that last part of my sentence "just as if I were painting" really struck home with me this summer when I painted a couple of canvases with acrylics. Going to the store and selecting my three big tubes of paint and squirting them out on the palette board and getting in there and mixing mixing mixing - made me realize that I had allowed the rug hooking past to limit what I was doing with color in my rugs. I was either purchasing a bunch of unrelated but pretty dyed wool, or dyeing up my own and trying to make the dyes work together by developing a common recipe as my dyeing base, or trying to work recycled wool into my rug by overdyeing. And here was to hoping it would all look good in the end!

That was when I got talking to Sondra at the Kirby Hooking Circle. And I said to her, I think I need to develop a dye palette for my rugs, so that I have every color available at my fingertips were"just as if I painting."

So when Heidi and I started chatting about creating a virtual Rug Camp on Rug Hooking Daily, I jumped at the chance to start up a Palette Dyeing class. What are we doing over there at Rug Camp? We are each creating three colors (those three all-important tubes of paint): a red, a yellow, and a blue. These are going to be unique to each of us. Then we are going to work around the color wheel, using the formulas from our three colors we will systematically mix, and in the end we will end up with the twelve colors in the color wheel (each in 8-gradations) and have our own complete artist's palette for our rugs. From there we will then create tints (add white), tones (add gray), and shades (add black) of each one so that we can develop different intensities of color. WOW!

Think of all the possibilities
1. We can create a palette that we use as our palette for hooking our rugs.
2. We can create a new palette for new rug projects.
3. We can create partial palettes for different rug projects (cool color rug; warm color rug; etc).
4. We can overdye wools with our palettes.
5. We can spot dye wools with your palettes.
6. We can dip-dye wools with your palettes.
7. We can select any gradation of any color, tint, tone, or shade from our recipe samples and recreate it as exactly as can be done in hand-dyeing.
8. We never have to worry about whether our colors are right or not. Everything we dye will be related to each other and will go in our rugs.

The Rug Camp is ongoing. I'm putting up the lessons gradually. You can work at your own pace, start any time, stop any time, take a break any time. We are on Rug Hooking Daily. Come on over and check us out!