Dyeing for Rugs 4: Mixing the dye

The goal of Palette dyeing is to create a swatch of 8 gradated pieces of wool, each 6" by 16" in dimension. This is done in eight wide-mouth canning jars and a canner. But before it can be processed in a water bath, the dye formula has to be developed and mixed into a liquid solution.

The process I am describing for mixing and dyeing uses Cushing's dyes. I like these dyes because of the variety of colors available and the softness of color, even when they are bright, that I can achieve. Because these are dry dyes, they must be handled with care. I use thin rubber surgical gloves and work in an area that is not drafty because you don't want to inhale the dye power. So mix your dyes in a still environment - no fans, no open windows. If you want to use Pro-Chem, or other dyes, you will need to consult other literature on the proper procedures for mixing and dyeing.

It is vital that you develop a consistent manner of dyeing so that your results are dependable and can be achieved again and again. What I mean by this is ALWAYS use the same measuring spoons, ALWAYS measure your dry dyes and your liquids the same way, ALWAYS use the same amount of water in the jelly jar. Do not change equipment or the way you measure something if at all possible.


1. Collect the dyes you want to use in the recipe.

2. Measure each dye carefully into a wide-mouth eight-ounce jelly jar. Use TOD spoons. Open the package, dip the spoon into the power, level it off gently while the spoon is still in the plastic bag (on the outside of the plastic bag, just run your finger along the surface of the spoon cup so that the powder is level).

3. When you take the measured dye out of the plastic bag, make sure that dye particles are not heaped at the joint where the cup and the handle meet. This bit of dye is enough to alter your results. So brush if off in the bag before putting the dry dye in the jelly jar.

4. Between dyes, clean your TOD spoon by immersing the spoon's cup in a jar filled with table salt and clearly marked DYE SALT and stored away from food. Swish it around until the TOD spoon is clean and ready to be dipped into the next dye.

5. When all the dry dyes have been measured into the jelly jar, add a few drops (about a teaspoon) of warm-hot tap water. Using a wooden skewer or a chopstick, stir the dye into a wet paste. You don't want to use too much water. All you are trying to do is blend the dyes together really well before you make the liquid solution. It is REALLY important that the dry dyes are well-blended into a wet paste. If they aren't, all kinds of funky things can happen to your wool when you try to dye it. So take your time and mix them well.

6. Add 1 cup of boiling water to the jelly jar. If you are working in the 8-ounce jar I suggested, you don't even have to bother with a separate measuring cup. Just fill the jar up to the area where the header starts. Mix well with your wooden skewer.

7. The liquid solution is now ready to use or store. For storage, tighten on the cap and write in permanent marker on the lid the dye name or number. I use a numbering system consisting of my initials and a number AD1, AD2, AD3, etc. If you are using a dye formula from someone's book, label it as they did so that you will know what is in your jar.

8. Immediately record in your dye recipe book the dye formula you used and its name or number.