Dyeing for Rugs 5: The Dye Process

Once you have made your liquid dye solution, you are ready to dye! This is the process, step-by-step, to create fabulous colors in 8-gradation swatches. The amounts of dye I recommend using in each jar have been adjusted after many trials and errors. I found that the common formula used did not have enough distinction in the middle values. So these amounts I call FORMULA AD and are what I recommend using.

1. Soak 8 pieces of 6" by 16" white wool in warm-hot tap water with a couple of small squirts of synthrapol for at least 30 minutes. This is concentrated detergent, and using more is not going to improve your dye results. It is used so that the dye will penetrate the wool well. If you don't use it, you won't like the results because the dye will sit on the top of the wool and when you cut it the edges of your cut will be white.

2. Fill 8 wide-mouth mason jars 1/2 full of warm-hot tap water and place in canner. Mark your jars numbers 1 to 8 and always work in the same direction from jar 1 (lightest value) to jar 8 (darkest value).

3. Add the liquid dye (what you mixed in your jelly jar earlier) to your 8 jars according to this table.

Formula AD

1 jar - 1/8 tsp.
2 jar - 1/4 tsp.
3 jar - 3/4 tsp.
4 jar -1 1/2 tsp.
5 jar - 2 1/2 tsp.
6 jar - 4 1/2 tsp.
7 jar - 7 1/2 tsp.
8 jar - 12 tsp.

4. Put one piece of synthrapol-soaked wool into each jar and stir well as you put the piece of wool in. Start with value 1 and work to value 8.

5. Add an inch of hot water in the bottom of the canner to create a water bath.

6. Put the canner on stove, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. You will need to stir the wool occasionally. If you don't it will mottle. By stirring, I mean you have to use plastic or wooden tongs and draw the piece of wool out of the jar, unfold it, and put it back in and stir. Work from value 1 to value 8.

7. After 30 minutes of simmering, it is time to add about 2 tablespoons of vinegar to each jar. I don't measure, but just pour some in. But before you add the vinegar, you need to remove the wool piece from the jar with the tongs and pour the vinegar in the jar. Then immerse the wool piece again in the jar and stir well, working from value 1 to value 8. I usually go around again, drawing out each piece, unfolding it, and putting it back in and stirring.

8. Put the lid back on and simmer for 30 minutes. The vinegar is what aids the dye to be taken into the wool, so it is essential that you stir the wool two or three times during the next 30 minutes, unless you want really mottled wool.

9. After 30 minutes, stir one last time the wool in each jar, and turn off the heat. Allow the jars to stand until the water in them clears. This usually takes overnight.

10. Once the water has cleared (there might be some color left in the darkest value jars), remove each piece of wool and stack them in order with value 8 on the bottom and value 1 on the top. Pin together.

11. Put swatch in your washer on warm rinse cycle.

12. Put swatch in your dryer on normal heat with a Bounce or similar dryer sheet.

13. Remove swatch and tear one inch off the end of each piece of wool to create a little reference swatch. Pin together with a round label secured with name or number of the dye. Cut a tiny bit off the end of each of the little one inch wide reference swatch and tape them in your recipe book under your dye recipe with double stick tape.