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Category Archives: Dyeing

Old rugs and new wool

By | Antique rugs, Color, Dyeing | One Comment

Any moment now, this charming old rug will be auctioned off. It’s in today’s sale (10 am) at Eldred’s, in East Dennis, MA. The estimate is $450-$650, and since it is Lot 440, you may still have time to bid on it.

I liked the nice bright, random colors of the autumn leaves in the outer border, and the bright yellow and orange lines of the oval inner border – the colors frame the pale horse well, and let’s face it, that just looks like a happy horse that someone loved!

The sale description was: “ HOOKED RUG: DEPICTING A PONY (25″ x 30″), 19th Century. Affixed to a modern painting stretcher.”

Now here is an antique rug that will be in another Eldred’s sale, on Nov. 17th (also 10 am). It will be Lot 994, described as “Lot 994: EARLY 20TH CENTURY HOOKED RUG 5’9″ x 7’2″ Multicolor geometric design.”

The odd thing about this rug (especially as it is a hit or miss) is that I actually don’t like it much. That seldom happens to me! So I stopped to think about why I don’t like it. I think the geometric border is great, and you know I love hit or miss, but for me, the two just do not go together well. It feels like the precision of the border is almost the complete opposite, in style, of the hit or miss center. If the outer border was done in slightly less precise squares, maybe I’d like it more. Or if the color palette were brighter…But as it is, it actually made me feel a little tense to look at it. Well, sometimes you can learn from thinking about what you don’t like, as well as from what you like and admire.

So on to the “new wool” part of this post. I had a “Jumbo Size” Hefty bag, full of multicolored snippets from the last many months of hooking. When I work on a rug, my snippets go into a little tin next to me, and when the tin is full, I go dump the wool snippets into the plastic bag.

So the bag was full, and it was getting in my way. I was still pretty down-and-out with my cold, so thought I would do some spontaneous and unpredictable dyeing, mostly to get rid of that full bag, and of course to see what would happen. And while feeling punky, it would make me feel like I got something done.

So all the snippets got emptied into my biggest dye pot. I soaked three small pieces of white wool (each about a foot long and 6” wide) in synthrapol for a few minutes, and then rumpled them up and shoved each of them into a different part of the pot. Then I just left it to cook for about an hour, not stirring it at all. And I poured in a “glug, glug” of white vinegar for the last 15 minutes.

Somehow, I thought I would get three completely different colors of wool, or maybe something with many multicolor flecks of color. I was amazed that each of the three pieces basically came out the same color! A nice bright but light green, with highlights only here and there of other colors. In person, they are more green than this photo shows:

The snippets I started with really were every color of the rainbow, collected during the time I hooked at least four different rugs, each with a wide variety of colors. Were there a lot of greens, plus a lot of blues and yellows to make more green? Who knows?

But I was greatly pleased with the experiment, and will definitely find these three new pieces of wool useable. My conclusion: dyeing is magic. So if you have snippets and are willing to give up a few small pieces of white wool to fate, try it yourself with your own snippets and see what sort of a surprise you get!

The photos of the antique rugs are courtesy of Eldred’s Auctions, online at www.eldreds.com.

A pot of wool stew

By | Color, Dyeing | 5 Comments

wool stew

I collect my clippings and snippets of wool in a big (quart-size) baggie. And the bag was full, so I made a quick batch of wool stew this morning. I dumped all my wool snippets and scraps into the dye pot, and brought the water to a boil, and let them all simmer for a while. Then I put in five pieces of wool I had soaked for a while. Four were Dorr natural, and one was a random skinny piece of pale gray.


I scrunched up the (wet) wool pieces and just shoved them under the scraps so they were well covered, and then just let the whole thing cook, without stirring. I cooked it for maybe 45 minutes, and then added a “glug glug” of white vinegar for another 15 minutes, to set the color.


Here are how the pieces came out today. The skinny darker piece at the top was the wool that started off pale gray. I can definitely use this lavender color, and I like that there is nice mottling of lighter and darker areas. I have in mind to do a rug of lupines soon…

I like this dye project. First, because I actually use all those snippets, and second, because the outcome is random, and depends on what colors my recent rugs have used, ie, what colors dominate in my baggie of snippets. Yes, I do occasionally get out the dyes and measuring spoons and go for a particular color or color mix, but making wool stew is more like playing, and using the dye already in the clippings for a nice wool surprise.