Thursday, March 5, 2009

Wool Dying

Tomorrow I have some friends coming into town to participate in a mini-retreat at my house. We will spend two days making some fun projects. One of the things my girlfriends wanted to learn was wool applique.
The project the ladies selected was a pillow called "Fire Coral Flower Pillow" a Woolylady Original.

I love working with wool. I used to hook rugs, and have quite a collection of wool that fills shelves in my sewing closet. I also used to hand dye all of my own wool for my rugs. Since moving to St. George a few years ago the rugs and wool are mostly put away, and instead I've devoted my time to quilting.
This morning I was up by 5 a.m. and pulled out all my wool dying equipment in preparation for teaching my class.

The colors I needed for the pillow are brown (for the back ground), orange/red (for the vines), peach (for the flowers) and ivory for the circles.
I love using Cushing Dyes for wool. First I pulled out my color chart to see which dyes would match my pattern.

I was trying to match this piece of wool. Cushing Dyes can be ordered on line through their company.

For me, dying wool is as easy as making a batch of cookies. First you need a large pot. I recommend using a white enamel pot so you can see the color of the water. Fill the pot about 3/4 full and start heating the water. The equipment you use should only be used from then on for dying. The chemicals in the dyes are toxic. Cover your counters and use rubber gloves.

Next, mix the dye in a jar with boiling water. There are many different charts and books available that help you determine how much of the powdered dye to add to the water.

Pre soak your wool in warm water in the sink.

Once the water in the pot very hot, but not boiling, place the wool in the pot and pour the dye on top. Stir in to mix the color around the wool.
This is the orange/ red pot.

Turn the heat off the pot and wait. As the water starts to cool down, add about 1/4 cup of white vinegar and stir. Each piece of wool absorbs dye at it's own time period. Some light pieces absorb the color almost instantly. Other pieces can take an hour. Sometimes I will put a pot of wool on the stove before I go to bed, and wake up to beautifully dyed pieces.

This was the peach pot.
How can you tell when the wool has absorbed all the color? The water goes clear. Once the wool has absorbed the dye, rinse with cold water. Then throw the pieces of dyed wool in the dryer with an old towel.

You're done!
Dying wool makes me feel like a little chemist in my own kitchen. There is a lot of experimentation going on. I throw in different types of wool in the same color pot to see how they will turn out. Sometimes I like what I get, and sometimes I discover that a certain piece of wool doesn't absorb the color as well as I had hoped. This is a very forgiving art because usually my reaction is "cool!". It's a good idea to record your process in case you ever want to duplicate the color again.


Abby and Stephanie said...

Great Nedra! I used to weave baskets and I would dye my own reed in the backyard in buckets and on the stove. They you get the colors you want.

Material Mary said...

sounds like a fun time--girlfriends, wool, retreat--what more do you want.

Sherri said...

Have fun with your retreat! And it was fascinating to learn about the wool dying process. Wool is one medium I'd like to work with one day in my quilts!

Dawn said...

Thanks for a great tutorial! I have never worked with wool, but have always wanted to. I just bought some this week to try in a little quilt...we will see how it goes!!

Gayle said...

Nedra - I don't feel like a chemist when I dye wool - I feel like a made scientist (and I like to cackle while doing it!) LOL I'm glad to hear that you're spreading 'wool love' around in St. George.

Gayle said...

Oops, I meant MAD scientist, not made scientist!

Micki said...

That was a great tutorial and have fun with it all! I loved all the colours!

iappearjiggy said...

Nedra; do you recommend any specific products for marking on wool for embroidery? Or do you just free style? Have been designing some embroidery pieces for wool, and not sure how to transfer the pattern..have you tried the chalks by Bohin?

amy smart said...

Aaahh! I love hand dyed wool. I've only done it once myself (trying to get some robin's egg blue wool) and it was so fun and turned out SO pretty. I love seeing what you've created and the projects your working on. That little tomato is too cute.