Friday, August 16, 2013

Dyeing Wool with Ice

I haven't done anything related to rug hooking in many weeks, but when I ran across simple directions for ice dyeing the other day, I had to try it. I found the instructions on a Facebook page called "Renditions in Rags Hooked and Braided Rugs."

Almost all the wool I use for hooking is recycled from old clothing. Online I've encountered some really fine rug hookers who buy their wool new, yard after expensive yard. I am not one of them. I love "the hunt," and am particularly excited when I find a subtle plaid or check, as these can be ever so much more interesting to hook with than a solid color.

But more interesting still are the completely random patterns one can create with dyeing. I love dyeing surprises! Ice dyeing is one way to achieve them, and it turned out to be the easiest dye method I've ever tried.

In my first attempt, I started out with dark brown wool. I went through all the steps, and ended up with dark brown wool. This was not the kind of surprise I was hoping for! It was my error, and a rather dumb one; the wool was too dark to take up the medium-value dyes. So I tried again with some beige wool from an old blazer. Here it is:

I started by soaking the wool in water to which I added a little liquid detergent and some dishwasher rinse agent. These additions make the wool wet all the way through.

When it was thoroughly soaked I got out my tall enamel pot and put an inch of water in it, along with "two glugs" (that's what the instructions said) of white vinegar. I put the wet wool in, and filled up the pot with ice.

Then I got out my dyes. I wanted the end result to be subtle . . . beige mottled with browns and greens. I chose my colors accordingly: Golden Brown, Old Gold, and Bronze Green.

The instructions said to use up to 1 teaspoon of dye. I had three colors, so I needed a 1/3-tsp. measuring spoon. A "pinch" sounded about right.

I carefully opened the dye packets (you do not want this stuff to scatter), and spooned it out.

Then I sprinkled it over the top of the ice.

After stirring it all up, I put the pot in the oven and baked it for an hour at 300 degrees. That's it. Like I said—easy!

Once the wool was rinsed and dried (outside on hangers), I was able to see the result. It was exactly what I'd hoped for. I had a hard time getting the color right in this photo, and it still needs improvement. The piece on the right looks more grey than brown. But you get the idea. It'll be exciting to hook with. The only unwelcome surprise was an occasional small smear of red. I think one of the dyes—probably Golden Brown—contained some red, and since ice dyeing puts the wool in direct contact with the dry dye, a single grain of red could have made those marks. Depending on where I use the wool, I can either leave the red in or cut the wool around them. There are only a few.

Here's my finished wool, or the best approximation I could come up with. It was a fun project.