Saturday, March 28, 2009
Cup o' Color
Wool rag is my favorite material to weave into rugs, runners and coverlets. Strips are narrow, about 1/2 inch wide, and cut only as I need them. Rya knots tied in wool rag weave have a shaggy texture. Rya woven boat blankets from Finland and Norway, and old rag coverlets from Finland and Russia inspire me. Rough and shaggy weaves were meant to function like animal hides, for warmth, and I like those textures. I am interested in very old Scandinavian design motifs, Tree of Life, animal and botanical stylized forms, and pre-Christian motifs. (I am a born again post pre-Christian, by way of religion). That is, I'm not a church-goer.
I use new wool blanket remnants, bought by the pound from one of the last midwestern woolen mills. This high quality fabric is one that I have learned how to dye with consistently good results.I keep dye records stapled to little manila cards, with brief notes about the dye colors I used, and very rough proportions. I'm not much of a record keeper, but this is enough to
Since I like to see a lot of subtle color variations in my rugs, especially in the same rug, this method of saving color recipes works for me. Many shades of a color are much more interesting to look at than the same shade woven all the way through. Think of the many shades of color as the light filters down through the tree leaves as you walk on a path through the woods. Many shades of color on your path! This is color that is alive. I want my weaves to look alive. If I were painting, I'd need to blend lots of colors, and use many shades. Weave rag like a painter.
Another advantage of wool dyeing is that I usually need only dye 1/2 yard pieces. I have a designated stainless steel kettle with a lid that I use for dying. It holds a 1/2 yard piece at a time, with plenty of room for slosh. The size of the piece is easy to handle.
Though there are dyes meant just for wool (for instance Lanaset) I prefer to use Procion fiber reactive dyes, heated with salt, and vinegar, per instructions, for my dye bath. Use a mask when measuring the dry dyes, and wearing rubber gloves may be a good idea, too. I simmer the wool, stirring frequently with a wooden paint stick, until nearly all the dye is absorbed. This can take 1/2 to one hour. I like to let the dye bath cool then, while occasionally stirring the wool. Since my wool rugs are washable, it's important that the dye is color fast, and fade resistant. This is especially important to me for colors which often run, like red. Procion dyes are very economical to use on wool, since a little goes a long way with most colors. They are versatile and can also be used with soda ash, and cold water to dye linen and cotton. The dye bath can be disposed of down the drain safely. It is often almost clear.
I rinse the new dyed wool in warm first, and then cool water, then line dry. It's best to do this in spring, summer and fall. But I also dye in winter. And it is dependably fun to make some new colors to weave.