Problems in the Dye Kitchen

Every project has its challenges, and of course, my hall rugs are no exception. I ‘ve kept a record of each dye recipe I used with a swatch beside it, so it could be easily reproduced as needed. A year ago last spring, (April 2009) when I started the ‘door’ rug, I dyed each colour several times  with no problems.  I set the rug aside during that summer, resumed hooking in the fall, and finished the ‘door’ rug last winter. I began the runner almost immediately, again dyed wool successfully then once more set it aside for the summer months. When I took it up again this past fall, I found I needed to dye additional wool, and much to my dismay, found I could not reproduce some of the colours accurately.

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The two main problem areas were, a gold/brown spot dye, in which the brown became reddish, and a deep vibrant blue, which lost most of its vibrancy.(the blues are both darker than they appear in the photo) I tried everything I could think of to correct the problem…scrubbed and scrubbed the pots to remove any possible residue, changed pots, double…triple, checked that I was measuring accurately…all to no avail.

I discussed my dilemma with several people, and finally talked with Jean Chabot (a wonderful hooker, teacher, friend). She recalled having had this problem at one time and determined that it was from changes in the water. We get our water from Lake Couchiching ( it was once pristine and delicious to drink) and now various amounts of chemicals are added depending on the conditions. Sometimes I can smell the chlorine when I turn on the tap. Most of my dyeing had been done in the spring and early summer, when fewer chemicals would be needed, rather than in the late summer and fall, when the water would be at its warmest.

Now I knew what  was likely the problem, but had no way to fix it short of waiting for spring to dye the wool I needed. I’m sure a skilled dyer could make the necessary changes in the formulae to recreate the originals, but I am pretty much a ‘hit and miss’ dyer with little patience, who has more fun than skill when dyeing. Adaptability needs to be the watchword of the hooker, so I forged ahead. I salvaged every scrap of the brown highlights, but was ultimately forced to use some of the reddish ones, mixing them back and forth. For the blue, I decided (with Jean’s advice in mind) to do the entire last two motifs, with the duller blue, hoping they were far enough apart that it wasn’t noticeable.

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You can see the differences when the rug is folded so that the motifs are together, but fortunately the runner is long and narrow so they are quite a distance apart when it is stretched out. Rather than being a fault, I like to think it gives it character!

I’ve thought about how I could keep this problem from happening again and I think maybe if I were to fill my pots at the same time I put my wool to soak, and let it too sit overnight (letting the chlorine evaporate) I might get a more  consistent dye result. ….might be worth a try.

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