Ordered Pancake (casserole) Dyeing

One of the reasons I so admire Gene Shepherd’s work, is his amazing use of colour. I am instinctively a monochromatic person, but I’m determined to learn, and push the boundaries of my knowledge and imagination regarding the use of colour. I think that’s why I have been rather disappointed with my dyeing to date for Hygieia. It was only variations of two colours. I’ve spent time staring at the details of the painting, and trying to analyse the actual colours in the folds and curves of the fabrics. Then I had to decide how I could merge these colours seamlessly into my hooking, what colours to try, and how to dye them.

I decided to use the pale yellow cashmere jacket I found at Good Will and use the  ‘ordered pancake’ dye technique. By roughly laying the pieces over other wool, I decided I had about a yard of fabric. I re-watched Gene’s video, and set out with my fingers crossed, to create something beautiful (I hoped).


I settled on 6 colours: (all pro chem)  poppy red, red, paprika, raspberry, mahogany, and mustard, and made up a dye bath for each using 1/8 tsp. dye in 1 1/2 cbw….plus a little vinegar in each one.


Since I was using odd shaped pieces from the jacket, I cut the larger pieces to fit my pan, and for the last layers, used several of the smaller pieces in one layer.


With the first layer in the pan, I spooned on the colours in splotches, making sure it was entirely covered.


I did this for each successive  layer, but kept each colour in the same general position each time (raspberry – top right, mahogany – bottom right etc. I added water to the dye baths as I got near the last layers, spooned dye from the edges to help blur the edges, and added a bit of water to the surface, when I wanted it a bit lighter.


I think I had about 10 or 12 layers, but I didn’t count them.


Ray helped me pour off the excess dye, keeping the wool in place so it didn’t slide out of the pan. Then I added white vinegar around the edges, and some water so it wouldn’t boil dry. I covered it with tin foil, and simmered on the stove (I used 2 burners) for 1 hour.


This is what I ended up with…….that’s more like it!

Dyeing and tracing and dyeing and tracing

Well I think I’ve found a red that really pleases me. I found the poppy red by itself was a little too orange, although I’m sure I’ll use it for highlights, but I dyed another 1/2 yard in 1/4 tsp poppy red, and 1/16 tsp red, and that seems just what I was looking for. I’ll try the same formula over the oatmeal and see how that turns out.


The next step was to come up with a gold colour that I liked. I tried a combination of sun yellow and mustard. 1/4 tsp. sun yellow and 1/16 tsp. mustard. I like the results of  this formula too.  I needed some more variations of these two.  So I used 1 1/2 cup colour bath, and increased the dye amounts accordingly, then used one cup to dye and 1/2 cup to spot.


There is a greater variation in the the pieces, which I like, but now I need to have variation in the colour of the red itself. One thought I’ve had is to spot dye using red, poppy red, and paprika, or introducing some raspberry or magenta spots (all I need is 20 yards of wool to play with!)


I have the light yellow cashmere soaking ( from the jacket I found at Good Will), but I’m still debating how to dye it.


I have about 1/2 of the pattern transferred, but it’s a slow process. If I draw too quickly, there isn’t time for the ink to go through onto the linen.


Sometimes I need to go over a portion if it has come through too faintly…..actually I go over most of it to make sure the final lines are sharp and clear. To do this I securely pin the pattern around the area to be lifted and overdrawn, so the whole thing remains in the right place.


Now that I have the face transferred I feel as if she has come to life,……… and she’s telling me to get more colours into the wool!

Reds and pattern transfer

Monday was a special day…our youngest son Mathieu’s birthday. Ray and I went down to Toronto to take him, and his girlfriend (whose birthday was Friday) out to dinner.  What a wonderful meal we had at a little French Bistro. As a result…the only hooking related activity I did was to put some wool to soak before we left. ..But in the process I discovered that I had made a mistake with the lazy swatches I’d dyed the day before. Rather than dyeing 1/3 yard of the poppy red…I had actually dyed 1/2 yard. (it’s a good thing that I like it). The wool I intend to dye today is oatmeal coloured, so I’m hoping to get a duller, deeper red. Let’s see what happens.


A good start.


I’ve begun the next step in the pattern process. Having finished sketching the pattern outline on the red dot, I drew a line around the outside of the pattern matching the lines on the tintest at 3′ and 6′.  The linen needed a good steaming to get rid of the wrinkles and creases, then I laid it out on the tintest, and leaving a 6″ border, I pinned a corner in the right spot.


Using my marker, I drew in the ditches to outline the 3′ x 6′ perimeter ,


then matched the ditch outline to the tintest grid markings, and pinned it all down.


Then I put the red dot on top, matched the outside perimeters, and pinned it down.


 Now I’m ready to draw on the pattern with the ink pen to transfer the pattern unto the linen. I know this would be a much easier process with a light table, but I only have a glass topped coffee table, and I somehow think it works better that I can lay the whole thing out flat. 

Next stage- testing lazy swatches

I think I have pretty well completed drawing the pattern on the red dot. whew!


WHile doing some research for this project, I found quite a number of pictures depicting Glimt’s Hygieia. I chose the version I did for drawing…mostly because it was the largest I could find, its dimensions worked well for the grid drawing, and the one whose colour scheme I liked best (particularly the background)….


What dumb reasoning!! I so often get smart in hindsight! That version had a smokey, impressionistic bent, which made it very difficult to distinguish many of the details, and I was getting lost as I got down to the finer points!


One of the other versions is much sharper in its outlines, and more in the style I’ll be able to achieve using wool strips instead of paint. So…with all the major elements in place, I switched to this picture, and Oh how much easier it was to complete the details.

 I’ve been debating about the colours and how best to dye them. I think I’ll start with  lazy swatches done with my new red colour , pro chem poppy red, and see how it turns out. I don’t have a huge stash, and don’t want to ‘waste’ a lot of wool with testing, so I’ll dye it over 1/3 yard Dorr natural . I watched Gene’s video again to refresh my memory, and it really was quick and easy.


The picture shows 1/3 yard cut in 4 equal pieces.

(Gene’s recipe calls for 1 yard and 1/2 tsp. so I should start with  1/3 yard and 1/6 tsp. dye)….but I don’t have a 1/6 measurement. I’ve fiddled around with the fractions, and decided that I will just go with 1/4 tsp. dye.


 If I like it, it’s easy to multiply up for bigger pieces.


The pieces were added to the simmering pot at 35 second intervals. Then simmered for 1 hour. (Only swished as I put them in so it would be mottled)


 It’s very pretty but I’m not sure it’s the colour I want…seems very ‘orangy’, so I’ll likely try another combination. I’ll wait till its dry to make that decision.

Drawing Hygieia and thinking out loud

One of the first things I realized as I began drawing the pattern, was that I would have to scrap the notion I had of doing this in 6 and 8 cuts.


I think in order to get the kind of detail I would like, I will be using everything from 3 on up.


As I look at her hair, it appears ‘fluffy/curly, and is ‘ragged’ along the edges, so I’m thinking that a thick twisted wool might give me the effect. The gold circles in the hair were ( I think) originally gold leaf, so perhaps I’ll think of applying small gold discs. Lots of ideas percolating as I go along…..Wait a minute…


having taken a picture of her head from another version…I now see that the curly hair is dark brown and up close to her face, and the black with gold is actually a headpiece!


The detail given her neckpiece also varies quite a bit between the renditions, as well as the headpiece. I wonder what other surprises  await me as I study her in detail!!


Since the original was destroyed in 1945, all the photos I am looking at are of reproductions, and I’ve noticed that in some of them she looks very ‘jowl-ee’. When drawing the face using the grid as my reference, she did indeed end up very wide just below the chin.


I’ve narrowed that down until I’m satisfied with the look. The more drawing I do, the more I stand back for the overall effect and make adjustments. Also as I get details placed, I find I go over them with long sweeping lines, not short ‘square-to-square- ones.


As a result, there’s been a lot of erasing going on! The red dot isn’t too fond of that, and scrubs up quite considerably, but I’m trusting that that won’t make a difference when I’m drawing with the sharpie. I have read various comments that say never to use a sharpie…use a scrub-a-dub? (I’m not sure of the name). I’ve never found them,I’ve always used sharpies and never had a problem, so that’s likely what I’lll use again. (especially since I have a half box of them left over from when I drew my hall rug patterns) Looking forward to getting to that step.

Getting Hygieia pattern underway

All the flowers, vines and leaves of the runner are now hooked, and only background is left to do. I dyed up another yard of antique black a few nights ago, but I’m sure I’ll need one or two more yards to finish. I jump all around and mix the wool, always saving bits from each dye batch to mix with the next. (sounds so purposeful doesn’t it…but really I’m too impatient to work straight down)


While working away on black background, I need something more stimulating to occupy my mind, and of course it’s my next project…Hygieia.


Ray and I hauled the 4×8 sheet of tintest from the basement, extended the diningroom table with extra leaves, and I started by checking if I had enough ‘red dot’ to do the pattern. Turns out I have plenty, but it is narrow and needs to be taped together down the middle. fortunately I have a very accurate 3″ grid on the tintest, because the dots on the ‘red dot’ aren’t completely accurate 1″ squares. No matter which edges I tried to join, they would not match up over a 6′ span. I’ll be ignoring them as I draw the pattern!


The picture I’m using is 6″ x 12″ and the rug is to be 3′ x 6′.  The grid is 3″squares on the tintest…so by drawing a grid on the picture at 1/2″ intervals….each 1/2 inch square will correspond to one 3″ square on the tintest. I’m no artist, but hopefully I can draw the details of each square relatively accurately.


The first thing I noticed as I started drawing on the red dot, was that I would have trouble keeping track of the squares, so I numbered the squares both horizontally and vertically on both the picture and pattern to be able to keep track of the grid squares. (I’ve never done this before, so it is very much a hit and miss learning process as I go.) Because bending to draw is uncomfortable for my back, I’ll just do a little at a time, so this whole process may take awhile. 


On my way home today from the Sunshine meeting, I dropped by the Good Will. My intention was just to look for a pyrex measuring cup (which they didn’t have), but of course I had to wander through the clothing sections, with the Hygieia colours in mind. I found a red hound’s tooth skirt, a pale yellow cashmere jacket, and a dull pumpkin cashmere jacket (it looks much deeper in the picture than it actually is). Of course I bought them all, popped them in the washer when I got home, and have been happily taking them apart while watching the Westminster Dog Show this evening. (I was rooting for the Shar Pei who looked very much like our dear departed Beijong).

 I don’t ordinarily use a great deal of recycled wool, but these all cut beautifully. I may well overdye them eventually since I’m determined to have lots of ‘married colours’  available for this project.

More work in progress

More photos from last Tuesday’s Sunshine meeting. 


Cheri is just getting started with this rug.  She is the talented lady who makes the hooked ‘lady’ necklaces (which I showed on an earlier blog). This large rug will be three ladies sitting in Muskoka chairs. One of them is this stunning red head. 


Marion is doing the background of this beautifully shaded scroll


What Yummy colours…a crewel style design…the blue”flower” on the left is very reminiscent of one of the motifs in my hall runner (but much more delicately shaded).


I think this is Gail’s work…but I should have had her open it out so we could see the design . She creates her own patterns, and hand cuts the strips.  She is just starting this rug too.


Joanne’s piece is a representation of the four seasons with the wind blowing across…so creative!


What a homey wee cottage..I particularly like the treatment of the trees.


Cynthia was knitting  rather than hooking last week, but look at her little bag…(not sure if she uses it for her scissors, or ?? Mexican inspired…that’s a tiny portrait of Freda Kahlo (who could mistake those eyebrows)  Isn’t that amazing?


Cathy is working a Deanne Fitzpatrick pattern. I love the strong colours, and the background is wonderful !


Willa has finished her cat and crows, and is deciding how she wants to finish it. The cat has such personality!


These last two photos show a bell pull. The birds were hooked by Hilda (I assume quite some time ago) Someone else just finished the background for her…I’m sorry I don’t know who that was) 

I think I’ve said before that I live in a hooking Mecca. Our group meets each week, and there are other groups in the area. Huronia meets in Barrie, (25 miles south) another meets in Gravenhurst (20 miles north) and another in Midland (20 miles west)…the lake is to the east . Saturday I attended a hook -in hosted by Huronia, and held at the Simcoe County Museum in Midhurst. A great day of hooking. Good friends, good hooking, good food…..dreadful driving ( drove through blowing snow and white-outs both ways….you’ve got to love winter in Central Ontario).

Sunshine Rug Hookers …work in progress

Last Tuesday I took my camera to the meeting of Sunshine Rug hookers, since I wanted to take pictures of Hilda and her rugs. I decided while I was there to also take pictures of the work that was being done by the other members. I always enjoy seeing what other hookers are up to, and I hope you do too.


Hilda Hayes gave this pattern to another hooker since it was now too small for her to see. It was originally intended as a stained glass piece, but Linda has decided not to do it that way.


Luise has recently become our ‘polar bear expert’. She has done several wonderful pictorials of polar bears, and now people keep sending/giving her cute pictures of them that they find.


Cecelia is hooking this impressive lion from a poster that was on her grandson’s wall…wow!


This hooker is also a quilter…can you tell? I love the effect of the dark and light.


Darlene decided to use some of the plaids she had…each circle is a different plaid (by the way she hooked this in one week)


Gail bought this pattern while on a visit to the Dorr Wool store. I love her colour choices, and always admire her beautiful even loops. 


Not only did Darlene complete the plaid circles in one week…she is well along in a new project. I wish I had had her spread it out to see it better…I just LOVE that face!


This pig is so full of personality…I think he’s talking to me!


I love the colour palette of Edie’s persian. The whole thing is so detailed!

There are many more pictures, and I’ll show them next post. In the meantime, I’m continuing with the background of my hall runner. But YIPEE…today the parcel of backing arrived for Hygieia, and the new dyes I ordered from pro chem also came. I can now begin the pattern drawing process, and start experimenting with the new colours.

A Tribute to Hilda Hayes

The most senior member of the Sunshine Rug Hookers, is a truly wonderful lady. Hilda Hayes was born in England in 1917 and is 93 years young.


She and her husband  immigrated to Canada in 1976 just in time for the birth of their grandson Chas Mugford. She had always been a skilled crafts person, and made wonderful stuffed animals which she sold. However it was in Orillia , at the Young at Heart Workshop that she first became acquainted with rug hooking. In Hilda’s words…once she started, she just kept going. Some of her work included amazing waldoboro sculptured pieces, and fine shaded hooking of rugs and wall hangings, geometrics and orientals. She still lives in her own home (her husband passed away in  1999), and although she is now legally blind (one needs to identify oneself when speaking to her so she knows who it is), and she uses a walker to get around, she is a regular at meetings, and will once again be attending Trent Rug Hooking School this June (where I’m told she is the life of the party). She now hooks with a wider cut and a strong light to illuminate her work, and another member helps with the finishing, as she can no longer see well enough to do the fine work. Yet she has just completed two wonderful matching 10′ long runners.


They are to cover two benches owned by her granddaughter Adele. Adele designed them, and they show the same scene four times throughout the seasons.









Hilda hooked each season separately, then Gail Meuller (a skilled and innovative Sunshine rug hooker) joined the sections, hooked the merging portions and did the finishing.


What a precious keepsake to have from a wonderful Grandmother!

The Origin of my Hall Rugs

Several people have asked me if I designed the pattern for my hall rugs, or if it was a commercial one I bought. I always reply, saying it is  adapted from a design by Pearl McGown called Queen Mary (actually I may have said Queen Anne….but I see now it is Queen Mary…I plead old age for such errors).  However, when I was putting my pattern together I was completely in the dark as to its origins. I had borrowed a book from the Sunshine Hookers library, which had a section with patterns for use in the back. These were un-named, and crudely drawn outlines on  graph paper.  I enlarged two of them, cut them up, and re-arranged them (using parts, discarding some) to create the two related patterns of the right sizes for my rugs. (below is a picture of the patterns I ended up with- these were then transferred to the backing – I discussed the details of that  process in the very first blog -scroll down, choose #5 and scroll down to the end if you are interested)


Some time later, when the rugs were actually underway, I was leafing through an old copy of RHM (June/July/August 2003) and to my great surprise…there was the original rug.


It had received second place in the “Commercial designs or adaptations” category of Celebration XII. It was done in a 4 cut, by Cheryl Meese of Duluth Minnesota, with terrific detail  and shading. I was really excited to see the ‘original design’. I must admit I then referred to this picture a number of times to determine  details that were missing on my sketchy outline, but many of my motifs bear little resemblance to Pearl McGown’s.


The McGown pattern is perfectly symmetrical, while mine does not repeat in the centre section.  The central looping vines however are unmistakable.