To dye or not to dye

July 6, 2008 0 comments | Updated January 27, 2021

Written by Cindi Gay

I received a question and thought I would answer it in a new post.

I am a newbie to rug hooking, and have a slightly silly question. Do you buy undyed wool? Or do you over dye?

New rug hookers are often frustrated when their rugs do not look the way they want them to.

Hand dyeing rug hooking wool
The Mess of Dyeing

As with any art or craft, your work is only as good as the materials you use to make them.For the scoop on rug hooking, a subscription to Rug Hooking Magazine is a must. Their website has been rewritten lately if you haven’t visited in a while.

Rug hookers as a rule prefer hand dyed wool. You cannot create the same look with factory dyed wool. That does not mean that you have to dye the wool yourself. You can buy it from someone else, usually a teacher. You can find the teachers at workshops (and you find the workshops in Rug Hooking Magazine) or if you are lucky, you can find one in your local area. Use the McGown National Guild website as a starting point. They list teachers by state.

Some rug hookers prefer to dye their own wool. You can get started with minimal equipment but do it because you love the process of making color. It is very physical. You must lift heavy pots filled with boiling water and you are on your feet, often for hours. Do not get into dyeing because you are shocked at the price for dyed wool. When you dye your own wool, you have to “buy” all your mistakes as well as the final color. It often takes me four or five pots to match a particular color if I have to develop my own recipe. That experience will cost you much more than the price of hand dyed wool and you will lose hours of hooking time that you can never get back.

If you decide to get into dyeing, order my book, Dyeing by the Numbers. It is a dye book with some recipes but the focus is on technique. I was unable to find this information anywhere else for my students. I started jotting down notes and it turned into over 60 pages of how-to instruction. Order the Recipes From the Dye Kitchen PRO Chem starting kit and a few tri-pour beakers. The starter kit is not in the catalog, but PRO Chem assures me that it is still available. Use #SLINC, price is $10.95 as of May 27, 2008. It is a low cost way to get started, but read my book before you purchase anything else. I explain why I prefer stainless steel to the enamel pots that others prefer. I give you the facts on both sides and you decide for yourself which will work. It will save you years of experimenting or struggling with the wrong equipment.

Thanks for the question. If you are wondering about something involving rug hooking be sure to ask. Leave a comment here, or ask privately by contacting me through the Contact Me page.

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