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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Dye Course - November 2013

by Jacqueline Bouchard

Having discovered the craft of rug hooking in the fall 2012, I immediately joined the Beaconsfield Rug Hooking Guild. I am gradually learning the vocabulary and the techniques. At first, I thought I could buy woolen fabrics in the exact colors I imagined or saw in the beautiful hooked rugs and pieces my clever and experienced co-hookers were creating. I was wrong! The colours of the many-hued blue skies, rose-petaled flowers or even pristine snow do not come in a bolt of fabric. They have to be created. This Fall I registered for the dye course given by Lois Morris, our experienced teacher, over three Monday mornings in November. I was given instructions to bring a note-book, a colour wheel and two sets of measuring spoons, one of which being spice spoons to measure a drop, a smidgen, a pinch or a hint. Very intriguing.

When I arrived for the first session, Lois was spreading very interesting material on the plastic-covered tables, electric deep-fryers/slow cooking pots, Pyrex dishes, jars and measuring cups, vinegar jugs and a bag of coarse salt.  When she also placed a large bag of onion skins in front of her, I was further intrigued.

She called the class to order and invited us to form duos to start lesson # 1. Mayumi and I teamed up, Ti and Riitta formed another duo and Rejean and Lois completed the teams. We were each given very detailed printed instructions and 12 packets of Cushing dyes. Lois provided the swatches divided into white, off-white, coloured, checked, light and dark, etc. The first demonstration consisted of dyeing with onionskins. It was a bit like making lasagna: repeated layers of onion skins, salt, strips of wool, topped by boiling water, then this concoction was cooked in the microwave. We all oohed and aahed over the results we had obtained; beautiful shades with ripples of gold, pinkish waves, and artistic designs. I could see reams of flowers in my next rug using these samples.

Over the next 2 lessons, while Mayumi stirred the dye pot and I measured, Lois revealed the secrets of the dye bath, swatch dyeing, value transitional swatch using colour 1 and colour 2 solutions. She explained the  use of vinegar as mordant. We nearly ran out of vinegar as it is used every time a new measure of colour solution is added to the pot. Of special importance, Lois showed us how to use the colour wheel, and the need for precise and accurate measurements to obtain the hue intended. Spot dyeing was another subject of demonstration and I was fascinated by the unlimited wealth of possibilities. We all took copious notes.. Each duo obtained different results in view of the choices in dye colour and measurement. Samples of swatches were divided and notes were swapped so that in the end we all had a sample of everything. Our teacher’s knowledge and enthusiasm was contagious –we all learned a great deal. We are now embarking on a colourful voyage of rug hooking.

Note: a full set of dye spoons consists of the following measurements: a Tad = ¼ tsp; a Dash = 1/8 tsp; a Pinch = 1/16 tsp; a Smidgen = 1/32 tsp; and a Drop = 1/64 tsp.
(Spice spoons are almost equivalent to a Dash, a Pinch, a Smidgen and a Drop.)

Caution: any vessel or utensil used for dyeing, should never be used for preparing food.