Friday, April 20, 2007

Penny rugs and wool dyeing

I have always been intrigued by Penny rugs, so, while at Joann’s, I bought this booklet.

I don’t know of any local sources here in Sac for small pieces of wool felt. Joann does carry some wool felt blends (35% wool/ 65% rayon) manufactured by National Non-wovens Co. I bought some black and while yardage.

Being familiar with handpainting and hand dyeing wool, I experimented. Here are the results:

I used Rit dye since it colors wool, cotton, rayon and other natural fibers. Not acrylics, though (which of course is not a natural fiber-lol!)

I cut the white wool felt in smaller pieces (fat eight size) and soaked them in warm water.

I heated about a gallon of water and added about ¼ cup of Glauber’s salt (kitchen salt works too). I think the purpose of the salt is for an even absorption of the dye. Simmer.

Then, in about a ¼ cup of warm water, I dissolved 1 tsp of Soda Ash (powdered laundry detergent works as well). BTW, all these ingredients can be purchased at They also have the Procion MX dyes used for cotton and rayon fabrics and yarns. Rit dye , however, is easily available anywhere.

I measured some Rit dye , maybe 1 tsp (depending on how dark you want the color to turn out), and added that to the simmering water/salt solution. Mixed it real well until all powder is dissolved. Then, I added the soda ash mixture. The fabric goes in after that.

At this point , the water should be hot. You can turn off the heat. Leave the fabric for about 30 mins to an hour and watch it absorb the color. My fabric shrank a little bit (that’s the wool!). I rinsed it in warm tap water and hung it outside to dry.

Very important note: The dyeing implements I use, pots, measuring cups, spoons, etc. are separate from my cooking utensils. I purchased a stainless steel pot from Walmart for this purpose. The bigger the better. Thrift stores have lots of them, cheap.

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