I've been fielding a lot of questions about dyeing lately and it seems we have more time for it right now.
You can tell how I'm feeling about our times. I hope you have some spring in your step and a sparkle in your eye!
I've always been and continue to be a proponent of dyeing by eye.
That said I've spent countless hours and bolts of wool creating formulas for you to use.
So why would I think it's better to dye by eye?
Early on in my hooking career there was the big change over with what I was told, the rug hooker's dye company, they changed to acid dyes from I can't remember exactly because my interest in those dyes, the pkg, the numerous colours needed, the dullness and the price for me in Canada, was very low.
So I was on the sidelines watching when people lost their ever loving minds.
Some colours changed slightly, some stayed the same, others looked differently while in the pkg. People went crazy. I couldn't understand what the problem was. So I started asking questions. Well they had favorites and formulas created over eons, books, samples, systems and such that no longer worked. They could no longer expect the same results they had always enjoyed and come to rely on.
Now these many years later I can tell you the dye supplying business is one of adaptation. Suddenly a key ingredient in your mix is being phased out or not made. Over the span of Majic Carpet Dye Company's life there have been 7 or 8 supply issues with adaptations made.
Some you noticed, others you did not but that was mostly because of stealth. No one told you.
When I look back at the books I purchased for Majic Carpet Dyes, and see the sample page of the dye colours I'm shocked. And they have never been exposed to light because I never used these books, but that's a story for another day.
The dye samples in these formula books bear little resemblance to my samples today, these books are about 24 years old.
Dyeing is a study of adaptation because dyes change.
To rely on formulas as the gospel will spell hardship. To rest only on systems and procedures will mean you are not free to learn to adjust and if you want to be a skilled dyer adjust you must.
Only your eyes will help you do this.
Here are some things that will help you tremendously.
1. When you get any any dye into your home dye a sample of it right away. 1/32 tsp of dye over 1/32 yd of wool ( 1/4 yd. divided evenly into 8 pieces) This is reference of that dye in your dyeing conditions. It allows you to see the value of it, the saturation, the temperature and the exact colour it is allowing you to place it on the colour wheel. Do not pass this step. You cannot tell what a dye is by it's name. To remain unsampled means you hold a wild card in your hand, it might be a skunk, a bomb or a bouquet to what you're doing but you won't know until you use it.
2. It's better to know a few dyes incredibly well than entertain a 100. Having 10 to 20 dyes spread over the colour wheel is good. You can't be close friends with group that large, you won't remember their details, increasing your your reliance on notes and things others tell you about them. You'll need a social secretary. A small carefully selected group is much more workable and mixable too.
3. Your recorded experience of what you dyed with what and how is far more valueable a book and samples than one another wrote. Get a Multi-media sketch book and start writing down what you do, dye additions, amounts of wool, methods. Samples of wool before and after, show a smear of dye after each addition as you create your formula.
4. Invest in 5 yards of wool to dye like a nutcase, just dye 1/8th yd. of anything you please, thoughts you had about colour mixing, just do a bunch of samples, record them all.
Or you can take a more measured approach and if using Majic Carpet Dyes dye all 14 colours with equal measures of all the others. Keep your measures small if dyeing over 1/8 yd. Using the example of my sampling ratio, 1/32 tsp. to 1/32 yd. , you might be tempted to use 1/8th + 1/8th over 1/8th yd. You'll be using two colours this time, so divide the measurement by half, 1/16th tsp. Using this measure means often the colours are very dark and not easily discerned unless you're a daughter of darkness. So I suggest to have samples that are more easily colour read you use 1/32 tsp. of each dye for this two dye sample.
So your controlled sample would be: over 1/8th yd. of wool 1/32 tsp. Colour One + 1/32 tsp. Colour Two
5. The experience of working idea number 4 will be invalueable to knowing your friends. And when an old friend passes away and a new friend comes in its place it is simply an opportunity to get to know a new wonderful friend, sad but with hope also. Your new friend might interact even more wonderfully with your old friends.
6. Get a good colour wheel because dyeing is where it is truly valueable. Did you know you can make Blue with Green and Violet? Did you know the neighbour of Violet's Opposite Colour - Yellow, which is orange will cancel violet out too in a more interesting way?
Studying your dyes ( as long as you know where they belong ) and the colour wheel will set you on a lifetime of joy and discovery.
7. For the colour lover, this is where true happiness lies. Exploring what's possible.
8. Most any formula you run into is a medium value. You dye a bunch of as written formulas you are going to have a shit ton of medium valued wool. Change your dye measurement tools to scale the value up or down. Any formula can be made into a swatch. Any formula worth it's salt can be read for intelligent information. It tells you what the writer did to get from A to B. Start reading them for intel.
9. You might be afraid or not know where to start. You gotta start with the expectation that you don't care what happens, that 5 yard investment is your fun money. Have fun with it. Have no notions of hoped for results, work with wonder not worry.
10. You think I can't hear you? I know what you're saying, you think I'm crowned special so I can do this "dyeing by eye". I'm not special, I acted deliberately, with a plan and care with my measures and samples as I played with a small selection of colours. That's how I know my friends and they are as predictable as day turning to night. I can count on them and even when they dye (outrageous pun) my memory of them allows my work with my new friends to be rich and deeper and I see and understand their differences.
To read more about how to dye by eye, how to create a formula for a colour you see please read this column called Inspired By Nature. in The Welcome Mat.
To learn more about being a great dyer get my Beginner Dye course, an downloadable book with videos.
You've got a colour goddess inside you, I know because you love colour. Let her lay down the probablilities and lift up the possibilities.