Thursday, January 25, 2018

How To Marble Wool Without Dye

     This post will be boring to most folks unless you're into fiber arts or rug hooking. I am so excited about the success of these dyeing methods that it's hard not to share with those who might be interested.
     I've been working on Karen Kahle's "Vermont" rug for months now and I was having trouble finding just the right blues for the sky portion. I previously dyed some pretty blue wool to use for the sky, but I didn't marble it and after it was hooked it looked very 'flat'. I continued hooking the rug, but my eyes kept going back to that flat blue sky and I really didn't like it. (There's so much for me to learn and I've only had the opportunity to take one class, so my learning curve is very slow here.) I searched online for wool to purchase, but again I couldn't find the right shades of blue. I also didn't want to invest any more money into this rug. Not to be discouraged, and being a do-it-yourselfer, I ran across Karen Kahle's method for 'marrying wool' and marbelizing wool. The Website, "Folk 'n' Fiber has the step-by-step process published HERE if you would like detailed instructions. After dyeing my first batch of wool with this method with much success, I photographed the second dye batch so I could share.
     The equipment needed for this method is: Enamel pot with no chips, wool, tongs or large spoon, rubber gloves, white household vinegar, apron, powder Tide or powder Borax, rubber bands or string.
     To make the wool for my sky, I chose a dark blue wool, a green, and a white wool. These were all pieces I had from old 100% wool garments found or given to me from thrift stores.*I tore the garments into strips that were about equal in size. I layered them in alternating layers of blue, white, green, white, etc. I wanted the white wool to take on the blue and green dye.

      After layering, I rolled the stack in half, longways, and secured it in multiple places with rubber bands. Alternatively, you could tie it with string or other strips of wool.It now looks like a big sausage.  : )

      Place the wool roll into the prepared pot of water with about 1 tablespoon of detergent. You will use just enough water to cover the wool and you want the wool to just fit inside the pot. So, if you have a small batch of wool, use a smallish pot..The wool goes in dry to begin. No pre-soaking. After I put my wool into the pot, I needed to add a little more water to barely cover it. Smoosh the wool down with the tongs or spoon to mix in the detergent and wet the dry coil of wool.

     Simmer the wool coil for 30 minutes. Do not boil the water or the wool will felt which is not good to do! I continued to occasionally smoosh the coil with the spoon to work the colors in.

     After 30 minutes, add 1/2 cup of white vinegar to set the dyes back into the wool. Let it all simmer another 30 minutes or until the water has mostly cleared and the dyes have all been taken up by the wool.
     Rinse the wool in varying steps of warm then cooler water. (You don't want abrupt changes in water temperature on the wool or again, it may felt.) When it's cool enough to handle, cut the ties and rinse the pieces of wool. This is the fun part, to be amazed at how great the wool turned out.
     For the final step, I put the wool pieces in the clothes dryer with a towel and a dryer sheet set on medium heat. This fluffs it nicely for hooking.
     It's now ready to cut into strips for hooking. Note, the tied areas give the wool the most interest.

     I am in the process of  reverse hooking (aka pulling out the previously hooked wool strips) and hooking in the newly dyed marbleized wool. Below are the new sky results. No more flat sky! Yay!

*Any time used wool or wool garments are acquired, it is very important to wash the wool before ever introducing it into your home or near your stash of wool. Used wool may contain moth eggs or larvae and could potentially infest all of your good wool. I remove buttons and deconstruct used garments outside the house. Then I take the wool pieces directly to the basement and into the washing machine. I use warm water with a small amount of regular laundry detergent. Then dry on medium heat in the dryer.


  1. Lenora,
    I am so happy you left a comment on my blog. How could you have been blogging for so many years and I not found it? Thank you for the great tutorial. In a previous post, you showed onion skin dyeing. I've been saving onion skins for years and have not done anything with them.
    Can I give you a shout out on my blog? I think some of my followers would love to read about your dyeing.
    BTW...I love your rug and the sky is perfect.
    Hugs :)

    1. Thank you for visiting, Lauren, and for your kind words. Yes, by all means, share my blog. I'm new to rug hooking, so my posts on that subject are limited, but I love to share what I'm learning : )

  2. Even though I am not into crafts, Lee, this was an interesting post to see the process from start to finish.

  3. I am visiting from Laurens blog. That is a very good tutorial. I have wanted to learn how to do that and it is easy with your pictures. Your rug is very nice. Welcome! I am a rug hooker too.

  4. I also am visiting from Lauren's blog. I am relatively new to rughooking and have not tried dyeing. I love the results you got for your sky, it is beautiful. Your explanation is so clear that it makes me believe that I could also do this. Love your rug!

  5. Also visiting from Lauren's blog I did this kind of dying before and it is very interesting and different. I did look back at the onion skin dye which I have never done but I did do it with acorns which is yellow.Love your rug.

  6. Me too, I'm visiting from Lauren's blog. I love your tutorial on the marbleizing the wool for your sky. I'll be trying that method soon I hope, before I forget... I'm actually hooking a flat blue sky right now and I'm not pleased with it. I only have the very basic hooking course so I'm glad to see how your wool turned out.

  7. Oh my goodness - the craftsmanship that is going into is amazing. I'm in awe of you. The rug is gorgeous and love that blue sky!

  8. Lauren was right, your work doesn't look much like a newbie rug hooker. I've used that Karen Kahle method of marbleizing wool and love it. Haven't done that or over dying in a while guess I'd better get busy before hot weather arrives in July.

  9. What a difference your new wool makes in that sky!!! Congrats.

  10. Fascinating. Creative, Clever...
    I could go on and on!