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I'm a mother of four grandmother of seven and great grandmother of three. I live with my husband in the house that we built with the help of my brothers and will have been married for 57 years this February.

Sunday, March 26, 2023


 This post is more like a tutorial on how I go about dying wool that I have on hand. I know that seasoned teachers and rug hookers will be bored with this post but if it can help even one person who would like to try dying wool without having to use dye, it will be worth it to me. The only dye I used was green for the whole project. You can marry wool of different colors for amazing results but for this project, I use colors that are similar.

First thing, I searched the public domain for a picture for my next rug and took a photo of it and put it in a file on my computer, and printed it. I printed it in black and white because I can't get the Epson printer to print in color since it was moved but at least, I have the color photo on my phone, so no problem.

I trace the photo on a  see-through mylar sheet. I cut out a hole at the bottom of a cardboard box and tape the traced picture inside the box. I then tape a large sheet of paper on the wall to trace the image onto the sheet of paper the size I want. I have to wait until it's dark enough so the picture can be traced onto the paper. I turn on the light on my cell phone and prop it into a cup. The light is bright enough to reflect the image on the wall when the lights are dimmed. It takes a little while to set this up so it's where you want the image to be. It sounds complicated but it's not.

I tape the drawn pattern on a window during the day and then tape my backing over the pattern. I then traced the pattern onto my backing. My husband is supposed to rig up a tracing table for me and it will be so much easier on my injured shoulder to trace the pattern onto the backing as I have difficulty raising my arm. 

I covered about a handful of dry onion skin with water and boiled it for about 20 minutes. The used onion skins were drained through a fine strainer and the dye was collected in a jar. 

I use onion skins to make dye for the flesh colors. I can make different shades by controlling the amount of dye solution I use. When I have the desired shade, I remove some of the wool and leave some pieces a little longer if I need more shades. I use citric acid as a mordant to get flesh color. If you use, alum or aluminum it will turn the wool bright yellow. 

Here is the onion skin dye solution. What wasn't used has been labeled and put in the freezer for later use. 

I put natural-white wool in a little bit of Palmolive dish soap to soak overnight and added a bit of onion skin dye solution in the water then added the wool and gently simmered it until I got the desired shade and removed the wool and put it in a bowl.

This is what color was left in the pot.  At this point, I could have put some more presoaked white wool to get a lighter shade but I didn't have any left so I dumped the dye out.

I refilled the pot with clear very hot water and added 1/8 teaspoon of citric acid as a mordant in the water and stirred then dumped the hot wool in and immediately submerged the wool and stirred to get an even color.  I gently simmered the wool for about 20 minutes.

 I dumped the content in the sink until the wool was cooled enough to handle and I rinsed it well, taking care not to let the wool get a sudden change of temperature so as not to shock the wool.

This photo was taken at night in poor lighting and the color is not as it shows.

Here, I'm marrying some different shades of blue without adding any dye. I forgot to take a photo before adding the wool to the pot. I had some dark, medium, light, and very light wool of different shades and added some Palmolive dish soap to leach the colors into the water and gently simmered the wool until it was pretty well all the same shade and I removed the wool into a metal bowl and added 1/8 tsp citric acid to the water and stirred and added the hot wool back into the hot water and gently simmered for about 20 minutes and rinsed well, etc. 

This is the blue I got. It's not as bright as this. I had difficulty showing the true color for some reason.

I forgot to take a picture of the wool I used for the dark brown but this is a representation of the colors I used.

I married the assorted brown and white wool together by simmering gently.

The wool was taken out of the pot and I added 1/8 teaspoon of citric acid in the brown water and dumped the wool back in and removed it right away back into the bowl and added another 1/4 teaspoon of citric acid and put it back on a gentle simmer for 20 minutes as I wanted an uneven dark color for the hair.  I was very pleased with how well the color worked. I rinsed the wool well of course.

This is what I got for the flesh, the head covering, and the dark hair.

I used assorted pieces of yellow from other rug projects and added some white wool to the mix as I wanted a very pale yellow for the halos.

Married assorted yellow wool until an even color. The wool always looks darker when wet.

 Pale yellow wool pieces drying on a cord in my dying kitchen.  I always like to use whatever wool I have available from my stash if I can get away with it. 

A sample of the red colors I used because I forgot to take a picture before marrying it. 

This is the result of marrying all the red for Mary's dress. 

I used grey wool from a skirt and simmered it in soapy water and changed the water three times as I wanted the wool to be green somewhat, and I added some Cushing Dark Green acid dye until I got the shade I was looking for. It was night time and the lighting was bad but it turned pretty much like what I was hoping for. I found out it took a long time to bleed the dye from gray wool. I'm pleased with how it turned out. I prefer dyeing wool during the day so I can see the colors better. My eyes are not very good anymore.

This is a darker gray wool skirt that I have had for quite some time. I want to use what I have for the background and I didn't want a harsh black background.  This will do just fine.

I'm presoaking assorted light brown wool with some white for baby Jesus' garment.

I have only a few other small details to dye and I'll have all my wool ready. 

It still feels like winter as we had another snowy day today and yesterday. I'm starting to get worried about flooding this year since we are getting so much precipitation.

Thanks for stopping by for a visit and for leaving a comment. If you comment on my blog I usually reciprocate, it's only fair and I really appreciate your comments, however short. 


  1. It looks and sounds complicated to me but I found your tutorial very interesting. Thank you.

  2. Thank you very much for showing the process of dyeing... I dyed with onion skins once :-)))
    Your colors are the dream, a wonderful variety. I really like it.
    I wish you the best of luck as you proceed.
    I am cutting linen fabric today and also have a blouse in the works. Everything comes later.
    Happy week to you Viola

  3. I've dyed with onion skins many times and love how the wool turns out. Since I love mottled wool I'm not so concerned with making sure the color is evenly distributed. I usually put the skins in one of those mesh onion bags so it isn't so difficult to clean up afterwards. Actually a couple years ago at a Dollar Tree I purchased zipper mesh bags so use those too.
    Guess you're about ready to begin your next project and I, for one, can't wait to see your progress.

  4. What a great blog post!
    I have been saving onion skins for YEARS, but still haven't dyed with them. I've never married wool either.
    I look forward to following along on this hooking project. Your wool colors are beautiful.
    Praying you don't have an issue with flooding!!!

  5. Wow that is incredible. Such beautiful, rich colors. I have only once dyed something, it was a skirt and I dyed it yellow with turmeric.

  6. I am in absolute shock and amazement for how much work you go to - to dye the wool. I am wowed. Then you must be able to make it into thread?

  7. Fascinating Julia! Ever since I first started hooking, people told me how fun it is to dye wool and how addicting it is. I have sworn off dyeing my own wool...I am such an incredible mess maker, I can only imagine what would come of it. And I don't have the space - even just for the pots I'd need. But I am in awe of those who do. And it must give you a more complete form of satisfaction knowing you did your own colors. They came out amazing! As I am sure your new rug is going to be. ~Robin~ (TheCrankyCrow)

  8. Just amazing how you are able to het the colors you want without dyes. I would never have the time to do this myself and kudos to you and others who are able to do this. Am in awe as Robin is. Janice

  9. Like the others who posted, I'm just in awe and amazed at how much work you go to for a creation. I've always thought of you as a true artist with your rugs and now I can see how much time and effort and yes love you have for your craft. I'm sure the finished product will be beautiful and I'll be excited to see the work in progress as well as the finished product. Enjoy your creation Julia! You ROCK!

  10. Julia, thank you for sharing how you create your rugs. I love learning and you did a great job explaining.

    We are cooking our first batch of maple syrup today. It is a dark syrup this season, my favorite.
    xx oo

  11. I am grateful that you shared the process that you use to make beautiful carpets. Learning is one of my favourite things to do, and you did an excellent job at explaining.

  12. I found this fascinating! I've been hearing about how onion skins make good dyes but everytime I hear the world Mordant, it always scares me and makes me feel like I don't understand what it is and how to use it. But I have lots of Citric Acid so that sounds less scary! I might have to give this a go. I loved seeing all your different shades. Sorry to hear your are having trouble lifting your arm. I remember you having issues with it before. Thank you for sharing your techniques.x

  13. Wow, that's an involved process. Thanks for sharing.

  14. I was thinking just like KB...what an involved and long process. But rewarding, too. I liked reading about it, but as I have had to stop and start three times, not sure I quite took it all in. The funny think is, I have been thinking about dyeing with onion skins.