My Adventures in Natural Dyeing

This past weekend I decide to finally take the plunge and try a recipe from this book that I told you about last week.  And oh my goodness I have to say I couldn’t be more impressed with how easy it was and how great the results were.

I started with this off-white 100% wool yarn.  I pre-washed it and soaked it in cold water for about an hour.

I decided to use the red cabbage recipe.  Found a red cabbage at the grocery store and brought it home and cut it up into small pieces.  Brought it to a simmer in a big pot of water and let it simmer for about 30 to 40 minutes.  Then I strained out all the cabbage pieces and was left with a pot of lovely cabbage dye.

There are a wide variety of colours and shades you can get with the red cabbage, depending on what, if any, mordants you add to the dye pot.  I decided that while the purple shades were very pretty, I wanted something blue as I use blue a lot more often in my pieces than purple.  The recipe said to add salt to bring about a blue hue.  I added some salt but didn’t know if the change was supposed to be instantaneous or not.  When it wasn’t, I kept adding more salt.  The bottom line is I have no idea how much salt I added so will not likely be able to replicate the exact shade that I ended up with.  Mental note- next time measure it out exactly and take copious notes!

After simmering the yarn in the dye for about 30 minutes I took it off the heat and left it overnight just to try and get an even deeper blue colour.  And voila- beautiful blue yarn.  I saved most of the leftover dye in jars so I can use it again (especially important since I don’t know how much salt I added if I need more of this particular shade of blue).  Also awesome was that along the way I didn’t have to worry about pouring anything down the sink as it was all natural.

An added bonus was that I saved some of the dye for colouring our Easter eggs!  It worked really well.  I also whipped up some turmeric and water to make a really pretty yellow for Easter egg colouring.

And now I think I have the natural dyeing bug.  I have a swatch of yarn sitting in a jar of coffee grains right now to see what colour it ends up being.  And I’ve started accumulating onion skins for another dye.   Now I just have to come up with projects to use all these different colours in……:)

My Week in Review

This week….I got this book.   I’m very excited to try it.  I’ve been wanting to try my own dyeing for, well, almost a year now.  I bought a bunch of pots and utensils that I could use just for dyeing and bought some powdered dyes.  And it has just sat there.  A combination of lack of time and a nagging feeling that I didn’t want to be dealing with all those chemicals.  Then I saw a review of this book.  What has long turned me off of natural dyeing is the presumed need for mordants and my concerns with how to dispose of those mordants.  But this book shows many dye recipes, using ordinary things from the kitchen and garden that DON’T require mordants.  I can’t wait for my garden to get going so I have access to many of the leaves and flowers and I may hit the grocery store to pick up some of the suggested vegetables and fruit.  I’ll keep you posted when I try some of these recipes.

This week…..I sold my newest rug “Exploring the Lake”!  So excited for it to go to its new home and hope that it brings the new owners much happiness.

This week….two new pieces of mine are now hanging at Brewed Awakening in Corner Brook, Newfoundland.  This time it is two of my smaller framed pieces- “Sea Urchin” and “Autumn Trees”.

This week…..I’ve been plotting and planning and dreaming for the summer.  Can’t wait!

This week…..I’ve been ripping out and redoing the rug I’m working on.  It’s finally starting to look the way I want it to (though it is still early stages yet) and am glad I did not abandon the whole thing as I threatened to do several times.

This week….I made a shirt!  I really shouldn’t have because me and sewing clothing do not get along.  There’s something about the measuring and precision involved that just gets me into a foul mood.  Especially since I seem to never get it right on the first try.  But, I finished it and so far it seems wearable!  I’ll show it here next week.

Now, I’m enjoying that the weekend is here. Happy weekend to you all!


Hand Hooked Rug by Karen D. Miller

A Little Piece of Canadiana

Hand Hooked Rug by Karen D. Miller

What’s more Canadian than trees, water and a canoe??

My newest piece “Exploring the Lake” is inspired by a canoe ride my husband, daughter and myself took last summer on Norway Lake in Calabogie, Ontario.  But really it is a scene that is similar to so many places- the theme is universally Canadian.  This piece measures 17″ x  19.5″  and was designed and hand-hooked by me on burlap.  I used a variety of different yarns in this piece:  from Icelandic wool yarn (a staple in all my rugs), acrylic yarns, specialty yarns, merino blends and alpaca.  There is even an old green knit scarf that I unravelled and used for the trees on the left!


Change of Art

So, the time had come.  I had never been truly happy with my “Fracture” rug that I made late last year.  I liked the idea- getting out in nature and looking for unusual inspiration.  In this case, my daughter and I went out photographing cracks in the pavement in our neighbourhood.  However, the end result wasn’t really what I envisioned.  I had imagined a bit more impact with the black leather and not so much white in the background.  But, I decided to keep it around.  That is until now.  Suddenly its existence started to annoy me.  Maybe it is the large small streak of perfectionism that runs through me- the amount of which varies depending on who you talk to.  Maybe it was just the knowledge that I could reuse all that white yarn for something better.

Whatever the reason, I decided to dismantle it.  Little hands helped me rip out all the wool.  She actually kind of enjoyed it.  I think she is used to being told to “be careful” around my rugs and so the chance to actually rip one apart was too much to resist.

Even my cat, Mowgli, got in on the act.

And before we knew it, this was all that was left.

So my question to all my fellow rug hookers and fellow artists of all ilks- have you ever done this with something that you have made?  Have you ever put in the time and effort but in the end decided that it just wouldn’t do and taken the whole thing apart?  I kind of enjoyed the process- it was kind of cathartic.


Hand Hooked Rug by Karen D. Miller

Stormy Skies

Hand Hooked Rug by Karen D. Miller

Here is the big reveal of one of my new pieces!  The ominous storm clouds hover over the wide expanse of the open fields.

This piece measures 15.5″ x 12″ and was hand-hooked on burlap.  I used a variety of materials including Icelandic wool yarn, alpaca wool yarn (from Newfoundland) and novelty yarns.  The foreground and just below the tree line are hooked with strips of recycled and repurposed leather- gotta love inexpensive real leather jackets at Value Village!

This piece marks my first attempt at combining beading with hooking.  There is light beading in both the distant trees and in the landscape.  I really like how the beads add a bit of shine when they catch the light.

Another first is that this is a collaboration between myself and my fab husband.  He is awesome with wood and he made me this house out of a combination of rosewood, canary wood and white pine that was lightly oiled.  The house was then attached to the piece using very thin twine.   I really like how the wood adds to the piece and I have a feeling there will be more collaborations in the future!


Woodland Wonderland

Remember I told you my “Chickadee & Birch Tree” hand-hooked rug was going to be a part of the CPAWS Woodland Window Display?  Well, the display is up and it looks great!   My rug is quite front and center- we spotted it right away from the car as we approached the intersection.   The display will be up in the front window of Wabi Sabi at 1078 Wellington Street in Ottawa until the end of April.  If you are passing by, take a look!