This is another department in successful rug-making, but a most important one, and the fascination of the dye-pot beguiles many women in country districts into evolving all sorts of beautiful colour schemes, not obtainable in any other way. Some rugs are poorly made, but their colour qualities are so apparent that they are readily bought up at the various Arts and Crafts Exhibitions where they are sent.
The chief difficulty in vegetable dyeing is that those who do it jealously guard their secrets and will not give them away to others who want to become experts in this line. It is also an advantage to use spring water, as this has some peculiar merit known only to experts. The fastness of some of the Scotch and English dyed materials depends largely upon the qualities of the water in certain parts of Great Britain. A country woman who has a spring in her garden and who is able to dye her materials with the most permanent dyes, finds that the same process used with the water from the spigot cannot be depended upon in the same way.
The following formulae are used by many women in Canada and New England, and many of them are handed down from mother to daughter.
Blue is the most universally used of all colours for dyeing materials for rug-making, as all shades of blue from sky blue to a deep blue-black can be dyed in the indigo tub. This dye has the merit of being cheap as well as fast. It can also be used with yellow or orange, or with copperas or walnut. A good recipe for indigo blue consists of -
lb. of finely powdered indigo.
lb. of green copperas (clean crystal).
lb. of newly slaked lime.
Rub or grind to a very fine powder the indigo with a little water or an alkaline lye. It must then be mixed with hot water, after which the lime can be added, when it must be well stirred. Continue to mix it when all the ingredients are added, and continue this at intervals for twenty-four hours. When ready to dye the material, ladle out what is needed into the dye vat. When it has been used several times, it will need to be refreshed with a little more copperas and fresh slaked lime, always remembering to stir the sediments well from the bottom.
The indigo dye powder is a manufactured article, prepared from the plant which produces it, and can be bought when the plant cannot be obtained for dyeing. A very great quantity is required, as 250 lb. will be needed to produce a single pound of the prepared indigo. Some people believe that if they themselves cannot get the plant they are not getting the real indigo, but this is a mistake. This dye is especially recommended for cotton.
Another recipe which is preferable for wool, but can also be used for cotton, is made from -
12 lb. of fine indigo powder. 9 lb. of bran. 8 lb. of madder. 24 lb. of potash.
Water at 1250 Fahrenheit.
Mix the indigo powder, madder, and bran and water well. The potash is not added until later. At the end of thirty-six hours 14 lb. of potash, and twelve hours later the remaining 10 lb., are added. When fermentation and reduction of indigo are well developed, which will take about seventy-two hours, add the fresh slaked lime. When properly prepared, a vat of this dye can be used for several months, adding as needed any of the constituents required.
Another blue dye recommended is made from berries and logwood.
The dyeing of red with madder is a very complicated process. The recipes usually given for it are so involved that very few amateurs will trouble to go through all the laborious processes of mordanting and oiling the material to be dyed. The ordinary turkey red and cardinal red are extremely good dyes; the turkey red especially is a fast dye. If red colour is required, I should suggest buying the material called "turkey red' termed "oil dyed." It could be deepened in tone by madder or brown when it is found that the red is too bright for ordinary use.
This is, of course, a very easy dye to make, as it is obtained by allowing old iron to be left standing in water. It is absolutely permanent, and dyes the material a beautiful yellow.
1 lb. of fustic will dye 5 lb. of wool material. Alum, tartar, and spirits of tin make the fustic yellow, light, or bright. Acetate and sulphate of iron and common salts darken it. The material dyed with this dye can be used when yellow is required, but by dipping it in the indigo vat a very permanent shade of green is given to it. Another good yellow can be obtained from dyeing with smart-weed.
This is made from walnut or butternut stain by steeping the bark of the tree or the shell of the nut in the water, until the water is dark with colour. Various shades of yellow, brown, dark brown, and green brown can be obtained, according to the strength of the decoction. If the nut or bark is used when green, yellow brown will be the result. It is also valuable in assisting to make blue green. The material is first dipped in the walnut stain, and then immersed in the indigo dye. It is also a very useful stain in setting the colour of other dyed materials. A beautiful red can be obtained from poke-berry, but its fastness of colour is obtained by dipping it in the walnut stain.
This can be made from boiling logwood chips in water, and the depth of colour is determined by the amount of logwood used.