This week was a week of moving forward on various projects.
I finished spinning an alpaca fibre I acquired from a lady out in Regina, Saskatchewan many years ago (thank-you Sharon!). It’s a beautiful soft yarn, and I haven’t processed it yet! This yarn will be used for knitting.
In the process of cleaning up my studio last week I found my old doll. It’s over 50 years old! It needs new clothes. I believe the last time I sewed for her was in the 1980s, and it was just a pajama top and panties set. This time she’s going to sport a coordinating sailor dress, panties and bonnet in various patterns of hot pink! The sewing pattern is decided and cut. Today I plan to do some sewing.
In the rug hooking arena I dyed more purple wool fabric to finish hooking the border on “Gyeongju”. I figure I have 6-8 hours of hooking left to do. Then it’s onto blocking and hemming the edges. I have to decide what kind of hanging system to use with it. It’s a pretty heavy piece, so I may take the time to make a full museum quality hanging system.
What’s that? You ask?
Well, I take a strip of thin wood (check out the trim section of your lumber store), cut it to length, and shellac it. Then I staple hook and loop tape to it – the hook side. I sew the loop side to the top of the rug. I drill a couple of holes either end of the trim…right through the hook and loop tape. I screw it to the wall where I want to hang the piece, making sure it’s level. Then I just push the loop part of the tape onto the hook part, making fine adjustments as I go to make sure the rug is hanging level.
It is a time consuming way to hang a rug, and is not cheap. But it’s the best system I’ve seen for big heavy rugs like mine in the long run.
Well, if you have been, thanks for reading! Have a great weekend everyone!
Good evening everyone! My post is a bit late today because it is tax season! I’ve been spending the last two days pulling all the business receipts, etcetera, together for my accountant. Can I just say “God bless accountants!”?! I’m nearing the end of Round 1 though. I have to get Hubby to help me move some furniture in the studio to look for some sizeable missing receipts. If I can’t find them tonight I’m giving up.
In more cheerful news…this past Saturday I had the opportunity to attend Beth Miller’s Embellishments and New Techniques online Zoom class. It was great fun and I learned a lot! I have used beads and wire before, but in all my 37 years of rug hooking I haven’t tried fancy stitches. I have a multitude of different fibres and embellishments I could add to a wall hanging. I also know how to embroider and quilt. What I needed was encouragement. Beth is great at encouraging her students to relax and just play with the materials. Thank-you for a wonderful workshop Beth!
I’ve been busy working on the border for my South Korean roof tile end caps wall hanging. I can see I will have to dye more fibre for it. so, in an attempt to conserve time and energy, I’ve left my dye equipment and supplies in the kitchen for now. Hopefully I’ll be able to see what needs doing soon and dye some more before the end of the week.
I would also like to do the embellishments on “Time” and finish it up.
That’s it for this weekend and week so far. Have a great week everyone!
It’s been a busy week. I went from just starting the Fraktur chair pad to finishing the hooking on it (see the above photo)!
That required a day long break to dye some background fabric. I had to plan to dye enough for all of the chair pads I want to make. There will be four total. I used a mix of Lucy Richard’s skin tone dye formulas to spot dye an interesting background. When I saw it I thought it would hook up too dark. In the end it is a great colour.
I’m very happy with how this turned out. Thank-you to Susan Feller for all your patience and help!
I’m taking a break and going back to my South Korean roof tile end caps wall hanging. Time to finish up the border and put that one to rest.
If you’ve been reading, thanks! Have a great weekend everyone!
This will be the last post with dye formulas. I hopefully will have given you enough information and encouragement to explore on your own. This particular post will cover red – the last of the three primary colours, red, yellow and blue.
Having mentioned primary colours I think it the best time to tell you if you want to be an excellent dyer you need to know and understand the colour wheel! It is a short step from knowing the primaries to mixing various dyes to achieve a great variety of colours. Just having the three primaries and a black can produce a wide variety of colours.
Red dyes can be a bit tricky. Sometimes they don’t like to dissolve, even in boiling water. I use a product called Glauber Salt to help. Just a bit will do the trick.
I don’t often dye my own reds. I prefer to purchase or spin the deep poppy reds I use. My sister once brought a couple of pieces of bright poppy red Thai silk home from overseas for me. I sewed a few articles of clothing for women in my family, and put the rest into my wall hangings. I haunt thrift shops for lovely old worn red wool blankets for five dollars. It’s taken a while to work through those.
Recently I dyed a lovely pinkish red for my Fraktur chair mat using Lucy Richards’ Wooly Mason Jar Dye System. I wanted a dip dyed red. It was done with the warm ProChem set of cards.
In the past I’ve dyed a similar colour using Majic Carpet red and yellow. Here is my dye record page for that. You’ll notice the measurements are a bit odd. I mean “smidgen” is hardly your typical unit of measurement. Nor is “toothpick”. Well, as in most things, I was experimenting. Walmart was selling small measuring spoons with tad, dash and smidgen measurements. I picked a set up to see if they might correspond to the Morris dye spoons somehow (the typical dye spoons rug hookers use). Here are the results for 1 smidgen red.
I’ve never tried to achieve a real poppy red because I’ve had no need to try. Between my spinning, the silk and the red thrift store blankets I’ve had more than enough.
Well this ends my short series on dyeing. I highly recommend if you’re serious about learning to dye fibre that you take one of the many courses offered online and off by experienced dyers. Gene Shepherd, Lucy Richards, Beth Miller come to mind, but there are plenty of others. Definitely take a basic dyeing safety course or beginners course before attempting any of these formulas.
As always, if you have been, thanks for reading. Have a wonderful week!
One of the first things I receive comments on in my Prairie Sky series is the vibrancy of the sky, and the many variations of blue in them. I often create that variety of colour by dyeing different types of fibre (wool, silk, nylon) and different forms of the same fibre (ie. wool mohair, wool fabric, unspun wool fleece, etc.) in the same pot.
I have a tendency to mix up a pot of colour and just toss in a mix of fibres. Over the years I’ve learned to roughly measure the fibre, or weigh it, before throwing it in the dye pot. That makes it easier to come close to the colour should I need more later on.
By now you’ll have determined I’m rarely ever looking for an exact match. If I am, it’s other people’s dye systems and manuals to the rescue! Or…I use my own dye records.
So here’s a page from my dye records. Dye records are a really good idea. They keep you from reinventing the wheel. If you’ve dyed a colour before and want more, it’s easy to see what to do. This page is on using ProChem Brilliant Blue, Golden Yellow, and National Blue.
In case you can’t read my printing, I put 1/3 yard of Dorr wool natural, 1/3 yard of 45” wide silk habotai, 5 legs of nylons and 5 yards of natural bouclé yarn in the pot for each colour, except the last Brilliant Blue, where I missed putting bouclé yarn in the pot…probably because I ran out of it.
I hope this helps those of you with basic dyeing experience understand how I achieve my colours. Because everything went into the same pot, the result is fibre that all goes together, even if one is nylon, one is wool, one is silk, and one is yarn.
Here’s another deep blue formula. I had such a strong dye solution in my dyebath, that I added more fibre later to soak up all the colour. There were seven 5 yard skeins of different yarns, nylons and silk. No wool fabric this time.
For Majic Carpet dyes, I have used straight blue out of the jar. I have also combined it with yellow for a warmer blue, or reddish brown or black for stormy skies and seas.
A lovely peacock blue can be reached by combining 3/32 tsp. Blue, 3/64 tsp. Bottle Green and 1/64 tsp. Black. I put this in a dye pot with 1/6 yard Dorr wool natural, some wool fleece, and 10 yards each of four different types of yarn.
This certainly doesn’t exhaust the topic of blues or dyeing them! But hopefully it will give you a bit of a taste of what is possible, and encourage you to experiment with your blue dyes.
I like my colours bright…bright and clear. I find myself directly at odds with the colours used in the primitive style of rug hooking. As a result I do not buy or use formulas aimed at primitive rug hooking. In fact, most other rug hooking styles would find my colours bright.
I used to live on the Canadian prairies, where the sun and the light is intense and the colours are bright. That shows up in my work. A lot of times I dye fibre with pure colour, just to see what it will do. Here is an example of that.
The dye formula is simple: 1/64tsp. of Majic Carpet yellow over 8 – 3.5”x 12” gradated swatches.
How did I use this fibre? Sunsets, sunflowers, flowers in general, prairie scenes.
So here’s to yellow…one of my favourite colours! Well, okay, so most colours are my favourite. 😊 But I have found this pure yellow very useful.
People have been asking me recently if I share my dye formulas. Well, yes and no. If I can I will. I use a lot of different dye manuals, some under copyright. Those formulas I cannot share.
I can tell you I use both Majic Carpet and ProChem dyes. For Majic Carpet dyes I first used Barbie Baker-Dykens’ dye manuals. Then I acquired Susan Logue’s dye books. Then I used Christine Little’s spot dye books. I found out about Ingrid Hieronimus’s “Primary Fusion”, and am using it off and on. Then I found Gene Shepherd’s “Prepared to Dye”. Finally, I discovered Lucy Richards’ “Wooly Mason Jar” dye system. I think it’s fair to say I have a bit of experience in this area.
Let me first say each dye system or approach has its strengths. I liked Barbie Baker-Dyken’s manuals for familiarizing myself with colour, how it works, and Majic Carpet dyes. She has a great manual, “Formation of New Formulae”, full of formulas for gradation dyeing at home. Gradation dyeing is when you dye swatches the same size different shades of the same colour. She also put out a”Basic Workbook”, “Basic Dyeing Techniques “, and “Basic Colour Theory”.
Susan Logue’s and Christine Little’s dye books are great for spot dye formulas. They also give instructions on dyeing larger pieces of wool. They use Majic Carpet dyes. Susan Logue’s books are “Past & Present Antique Colours & Spots – Book 1 & 2”. Christine Little’s books are “Seeing Spots Before Your Eyes” and “SkyBluePink With a Green Smell”.
“Primary Fusion” and “Prepared to Dye” do the same thing for ProChem as the above books do for Majic Carpet. Gene Shepherd’s book, “Prepared to Dye”, is a great intro to various methods of ProChem dyeing of wool. Ingrid Heironymus’ book, “Primary Fusion”, gives great ProChem gradated dye formulas.
Then there’s Lucy Richards’ dye system. Okay guys and gals, this is quite a system! Lucy’s “Wooly Mason Jar” system works with either Majic Carpet or ProChem. She has developed cards for both sets of dyes. I like it because I can look at the dye samples on a card and quickly recreate a particular colour. Major kudos to Lucy for putting all the time and effort into developing and marketing this system.
Lucy microwave dyes her wool. But there’s nothing to say you have to. I use her dye formulas, but process my wool the old fashioned way…on the stove or in the oven. I first learned that way and I just feel more comfortable using that method. Microwave dyeing is a bit faster though.
I have used Majic Carpet dyes for years, and just recently switched to ProChem. Most of my dye formulas are with Majic Carpet. When I use ProChem, I’m usually using Ingrid’s, Gene’s or Lucy’s formulas, so I cannot publish those. However, as I become more confident with ProChem I am sure I will have a few formulas to share.
In the next few Monday posts I’ll post some of my dye formulas and their results for your viewing pleasure. So check in on Monday for the first formula in “Dyeing for Rug Hooking”!
So it took a lot longer than anticipated to strip the colour out of all my nylons. 1) there were a lot of them, and 2) I ran out of the magic powder – fabric colour remover – found at Walmart in the craft section. That stuff rocks! And it’s dirt cheap.
I needed one box each in two to three consecutive pots of water to do one load of nylons. I had three loads of nylons. Each pot took an hour to process from start to finish – that’s nine hours of processing. Most of the nylons are a light cream or white now. There are a few different coloured ones. I’ll have enough nylons for my rug hooking for years!
So I started Thursday and by Friday late afternoon I’d finished stripping the colour out of them. I put them in the washing machine for a final wash. Saturday was dye day.
Steps to stripping nylons:
First, let me say you do NOT have to strip colour out of nylons before using them or dyeing them, especially if you’re using black nylons to outline, or dyeing regular nylons a darker colour. If you know colour theory well enough, you can figure out what colours you can get by overdyeing a particular colour of nylons with another colour. Dark browns and beautiful dark greens can come from overdyeing nylons. Experiment!
These nylons have not been stripped or dyed and are great for outlining or anywhere dark colours are needed.
For the purposes of explaining the process from start to finish, I’m going to start at the very beginning and go through stripping colour and dyeing the regular beige nylons that are so common.
Step 1: Acquire nylons (a.k.a. pantyhose). Some of mine were given to me, some came from the thrift store for half off of 99 cents on sale day. That’s 50 cents a pair. Don’t buy ones with sequins and sparkles as they don’t form a nice rope to hook. Also avoid netted ones and ones with seams down the back.
Step 2: Bring them home and wash them in your washing machine and dryer…even the new ones from packages. This is to remove any finishes on them.
A mix of nylons from friends and thrift stores.
Step 3: Cut the panty part off and find another use for it or recycle. Soak the legs, or hose part, overnight to wet them.
Nylons soaking with wool in Synthrapol.
Step 4: Set a big pot used only for dyeing, and half full of water, on the stove to boil. Once boiling turn to a simmer and add the colour remover. Stir with a utensil dedicated to dyeing. Add nylons. Don’t add too many. I think that was why mine took so long. About five to ten pairs is enough, or ten to twenty legs of hose.
Step 5: Stir continuously for 20-30 minutes. My best advice is to follow the colour remover package instructions. You may need to leave the nylons in the solution a tad longer, depending on how many nylons are in the pot, how dark a colour they were to start with, and your stove.
Step 6: Remove nylons from pot and put in sink to rinse. Empty pot water down sink drain.
Step 7: Fill pot up with fresh water and repeat Steps 4 thru 6. You may have to do these steps a third time if you’re looking for a really white nylon and you started with darker ones.
Ready to wash, rinse and dye!
Step 8: Once you’ve reached your desired colour, rinse the nylons with a mild detergent and water. I use DAWN (the blue one) or Synthrapol. At this point you can wash and dry them in your washing machine and dryer to store for later use.
I use ProChem acid dyes. But any acid dye will work. I’ve also dyed nylons with Majic Carpet dyes. I use citric acid to set the dyes. Check with your nearby pharmacy or rug hooking supplier for citric acid. Dyes are available from rug hooking suppliers and online through ProChem’s website.
Step 1: You will need utensils, pots, and clothing dedicated to dyeing fibre only. I am assuming you have all this, know how to use it, and have dyed fibre before.
Step 2: Soak nylons about an hour before dyeing.
Step 3: If you are wanting to dye multiple colours at one time, get a big enamel roaster big enough to hold enough wide mouthed quart canning jars as you want colours. Or you can dye one colour at a time in one pot. These instructions are for one colour in a pot. Fill the pot halfway with water. Put on stove, but donot turn the stove on yet!
Step 4: Mix your dye solution. That is, measure out the dye powder according to the dye formula (recipe) you’re using, and place it in a one cup glass measuring cup dedicated to dyeing only. Add boiling water to make one cup. Stir until dye powder is dissolved.
Step 5: Place the solution in the pot of water. Stir. Add wet nylons. Stir and dip in and out if you want even colour. Just a note though, part of the beauty of dyeing nylons is the variety of shades of one colour that you achieve. They are not all one colour to start with, and so aren’t all one exact colour in the end. If you stuff the pot full of nylons and don’t dip them, you can achieve a gorgeous spot dye effect.
Turn on the burners and bring the dye bath to a simmer.
If you want an even colour, dip nylons continuously for 5 minutes, then every 5 minutes for the next 15 minutes, then put the lid on and let simmer another 15 minutes.
Step 6: Mix your setting agent. I use 1 tsp. of citric acid to one cup boiling water for about 20 pairs of nylons. Stir till it dissolves. Remove nylons from the pot and add the citric acid solution. DO NOT be alarmed if the nylons aren’t the colour you’d hoped, especially if there is still colour in the dye bath. Once you add the nylons after the citric acid, they will suck up all the colour and change colour themselves.
Step 7: Return the nylons to the pot, dipping continuously and stirring constantly to make sure all surfaces are evenly exposed to the citric acid.
Step 8: Cover and simmer them for 30-45 minutes. Check the dye bath. The water should be clear. If not, turn the stove off and let the nylons cool in the water. As it cools more dye will be soaked up.
Step 9: Remove from pot into a nearby sink and rinse. Once the pot of water has cooled the water can be put down the drain. You can squeeze excess water out of the nylons and either hang dry them or dry them in your dryer, depending how many you have.
Wet dyed nylons.
Step 10: You can admire and photograph your dye job. If you want, you can cut the nylons into balls of usable yarn right away, or store as is for later use. I tend to do the latter and only cut into yarn as needed.
Cut nylon. You don’t have to be exact!
To use nylons in rug hooking, or to make nylon “yarn”: Cut in a spiral from the top of the leg to the toe, making cuts 1/2”-1” apart, depending on what width strips you normally hook. I hook a #6 and like my nylons cut 3/4” apart on the spiral section. Then, starting at one end of the nylon, grab the first 12 inches or so and give it a sharp lengthwise tug. Voilà! It will form a nice rope for hooking.
Nylon being made into yarn rope.
The finished nylon yarn/rope for rug hooking.
I hope this tutorial has been useful to people wanting to turn nylons into “yarn” for rug hooking and other projects.
If you have been, thanks for reading! Have a great week!
Hi everyone! This week was about hooking more on my Workshop Week courses, and dyeing nylons.
I am done the abstracts from Donna Mulholland’s class. I’m finished the tote bag from Beth Miller’s class. I’m about halfway done the hourglass wall hanging from Nadine Flagel’s class. I still have the Fraktur chair pad from Susan Feller’s class to hook.
I had a great follow up Zoom session with Nadine Flagel yesterday. She confirmed some of my thoughts about the hourglass piece. I made some changes already, but have more to go. I have to be careful because I don’t want the finished piece to be overdone. I want to embellish the sand with beads and embroider some orange flowering vines up the brown hourglass supports.
But onto nylons…
Why dye nylons? How do you use them? Well I use mine for added texture in my rug hooking. I think it’s a good way to recycle them and keep them from the landfill. I also find a pair of nylons goes a long way. If I cut in a spiral down the leg, and pull taut, so it forms a rope, I end up with a small ball of nylon “yarn” I can hook with, and have fewer ends.
Nylons have a long history in rug hooking. The Grenfell Mission rugs were hooked in straight rows with “silk stockings”, the precursor to nylons. Now, imitators of that style of rug hooking use…you guessed it…nylons.
Today I’ve invited a couple of friends over to watch me strip colour out of nylons and dye them. I strip the colour out using RIT colour remover following the package directions. Then I dye them with acid dyes. My favourite dyeing techniques for nylon are just a solid one colour in the dye pot type dye job, and spot dyeing. By Monday I’ll have something pretty to show you!
If you have been reading, thanks! Have a great weekend!
I had a great weekend! A rug hooking friend was over Saturday and we dyed fibre. She is relatively new to dyeing and I am showing her how. She, meanwhile, is a great help to me in terms of being much taller and having more stamina. Her height came in handy, as we did dip dyeing and transition dyeing of 18” long swatches!
What is dip dyeing and transition dyeing you ask? Dip dyeing is when the swatch of wool is a darker version of the colour at one end than the other, and it moves gradually through the shades from dark to light. It is achieved by constant dipping into the dyebath, until you get the right colour in the right place. Hopefully no horizontal colour lines can be seen in the finished product. Here are our finished swatches.
We also did some transition dyeing. Transition dyeing is dip dyeing two colours from opposite ends of the swatch. When they meet in the middle there should be a gradually shift from one colour to another. Ours didn’t work out that well, but it will serve my purpose, which is to hook sunsets
Aside from that I needed blues for skies. So we tried a partial gradated dye process. Gradated dyeing is when you have several swatches (usually 6-8) and dye the entire swatch one solid colour, but there are several others lighter and darker of the same colour. Here’s a selection of blues for an example. There are actually five different colours of blue here and two to three shades each, at least, of each colour!
We also dyed other fibre. This was done to exhaust dyebaths (use all the dye in the water), and to use up some leftover dyebaths from previous dye jobs. Here are the blues…
From left to right: nylon (old pantyhose), wool fleece, wool bouclé, hand spun Shetland wool, silk bouclé, and Merino wool yarn.
Here’s the orange leftover from dyeing the transition sunset swatches.
Left to right: nylon, wool bouclé, wool fleece, more lighter coloured wool bouclé, hand spun Shetland wool, and Merino wool yarn.
If anyone is interested, I sell my dyed fibre. I also will teach dyeing after Covid is over. Just contact me using the form below.
So after looking at my project mind map Monday, how did I do this week? Well, as you can see from the above photo, I’ve removed some of the hooking on “Autumn” to correct a composition error.
I also took the second session of Beth Miller’s class on hooking a tote bag and finished my project bag. It was a fun class and it was interesting to do something a bit different with my hooking, rather than making another piece to hang on the wall. I really enjoyed this class.
Market Tote Bag – Mandala #2
Market Tote Bag – wool on rug warp
Market Tote Bag – Mandala #1
I also worked more on the hourglass for “Time”, a poem my youngest daughter wrote when she was 11 years old. I plan on adding embellishments to this piece. And I will be attaching the poem, on a label, to the back of the wall hanging. This project is for Nadine Flagel’s class.
I have pressed and pinned my abstract pieces from Donna Mulholland’s class. I plan to hem those today.
That leaves the chair pads from Susan Feller’s class to do. Tomorrow I’ll be dyeing fibre for those. I plan on dip dyeing some coral/pink for carnations. I may need more blues for “Time” as well.
Next up after the first chair pad is to finish my South Korean rug. It’s been sitting around far too long. I started it last January 2020. Then I bought a house and furniture and decorating and well, lots of time with family (when Covid let us) and on artist retreats…it was a great year in a lot of ways, but I didn’t work much on the South Korea rug.
Thankfully, come last October, Karen Miller’s first Workshop Week gave me a bit of a wake up call to get hooking again. It’s been slow over winter. Mostly I’ve been playing with finishing class projects and organizing my studio so I can actually get in there to work! I have entirely too much stuff there still.
I have, however, been sketching new designs. Hopefully this year I’ll get to those. I find large projects bog me down. This South Korean End Cap Tiles rug is large for me.
Hi everyone! I have made some moves in planning more crafting this weekend. I definitely took a good long break over the holidays. This week I will be off sewing cushion covers with a friend. Time to change up the cushions in my living room and bedroom. I’m also contemplating seat pads in the eating area of our kitchen. Now if I were smart I’d be hooking all these! But I need these, like yesterday, and have more hooking plans on the horizon.
I’ll also be attending Tracy Jamar’s Zoom talk through In The Studio on how she went from there to here in her hooking. I am curious about her work and her transition when she downsized, as I am in that position myself.
I’ll also be attending a show and tell with another group of rug hookers via Zoom. Donna Mulholland will be demonstrating how she finishes or stretches her pieces over a frame. Should be fun!
I received some homework questions from Nadine Flagel for Workshop Week, which is Feb. 1st – 5th. I’m looking forward to getting in the groove again. I’ve signed up for three classes.
I still have two hooked pieces I want to finish – Autumn and my South Korea rug.
As for my reorganization efforts, I finished the spice cabinet.
Then worked on clearing my counter. Here is a before picture:
Here is an after photo:
Finally! I can see the back of the counter!
Then I emptied my linen closet and moved all my fibre dyeing equipment and supplies, and most of my dye books, into it. I had about $30 CAD worth of help from Dollarama in the form of portable shelving and lidded bins. I’m going try and get decent photos for you. Here it is from two angles – a dye kitchen in a 24” linen closet!
It is a lot of work settling into a new home. But it’s also very satisfying when you find a good home for the things that matter. I had hoped to do my dyeing separate from the food kitchen, in my laundry room. However someone had other plans for the laundry room. Thankfully I use fairly safe dyes and follow strict dyeing procedures!
Well that’s my current update. It’s a busy week and I better get at it! Have a great week everyone!
Are you ready? Or more accurately, am I ready? Today marks the first class in the In My Studio Workshop Week for me. I’m excited to be in Karen Miller’s Travel class. I have several sketches from my South Korea trip to work with, and several photos otherwise. I’m looking forward to learning her process for taking an idea to pattern to finished piece.
I finally finished the centre of the South Korean wall hanging! Now I’m onto the border. Last Thursday I dyed some fibre with a friend. Last evening I finished off the dye job. Hopefully these colours will work with the rest of the wall hanging.
I also checked in with the local spinning group via Zoom and spent time at my wheel spinning some gorgeous alpaca. This will not be going into a hooked piece. It will be used for knitting. It is spinning up very fine. Just right for some lace knitting.
I hope this finds everyone well and safe, and looking forward to the week. If you have been, thanks for reading. ❤️
Hi everyone! I thought I’d do an update on the studio makeover. The main part of my studio is ready. However we are storing stuff in it until the basement guest room cum family room cum classroom is completed. The paint is drying as I type!
I’ve been working in my new studio, enjoying it for a couple of months now. It has been a great space to work! I have projects strewn everywhere. I could wish for improved lighting still. But the LED overhead lights are a great start. I wish I had some kind of track lighting to light up my gallery walls. I have two gallery walls at the moment, and hope to have a third before too long.
Check out my current photos. It’s a bit messy because of all the work going on here, but it functions for me. That is good!
My current projects are:
an appliquéd moose wall hanging or cushion cover for my nephew, in memory of his grandfather. I’m not sure which will be better for him.
Fixing a hand quilted quilt I started when I was seventeen. We won’t say how long ago that was!
Dyeing the border colors for my South Korean roof tile end caps wall hanging,
preparing for Workshop Week next week, and
getting the guest room stuff out of my studio!
Hoping to get considerable movement done on these in the next couple of weeks.
Happy Friday everyone! This week was short, but productive. I’ve been busy reading “Getting Things Done” by David Allen. I wrote down everything I had in my mind that needed doing, then created a project list from the things I needed to focus on, and then a next actions list for the list of things to do. I’m swamped! I’m also loving it! But I can’t take on anymore.
I’ve also been working on my South Korean roof tile end cap wall hanging. It’s slow going, but looking better these days. A friend was over to help me pick out fibre for the border. I will be doing some dyeing and overdyeing.
We also went through the poetry wall hangings I want to hook. They are on backing and ready to go. I just have to finish this South Korean wall hanging and swing back to them for awhile.
I’m still sketching the South Korean designs in my sketchbook. Lots to do yet. Plus I’m still working through Meryl Cook’s “The Creativity Workbook”. I’m enjoying the inspiration of the fall colours around me.
I’ve been listening to Cindi Gay’s rug hooking podcasts while hooking or afterwards. She is a very wise lady full of all kinds of knowledge about rug hooking. I don’t hook the primitive style, but I still learn from her. Thanks for doing the podcasts Cindi!
The last week of October will be a busy week. The In My Studio Workshop Week is on then. I have a Travel class with Karen Miller, a Words and Images class with Elizabeth Miller, and Intuitive Hooking with Meryl Cook. There will also be a group hook-in and a panel discussion I’m looking forward to stepping outside my comfort zone to learn more from these talented teachers and others.
If you’re interested in taking classes I believe there are a few openings left. Contact Karen D. Miller on Facebook and check into the events she is hosting.
If you’ve been reading, thanks! Have a great weekend!
I found myself really fighting my South Korea roof tile end caps wall hanging this week. I decided to not rush it and just work on it briefly each day. Instead I’ve been busy sketching more designs – both of South Korea and from Meryl Cook’s “The Creativity Workbook”.
Despite spending more time this week drawing designs for South Korea wall hangings, I’m not sure how many will actually make it onto backing. I’m seriously thinking about the viewer, as well as the creative act (by me). There’s a balance that has to be struck there for me. In previous years I hooked too much for the viewer, with the odd exception. Now I’m wanting to get back to the act of just creating. It’s important for me to know what I want to say with my work first though. So I’m thinking.
I’ve been working through Meryl Cook’s “The Creativity Workbook”. I am paused on finding a design that expresses how I feel joy. I did go and experience a couple of things that give me joy – walking in nature amongst the fall foliage. I picked up a variety of shapes and colors of tree leaves and have been busy designing leaf patterns and templates. But to actually draw joy is another matter altogether. I think I know the color/s of joy for me, but not sure of the shape of it…yet.
Wednesday I joined an In My Studio Zoom meeting to listen to Judi Miller talk about artist residencies. It was a very informative talk about the options available, what you need to have a successful one, and her experiences. I thoroughly enjoyed the talk and would like to thank Judi publicly for making the time and effort to do it, and to thank Karen Miller for organizing and facilitating it.
I received my ProChem dye powder shipment this week. I’m looking forward to more dyeing. I’m wanting to dye the pine trees, ocean and skies using Lucy Richard’s spot dye formulas. I’ll be dyeing the old-fashioned way – in the oven – rather than in a microwave I do not have a microwave to dedicate to dyeing, nor a place to put it.
Well that’s my review for this week. If you’ve been reading, thanks! I wish you all a happy Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, wherever you may be. My next blog post will probably be posted Tuesday. Take care everyone!
I had the delightful pleasure of meeting Susan Logue this weekend when she showed up on my doorstep to look at some wool for a friend. I really enjoyed contact with another rug hooker. Susan wrote the “Past & Present Antique Dyes” books, which I have and have used in the past. It was a fun time chatting with her about rug hooking, and it was nice to meet her friend.
One thing the visit made me realize was how starved I am for other artistic people in my life. I’m enjoying the online classes because of that, but somehow they aren’t the same as real live one-to-one encounters. They have their good points too though. I sure am glad to have the online experience too!
Saturday I tuned in to Lucy Richard’s FaceBook LIVE dye workshop. It was an interesting experience for me. I hadn’t microwave dyed before meeting Lucy. To be able to do a spot dye by microwave is great! And the pine tree, ocean, sky colours were great! If you head over to her website or FaceBook page you can find a link to donate to her video making efforts. If you donate $10 or more your name is entered to win a gift box of goodies. This time she is including the wool she dyed, among other things. It’s a half yard of wool folks…just saying. It’s a great deal! And a great gift. And it keeps Lucy doing videos.
I’m so anxious to get my dye studio up and going. Hubby is finishing painting the upstairs hall and then wants to do the guest room. It will be awhile before he gets to the dye studio/laundry room.
I hooked more on my South Korea roof tile end cap wall hanging. It’s slow going. It’s been awhile since I’ve hooked circles. There are a lot of circles in this wall hanging. It’s a challenge.
I started Meryl Cook’s exercises in her book “One Loop At A Time: The Creativity Workbook”. I was surprised how I could pull out one issue that was really bothering me, journal it positively, and create a rug design in under half an hour! I now have at least an 18”x18” design to put on backing and hook! I may have to expand it to 20”x20” or larger to fit in all the lettering, or cut back on the lettering.
Our sofa beds come today! That means everything will be in the house to finish the studio. It’s been a long haul! I will be so happy to have everything done. Next up will be the dye kitchen. Hubby and I are already talking.
This past weekend has been very productive for me. I was able to select photos from our 2017 trip to South Korea and put them in an inspiration folder on my computer. This past weekend I’ve been sketching possible compositions.
Sketches of South Korea
I will be taking another Karen Miller class tomorrow on materials and techniques. I’ve also signed up to listen to a talk on In My Studio by Judi Miller on artist residences on Oct. 7th. Plus I will be taking part in the Workshop Week through In My Studio the end of October. A busy fall of learning! So nice to be able to do this online.
I have also been hooking more on the South Korea roof tile end caps wall hanging. I am going slow, having stopped several times for dyeing and travels this summer. I am hoping to be finished by Christmas.
I managed to tear my Dorr wool into one yard pieces and wash and dry them in preparation for dyeing. My front loader really shrank the fabric, but it is still great for dyeing and rug hooking. It is all stacked neatly, awaiting dyeing.
I listed the fall colours swatches for sale. There are 15 of them at $3 each + shipping. They are 3” x 16” and Dorr wool. If you’re interested, contact me either here, through Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook.
I also listed the small landscape I hooked using the swatches for sale It is 8” x 5” and unfinished. I’m asking $60CAD “as is”, or $80 CAD if you want me to finish it and include the hidden hanging system. Again, you can either contact me through this website, Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter.
This week I’ll be working more on the South Korea wall hangings. I also want to get the issues surrounding my rug photos and branding sorted out. I am likely going to order more fabric dye powder.
Thanks for reading and have a wonderful week everyone!
Good morning everyone! It’s been a busy week. Monday I heard from my branding expert. She sent an email instructing me what to do with her files. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to even look at her email till Thursday.
Tuesday it rained and blew and thundered. I spent the morning taking Karen D. Miller’s online design course. It was excellent! It motivated me to sort through my over 1000 photos of South Korea and pull out about fifty or so to work on for wall hangings. Some of those are of the same subject, so in reality I’ve only got about 20 different works of art there…enough to develop a theme. Thank-you Karen! I’m looking forward to the “Materials and Techniques” course next week.
Hubby and I also spent some time Tuesday downstairs hanging more wall hangings on the second wall of the studio. We made the call to put our not yet purchased TV in the guest bedroom, rather than on my studio wall. We can watch it from the sofa bed we’re going to have in that room.
Wednesday Hurricane Teddy was supposed to blow through town, but it didn’t blow very much. So instead I phoned a friend and invited her over for dyeing fibre using Lucy Richard’s Woolly Mason Jar System. We did some spot dyeing and some pot dyeing. We dyed wool fabric while my friend was here.
Dorr wool dyed with the Woolly Mason Jar Dye System.
Drying fibre after dyeing.
After she left I continued dyeing fabric and yarn for my South Korean wall hanging. I also used up the rest of the fall colours dye solutions I’d mixed up a week or so ago. I was rewarded with this beautiful spot dyed piece of wool.
Front of piece.
Back of piece.
Wednesday morning I also received the link to the photos the photographer took of my wall hangings. I have some editing to do.
I also received my shipment from Dorr Woolen Mill Wednesday. I have natural wool for the next 3-5 years! I don’t go through it fast, but when I need it, I really need it. I also purchased some different types of backing to try: bleached linen, monk’s cloth, and rug warp.
Bleached linen, rug warp, and monk’s cloth.
I’ve tried a Walmart version of monk’s cloth before and it was not pleasant to work with. This time I want to try the real stuff for rug hooking.
Likewise I’ve tried rug warp before and found it difficult for my wrist and hand. But I wanted samples for my courses. Now I’ll have them.
The bleached linen is a novelty for me. I normally use unbleached primitive linen. But I’m thinking I might be trying some pieces with exposed backings. We’ll see. If not, I’ll use it for regular hooking.
Thursday my short shank medium Moshimer hooks arrived. If anyone wants one I’ll sell one for $20 CAD plus shipping.
I continue to hook on my South Korean roof tile end caps rug, ever so slowly. I’m going to have to pick up speed. I’d like to be finished it and onto other wall hangings.
If you have been, thank-you for reading everyone. I hope each of us has a wonderful weekend. Take care!
This past weekend we were busy cleaning out the house and preparing the yard for an upcoming tropical cyclone heading our way. Typical fall weather for here, but Hubby and I have never experienced one. We are a bit nervous, but we’re inland a bit so hopefully it won’t be bad.
One of the things we did was hang some artwork up on my studio walls. Check out the photos of them so far. We still have more to hang above the straight row on the end wall.
I’m really enjoying working in my studio and looking forward to the arrival of the sofa bed sometime in early October. That should give me seating for 4 or 5 people, should Covid ever end. Plus it will allow extra sleeping space for guests.
I’ve hit a roadblock on the South Korea roof tile end caps rug. I need to dye some wool from Lucy Richard’s dye system. I’m trying to arrange a time to get together with a friend to do some dyeing. First, I need to check and see how many other colours I’m short on. No point pulling out the dye equipment just for one piece of wool if I need to do more!
I’ve been working with a young woman on branding for my studio. It’s been an interesting and educational experience. I’m looking forward to using my new logo!
I’m slowly building up my gallery on ArtPal.com. I’ll be posting a wall hanging for sale once a day for five days of the week. It will automatically post to Twitter, Instagram, and my FaceBook business page – Jean Ottosen Studios. Follow along, and if you see anything you like, contact me through any of those platforms or through my contact button here on this website.
I had the opportunity of taking Karen Miller’s online course, “Getting Inspired” last Tuesday. It was a great shake me up course. I knew most of the concepts, but had never put them together the way Karen did. She gave me a fresh perspective. It worked great for giving me ideas on how to approach a new series or work of art. Thank-you Karen!
This week I’ll be enjoying another Karen Miller course – All About Design! Check it out by searching for Karen D. Miller on FaceBook. It’s hosted on the Zoom platform. Looking forward to class Karen!
As always, thanks for reading and have a great week!
I’ve seen two or three videos or blog posts on dyeing fall leaves this past week. It seems every dyer has their own twist. Today I thought I’d tell you one of my ways to dye fall leaves. This way is not fast, but it gives fall colours. Plus you can dye larger pieces of fabric with it. Are you ready? Here goes.
First, a safety note: all dye equipment is to be used for dyeing only. Keep separate equipment for dyes and food and store it in a different room. No eating or drinking while in the dye area! It’s too easy to cross contaminate food, drink, and dyes.
For this particular dye job I’ll be using ProChem Washfast Acid Dyes – Sun Yellow (119), Magenta (338), Brilliant Blue (490), and Black (672). I’ll also, roughly, be following Ingrid Hieronimus’ “Primary Fusion” formulas. Very roughly. I never could follow a recipe exactly! I’ll also be using a method called casserole dyeing, or spot dyeing in an old metal casserole pan.
First, soak 1/4 yard of wool, selvedge still on, in a bucket of tepid water with Synthrapol or DAWN Original (blue) dish detergent for 2-6 hours. This is one of the actions that will prevent white core. I forgot to add the DAWN or Synthrapol. I soaked my wool overnight. Hopefully the long soaking will make up for the lack of a wetting agent.
A brief aside here. White core is when the dye does not penetrate the fabric the entire way. A lot of rug hookers do not like the look of it and equate it with an inferior dye job. It means the dye has not adhered to the fabric properly and may rub off or not be lightfast.
My experience has been that white core dye jobs are not as long lasting as other dye jobs. I’m not willing to put white core pieces in a floor rug. I plan to thoroughly soak and overdye white core pieces so the dye does go completely through the fabric.
I also find white core a worse problem on recycled white or light coloured wool. Remember to thoroughly scour or clean all recycled fabrics before dyeing! Soaking in Synthrapol or DAWN Original opens up the fibres to accept the dye. You can also use Jet Dry. You don’t need much folks. Maybe 1/2 teaspoon in a 1 gallon ice cream bucket with your 1/4 yard wool.
A word about soaking wool. Never shock it. If the wool is at room temperature, use room temperature water. Shocking it will felt it. We want it fulled, not stiff like a boiled wool coat. Think of trying to hook with wool from those thick felted wool coats!
Secondly, prepare your dye space. Whether it’s a dedicated dye space with its own stove (my first choice), or your kitchen (my last choice), prepare the space in case you have a spill.
I have a second larger old metal casserole pan I put all my dyes and dyeing equipment in. You can use a cookie sheet with sides lined with paper towel or newspaper…anything to soak up dye spills. I also place my casserole pan on newsprint, a large paper bag, or paper towel. I prefer to reuse the newspaper. What I’m after is some way to protect my countertop.
Get all equipment out and handy. I use a measuring cup, measuring spoons (in my case, special dye spoons AND regular measuring spoons dedicated to dyeing), and 60 ml. syringes for this dye job. I also have a set of tongs specifically for dyeing. The tips of mine point down, not straight out. You can use chopsticks and a dedicated large dye spoon to manipulate the wool should you not have the tongs.
Third, prepare yourself! That means: bib apron, eye protection, face mask, and gloves (preferably latex or thin gloves that you unscrew and screw on dye powder jar lids). Wear closed toe shoes!
Now you’re ready to dye your fabric.
Line a 9×13” metal casserole pan with tin foil, shiny side up.
Arrange damp fabric in hills and valleys, all scrunched up, in the tin foil lined metal casserole pan.
Wearing protective equipment, place the dry dye powders in the bottom of a dry measuring cup dedicated to dyeing only. Add a bit of boiling water. Stir with chopstick until completely dissolved. Add water to make 1 cup.
Pour or syringe the tops of one half of the “hills” evenly in your first colour. I recommend going from light to dark. So apply the Sun Yellow first. Then the oranges and reds. Followed by a green, and a reddy brown. Bear in mind that colours do not always work out as you wished and you have to adjust as you go. Go ahead and adjust.
You don’t have to use all the dye solution if you don’t want to. You can store it in labeled glass jars for later use.
Add water to the side of the pan to 1/2”, if there isn’t already a 1/2” of liquid there. Cover with a tin foil lid. Pop into a 350 degrees F oven for half an hour.
Mix 1 teaspoon citric acid OR 3.5 tablespoons white vinegar (5% acetic acid) and hot water to make 1 cup. Stir to dissolve. Pour evenly over wool. Replace tin foil cover and bake another hour at 350 degrees F.
Pull out of oven, remove tin foil cover, check to see if all the dye has soaked into the wool. The water in the pan should be clear. If not, let the wool cool in pan until it has. This may take overnight.
When the fibre has taken up all the dye, rinse in water the same temperature as the wool. Squeeze gently to remove excess water and hang to dry. If desired, press it before cutting and using.
Hi everyone. I thought now would be a good time to review the results of the dye workshop with my niece last weekend. The workshop actually lasted from Thursday evening to Monday.
Her request was to learn to dye patterns with vegetable dyes. She wanted bright colors on cotton and silk. I’m afraid I disappointed. But that was largely because she wanted to use beets and blueberries, thinking they’d be good dyes. They aren’t. They’re fugitive dyes. We did have onion skin and carrot tops otherwise, and Staghorn Sumac leaves.
We found the carrot top dye to be one that develops color later. Things dyed with it were noticeably greener after being left in the dye bath 24 hours, and then left to dry out of the dye bath a further 24 hours. Nothing about natural dyeing is fast.
The onion skin dye did not dye as dark as we had hoped.
The wild card for us was Staghorn Sumac. I had heard it makes a great mordant for cotton, so I asked my sister and niece to collect some of it. They did, in spades! I made a mordant bath and put a lot of cotton in it. It turned a lovely shade of yellow that deepened with a subsequent alum and cream of tartar mordant bath. When left overnight we achieved a nice mottled effect, and when rinsed, the color paled a bit. But it was still significantly brighter than we had anticipated.
We could not get the blueberry or beet dye solutions to stick to the sumac treated cotton, however the sumac yellow was beautiful on its own!
I pre-mordanted most of the cloth before I left for PEI to teach my niece dyeing, thinking it would give brighter colors. There were a variety of pre-mordants:
Dyer’s alum (potassium aluminum sulphate),
Alum (aluminum sulphate),
Tea (decaf Earl Grey)/Dyer’s alum/washing soda,
Dyer’s alum/washing soda,
Dyer’s alum/cream of tartar,
Sumac leaves/Dyer’s alum/cream of tartar,
Rust/tea (Orange Pekoe).
For dye solutions we made up:
beet = 3 long cylindrical beets, peeled, in 2 quarts water. Brought to boil, then simmered for 2 hours.
blueberry = 3 c. thawed frozen blueberries and 6 c. of water simmered 1-2 hours.
carrot tops =478 grams carrot tops + 2 gallons of water. Used a 1:5 ratio of tops to fabric. Brought to a simmer over medium low. Turn to below a simmer and steam for 1-2 hours.
sumac = 338 grams sumac leaves to 2 gallons water. Used 500 grams of cotton fibre. Bring to simmer and steam fabric overnight (12-24 hours).
sumac, alum, and cream of tartar = half of the sumac mixture above with 4 tsp. Dyer’s alum + 1 1/2 tsp. washing soda for every 100 grams of fibre. Add fibre and heat to simmer. Turn off heat and let sit 24 hours.
We used cotton and silk fabric. In my samples I included wool and pantyhose that had been stripped of dye previous to dyeing.
Results? Not the best. We achieved great color with the beet (pink) and blueberry (purple), as my unwashed samples attest. However, I am waiting a week before I try and set them. We heat set the beet with an iron, after finding that the salt or vinegar assists on silk simply washed out the color. We hope the heat setting made a difference.
The blueberry will need to be set with salt on the cotton and vinegar on the silk. My niece has a nicely dyed silk scarf with blueberry tie dye. I’m afraid it will be toast as soon as we introduce vinegar to it. We’ll see. I’ll experiment with my samples again.
Onion skin was great on my samples, but not on the actual tie dyed cloth. I suspect it’s because the samples were left in the dye bath overnight. I achieved great color on wool and silk. Even the pantyhose showed a great yellow. When we used it with my niece it was on an unscoured, unmordanted piece of cotton. I did not expect much and was rewarded by disappointment on my niece’s part. We tried to use it to spot dye some other fabric, but it just didn’t take in the short time we had…even though we did let some of the tie dyed items sit overnight. Other colors were stronger.
Such as sumac. The Staghorn sumac leaves were the surprise of the event. They gave a firm and fast clear pale yellow on their own. They did not dye the pantyhose and there is no discernible difference on the tea mordanted cotton.
What surprised us was when the Dyer’s alum and cream of tartar were added. The dye bath turned a bright yellow! We had a lot of cotton in the dye bath, so I’m surprised everything stayed as yellow as it did. My niece had a t-shirt she wanted dyed and it was a nice mottled yellow after sitting in the dye bath for 24 hours. There was a lot of sediment in this dye bath. It paled a bit in color, but held its yellow even after being washed with regular detergent in the washing machine.
Then there were the carrot tops. We discovered you really need to wait 24 hours for the fabric to fully dry before the color develops. Mostly, though, it has settled out to a nice pale yellow, except on silk pre-mordanted with alum. There it produced a bright, clear, almost neon yellow. On the silk scarf my niece spot dyed the carrot tops produced a nice green hint throughout after being left to sit overnight.
Here are the “finished” products…not hopeful they will stay as they are!
A useful experiment though, and one that taught my niece and I a lot about natural dyeing with vegetables. Next time I go back to my serious natural dyeing with madder, cochineal, etc. That’s if my niece wants more dyeing experience. She is already proficient in using Dylon dyes for tie dyeing, and may just want to stick to that in the future. We did talk about trying different dyestuff, and not just giving up based on blueberry and beet. There’s a whole plant kingdom out there to explore!
Hello everyone! This weekly review is on the various books and websites used this past weekend at my niece’s. She wanted to learn patterned natural dyeing, not dyeing all one colour. She also is interested in growing a dye garden.
I taught her some of the natural dyeing I knew, and we spent one afternoon with Linda Wallbank, a spinner and weaver, who just happens to also knit and dye. She grows her dye plants in amongst her vegetables. So we checked out her garden too, and her animals – alpacas, llamas, and horses.
At any rate, aside from Linda’s and my expertise, I also used a bevy of dyeing books and websites to help us on our natural dyeing journey. Here are some of the websites I found useful:
I also took the opportunity to make use of my natural dyeing library with this workshop. I found the following books useful.
“Wild Color” by Jenny Dean
”The Complete Guide to Natural Dyeing” by Eva Lambert and Tracy Kendall
”The Craft of the Dyer” by Karen Leigh Casselman
”The Dyer’s Garden” by Rita Buchanan
”Natural Processes in Textile Art” by Alice Fox (rust dyeing)
”Harvesting Color” by Rebecca Burgess
”Natural Dyes” by Judy Hardman and Sally Pinhey
”Eco-Colour” by India Flint
”Shibori” by Yoshiko Iwamoto Wada, Mary Kellogg Rice, and Jane Barton
”Stitched Shibori “ by Jane Callender
While we didn’t do any shibori per se, we did spend a lot of time on tie dyeing. Looking at shibori books inspired my niece to stretch her tie dye design repertoire. We surfed the Internet and found some interesting patterns to try.
The top three useful books for this particular workshop were: “Wild Color”, “The Complete Guide to Natural Dyeing “, and “The Craft of the Dyer”. Having said that, we did have difficulty getting beet dye and blueberry dye to stick to the pre-mordanted cotton fabric, no matter whose instructions we used! And of course, we discovered they are both fugitive dyes. While I suspected the beet dye of being fugitive before we started, I did not know what to think of blueberry, having never used it. Other dyes we used were: carrot tops, onion skins, and staghorn sumac leaves.
All in all we had a great time experimenting, and the above resources were a great help. Check them out if you’re interested in natural dyeing!
This a continuation of my mordant post last Friday.
There are lots of mordants out there. Mordants cause dyes to be more lightfast, or to fade less. They act as a bridge to hold the dye to the fabric. Different types of fabrics use different mordants. Sometimes in different combinations and order. Here are some of the more common ones, and some not so common ones, I have used.
Dyer’s alum (potassium aluminum sulphate) – wool and silk
alum (aluminum sulphate) – wool
copper (copper sulphate) – wool
iron (an old rusted steel horseshoe or spike) – wool and silk
black tea – wool, silk, and cotton
Staghorn sumac leaves (used with Dyer’s alum and cream of tartar on cotton) – cotton
onion skins (a mild mordant that I use with other mordants) – wool, silk, and cotton
Modifiers can be added to change or alter colours or pH of the dyebath too. It is usually added after the dye. These help to ‘set’ the dye. Some of these are listed below.
cream of tartar
The biggest concern with mordants is always safety. Mordants are needed for natural dyeing, but you can have too much of a good thing. I won’t use the iron powders sold because they are too dangerous. Likewise with copper sulphate. I used it once and will not do so again. Nor tin, nor chrome. Alum is a much safer alternative.
The key to successful and safe mordant use is to exhaust the mordant bath before disposing of it. That means saving it and using it over and over again until it no longer works. Checking the pH with a pH strip to make sure it’s neutral before disposal is a good idea too.
The above is before dyeing. After dyeing you may get results like below…
You can see the difference a mordant or modifier makes!