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Summer's Colors

Use natural dyes for your hooked rugs

By: Tom Knisely

King Tom, 37" x 27", #4-, 6-, and 8-cut wool on linen.  Wool dyed with natural dyes by Tom Knisely, Pattern desgined by Karen Larsen, hooked by Debra Smith, Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, 2013.

For as long as I can remember, I have been interested in plants. That curiosity was encouraged by both my parents; my mother was a wonderful cook who used vegetables and fruits in season and canned and froze what we ate in the winter months, and my father was an organic gardener in the 1940s when it wasn’t in vogue. I learned early in life how to identify trees and plants. As a barefoot boy, I learned how to soothe a bee sting with plantain leaves and how a little grated apple and a cup of mint tea will settle an upset stomach. The lowly dandelion was honored in our home—in the spring, the greens were made into salads and wilted with a bacon dressing. The flowers became dandelion flower wine that rivaled any cream sherry. 

One day, I picked up a copy of The Rodale Herb Book (Rodale, 1974). The chapter dedicated to dyeing with herbs caught my attention. I was fascinated by the idea that dye could be extracted from local plants and used to color yarn. That was the beginning of a nearly 40-year love affair with natural dyeing.

This article is from the June/July/August 2013 issue. For more information on our issues, check out our issues page.

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