Dyeing The WoolNext Step »
Using safe synthetic dyes that are very resistant to fading and bleeding, the wool is dyed by one of the following methods: boiled for more than six hours in a large copper pot or steamed in a water bath. When dyed in the copper pots, the copper acts as a fixative to help the dye adhere to the wool. Steaming reduces the dyeing time to two to three hours and generally produces colors with better accuracy. The dyeing process "pre-shrinks" the wool before it is knotted and prevents additional shrinking after the rug is completed.
Natural dye ingredients
Adding the mix to the bath
Checking the color
Many bundles of wool
Wool boiling for many hours
Out in the sun to dry
Each year a selection of rugs are produced with natural dyes, dyes made from a combination of tree bark, leaves, vegetable skins and other natural ingredients. Natural dyes are quite costly since gathering and preparing all the ingredients for the dye takes much time. In addition, the dyeing process for just one bundle of wool can take as long as two weeks. Natural dyes are also quite tricky to produce as a constant temperature needs to be maintained to achieve a consistent absorption of the dye. Many times the final color is only known when the completed rug is washed.
Over the past decade, Pakistan has experienced a great shortage of rainfall, making it hard to get enough "juicy" plants to produce good natural dyes. In the past year or so, however, rainfall has increased and our artisan group is now working hard to produce natural dyes.
The wool for all Ten Thousand Villages rugs is dyed at three dyeing centers located in Lahore, Pakistan's second largest city and home to the artisans' warehouse. A centralized dyeing system insures color consistency throughout all rugs. A dye master, who acts like a head cook, oversees the process. He knows all the "recipes" for making each dye and with expert skill alters his recipe for a certain color to accommodate variations in the wool. Once the wool is dyed, it is taken to the various village centers and stored until it is dispensed to families for use.