taught and hosted by Robert Mann Rugs
sponsored by Master Rug Cleaner, The Gold Standard in Training & Certification
for Rug Cleaning Professionals

Wool dyed with weld, a plant-source yellow. Brighter is alum mordant only, darker is modified with a mild base.

Good dye practice is about careful record keeping.

Recently Robert Mann hosted and taught a comprehensive hands-on training workshop in the processes of dyeing wool yarns for restoration, using natural dyes and synthetic dye systems to match restoration yarn colors. The workshop was geared for rug restoration staff wanting to develop an inventory of colors and yarns that are not available in stores.

The class provided a technical foundation for understanding dyes and their reactions on the wash floor – fundamental knowledge for the most effective application of bleaching and stripping procedures (oxidizers and reducers). The workshop also helped enable cleaners to speak with authority about dyes to their customers.

The workshop covered pre-metalized acid dyes: application, creating formulas, color matching, maintaining dye shop records; including the following:

  • Natural dyes: madder, indigo, natural yellow, cochineal, and indigo over-dyeing to make green colors.
  • Chemical washing of wool yarns to modify luster before and after dyeing.
  • Dye practice and technique. How to set up a simple but effective dye workshop at your own facility.
  • Learning how to use simple reagent tests to identify dye types.

The following photos by our photographer John Bonath, are a glimpse into the first morning of the workshop.

Cochineal is an insect that is commonly found living on certain cactus plants. It has been used as a fiber dye since antiquity and is still used as a food and cosmetic colorant today.

Madder root dye pot. Dried roots are coarsely ground and simmered together with wool yarn to create a strong red color.

On the left: a few of the colors produced with madder.

Synthetic indigo – an analog ‘clone’ of natural plant source indigo – is an intensely blue damp mass of large crystals which are dissolved in hot water before being added to the dye pot.

The surface of a ‘hydro’ vat before the indigo is fully dissolved and ‘reduced’.

Wool yarn being entered into the indigo vat.

Coming out of the indigo vat yarns ‘oxidize’ as they are exposed to air, turning from pale green to blue as the process takes place.

Two yarns being ‘over-dyed’ in an indigo vat. A pale yellow yarn comes out green. A pale red yields purple.

Weld, lac and madder, on wool yarns.

The following specialists attended our workshop.

Matt Dohanian is from Bon Ton Rugs, outside of Boston, MA.  His company is a 4th-generation family business specializing in the cleaning and repair of rugs.  Matt came to the workshop to “learn from the best”.  So far, they have done minimal dyeing and hope to expand into the area of small batch dyeing.  The workshop has gone well for Matt – he didn’t expect anything less.

Theresa McCartin comes to us from Bal Arisi Area Rug Washing and Repair in the Philadelphia, PA area. Theresa joined the workshop to learn wool dyeing, using different agents to manipulate the colors. She says, “As long as Robert Mann is willing to give up his knowledge to others, I am here to learn from him.  He sets the bar really high.” 

Armen Dohanian is Operations Manager with Ellen Amirkhan at Oriental Rug Cleaning Co., Dallas, TX.  He runs all operations for the shop and does most of the dyeing for repairs.  He presently does top dyeing but runs into limits and hopes to gain more knowledge to get exactly where he wants to go with his dyeing. He is also interested in the wash aspects of the workshop and the implications that dyeing has in reacting to the cleaning process, in order to better understand what happens in the cleaning process.  He comments, “Bob is a wealth of information, most of which is learned knowledge and experiential instinct that underpins it, not just science that you might read in a book. Getting information versus tying it all together from doing the hands-on work is like the maxim that someone can explain it to you but they can’t understand it for you.” He is hoping this workshop will bring him to a new plateau of understanding with his dyeing.

Randy Hyde comes to us from Renaissance Rug Cleaning in Portland, Oregon, where they clean and restore oriental rugs.  They do a lot of restoration, so getting a handle on small batch dyeing is important for Randy.  “Bob is a wealth of information” and Randy hopes to learn as much as possible from the workshop to take back with him.

Liv, Claire and Angie are the restoration team at Robert Mann Rugs.  They are taking the workshop to add small-batch yarn dyeing to their restoration skill set.  Angie has been doing restoration with Robert Mann for the past nine years.  Liv and Claire have recently joined the team.  Claire moved here from Baltimore where she just finished her BFA in Fiber Art from Maryland Institute College of Art.

A bit of our photographer’s magical realism.