Rug dyeing

The variations found in rugs and kilims around the world are amazing and beautiful. The color combinations present in a kilim or persian rug make it appealing to the eye and a wonderfully decorative work of art. Each color hides a meaning which contributes to it’s fascination. Early rugs and kilims of course used dyes obtained from vegetable and animal sources. In modern times synthetic dyes are also used and make rugs more affordable to the average person. It is very common on tribal rugs to see this variation in color and is a unique characteristic of  handmade rugs. The exact ‘’recipe’’ used by a particular rug maker was a closely guarded secret which passed from generation to generation  or sometimes died  with the passage of time and the rug maker. The nomads who make kilims could not produce a large batch of dye, therefore sometimes the color would vary from lot to lot in that way as well. Dyeing is basically turning a textile product like yarn, fiber and fabric into the color of your choice. It is done using special dye solutions consisting of dyes and chemical solutions. It is done to add color to the fabric and ultimately increase the product’s value of the fabric. There are commercial dyeing houses that work on commission dyeing houses that work on commission basis. Dyeing at home is also possible by following the correct technique. Earlier dyes were extracted from natural sources like plants and animals but, recently, man-made artificial dyes are used in order to maintain the stability of color even after washing and regular use. Let’s rugs in following part of the article:z

Methods of dyeing rug:

Though we are dealing with methods of dyeing a rug,the same methods are applicable for rug dyeing as well. The only thing to be kept in mind while dyeing is,the type of fabric out of which the rug or the carpet is made. The dyeing method is broadly divided into two types,which are pre-dyeing and post-dyeing and they are further divided into a few sub types:

  • pre-dyeing:

As the name suggests, it is the method of dyeing the fibers  before they are tufted into a carpet. There are sub-type of pre-dyeing which are:

  1. Solution dyeing:

This is the most common method of dyeing used all over the world. It is called spun dyeing or dope simple terms, the fibers or threads are dyed,which spreads the dye throughout the fabric. A colored pigment is mixed with the polymer from where the yarn fibers are weaved into each other.this causes the color to become an inherent part of the fibers and does not remain only at the surface as what can occur in post-dyeing. This  color permanently sticks to the fibers and is not affected by washing the fabric or exposing it to sunlight. The only drawback of solution dyeing is that dyeing colors available are very limited.

  1. Stock dyeing:

Here the yarn is dipped into a bath of the dye. A large vessel to store liquids is used in this process. The yarn is placed into the vat containing dye and heated with extreme pressure. The pressure forced  the dye into the fibers,coloring them. The yarn is then spun to remove excess water and heated to dry the color. This method is commonly used for dyeing wool,acrylic,polyester and nylon fabric.  These dyed yarns are more susceptible to flooding,bleeding of color and staining; however,it largely depends on the type of fiber and dye.

  1. post-dyeing:

It is done after the yarn is turned into a carpe. Post-dyeing is divided into the following sub-types:

  • Continuous dyeing:

Spray jets are used to apply the dye on the carpet evenly in a continuous process,moving forward and backward through the dye range. The carpet is then steamed to allow the dye to set onto the fibers. A single applying device  is used to color the carpet into a solid color whereas multiple applicators are used to have different colored effects. This technique helps reduce the cost of the carpet and hence most residential carpeting is produced using this technique.

  • Beck dyeing:

This type of dyeing is a costly method used specifically for heavy yarn fibers. Long rolls of carpet are placed in a stainless steel tank containing dye and the temperature of the dye is increased in order to allow the fibers to absorb the color. Usually single solid color dyeing is done in this method but, having alternate stripes of colors is also possible.

  • Print dyeing:

This method is very much similar to continuous dyeing. The only thing is,print dyeing offers you a great scope of color patterns on  the carpet. It is done on the surface level of the rugs and does not penetrate the back side. It may show a reflection on the reverse side in case of thin fabrics. Printing is done in different ways like screen printing,direct printing,discharge printing,roller printing,block printing,resist printing etc.

Home dyeing method

You can even dye rugs at home just by following some steps. Remember, you are not a professional dyer, so extra care should be taken while doing the task. The things that you need for dyeing are:

  • A vat or a regular bathtub.
  • Dye color 
  • Hot water

The steps for dyeing a rug are as follows:

  • Fill the bathtub or vat up to 2 quarters full with hot water.
  • Add the dye. If you are using two colors, add the second color.
  • Stir the water with a spatula gently for about 20-30 years. This will prevent streaks on your colored rugs.
  • Dip the rugs into dyed water with all it’s edges completely inside. Use the spatula to push the rug’s edges inside so that you won’t get stains on your hand.
  • Let the rugs soak in the water till the desired color is achieved. Keep stirring the water to avoid the dye settling in one place.
  • Remove the rugs and rinse it in cold water.
  • Spin it to remove excess water and put it in a drying rack or spread towels on the floor and place the rug on them to air dry.

How to choose the right rug:

Whether you follow the ballard tried-and-true decorating concept of ‘’start with a rug’’ or just select one to add color and definition to an established decor,area rugs are the quintessential decorative accessory. From the elegance of a classic oriental to the casual look of a natural jute, an area rug adds personality and warmth to a room. But with so many styles,colors and material to choose from, how do you know which one is right for you?It’s actually easier than you think. Here are a few ground rules to help you choose the right rug for your room. 

Common rug dyes and color dyestuff:

The availability of plant stuff to create the beautiful colors is dependent upon a climate and what is available locally. One often finds a wider range of colors in rugs produced near the carpet weaving centers. This is because they had access to trade routes and the stability of parts of  the world. Often, tribal rugs have a limited number of colors available, and the availability of those colors can change, particularly with nomadic tribes who would move to different areas.

However,in general, the following plants are used to produce certain dye color ranges.

How is red color dyestuff produced?

The most common dyestuff used to produce red color dye is the root of the madder plant. However, some red colors produced  from the carapace are of a certain type of insect,called cochineal see below. Madder produces a more orange-red,but cochineal produces a more burgundy red. Cochineal was used in Spanish rugs, and the red produced became known as ‘’spanish red’’. Safflower is also used to produce reds in some areas, but this dyestuff does not tend to be light fast and will fade in time.

How is blue color dyestuff produced?

The leaves of the indigo plant are the oldest,and most common source,for blue dyes. They are still used to provide the characteristic color of blue jeans. The leaves are picked and must be fermented to produce a brilliant color.

How is yellow color dyestuff produced?

Yellow dyes come from weld and larkspur. Pomegranate peel was also used to produce a certain yellow color.

How is green dyestuff produced?

Green dyes are often produced by double dyeing the yarn first in larkspur,saffron or weld and then in indigo. There are many sources of green in the plant world,but many of them will fade quickly in the light. Making a good and pleasurable green dye is not easy and usually takes a master dyer to create a good shade. The double dying process also takes longer and costs more. That is why green colored rugs are quite rare and weavers would not typically make green unless they had some sort of custom rug order which would enable them to charge more for the rug.

How is orange color dyestuff produced?

Orange dye colors were produced from henna leaves,and also by over-dying madder red with weld yellow. Saffron was also used in certain parts of the world to produce a range of orange and yellow.

How is purple dyestuff produced?

Purple dyes were generally derived from hollyhocks,but this dyestuff also proved not to be light-fast. A more stable and light-fast dye was produced from a gland in a particular sea snail,called murex.fabrics dyed with this substance were once some of the most expensive in the world.

How is black color dyestuff produced?

Black dye is often produced by starting with dark wool and then over-dying it with blues,reds, and yellow. Sometimes iron salts were used,but these tend to deteriorate and oxidize the wool quickly.


Colors can determine our moods,emotions, actions and how we relate to people and carry out our daily activities. The color of your area rug can influence how you feel when you walk into your room.

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