Matching pre-aniline rugs with fabric paint, dye, crewel?
January 27, 2022 1:55 PM   Subscribe

I've been looking for upholstery material that I thought would "go with" our carpets for years, haven't found any, and am considering decorating plain cotton canvas myself. Stenciling would be easiest. The Jacquard textile paints that look right in the bottle aren't when I use them; especially the reds, which turn pinky-purple with the least dilution or wear.

I expect the colors are combinations of madder or cochineal red, and indigo, and ?onionskin?. Three rugs in the house of different ages and designs have really similar hues in different intensities.
  • Has anyone matched old dyes with fabric paints, and do you remember which colors they were; or
  • are there modern-easy fabric dyes that would work; or
  • if I'm unlikely to match organically dyed wool with anything *but* organically dyed wool, can anyone recommend a NAmerican dyer who makes embroidery wools?
  • Or possibly wool felt or dense cotton I could applique with?
Pointers to existing upholstery material that might work are fine, though I have a lot of samples that are just too modern in hue when I put them next to the old stuff.

Also, I sent Dharma Trading this question and they never got back to me, can I rephrase the question better? or maybe they're swamped by the 2020s.
posted by clew to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I bought beautiful fabric stamps from India and love them. Have done tshirts. I'd look for the fabric in the colors you want, and try for more coordinating stamp ink. In any case, pictures here would help and I'd love to see what you're doing because other people's houses are fascinating.

Also, pattern- and color-rich environments don't need to match.
posted by theora55 at 2:06 PM on January 27, 2022

You might consider custom-printing exactly matching fabric via Spoonflower! Or look for natural dyes eg A Verb for Keeping Warm
posted by music for skeletons at 2:28 PM on January 27, 2022

I'm wondering if you are locking yourself into a box here.
Also, I'm not certain what you are looking for.
You can do your own dyes. This is Martha Stewart doing natural dyes. The method is the same with all sorts of pigments, my aunt is a textile designer and when I was young we all dyed everything all the time in huge cast-iron pots or even in the washing machine, using plants we gathered in nature. Now she gets others to do it.
BUT, is that what you really want? I am confused by your idea of printing or painting on fabric, which is not the best method for furniture. I mean, you can do it, but it will wear off, and it may stain your clothes when you sit on it. Printing and painting are best for wall paper and curtains. DIY dyes are fine, I still think it is great fun, but they are hard for an amateur to make as durable as you need for furniture. We were making cotton and silk dresses and scarves, not covers for mattresses and sofas. For those purposes, it is better with fabric made from yarns that are dyed through before weaving. I'm wondering if denim would be a good match for your carpets. You could brighten up your furniture with all the throws and cushions if the indigo is too muted for your taste. Denim is traditionally indigo, but you can get it in other colors. My aunt actually made a fabric for the upholstery of my couch using denim technique but black and red dye. You could probably find an artisan in your region who can do that, but it may be very expensive. I match the relatively neutral upholstery with cushions made from silk saris and colorful wool throws.
posted by mumimor at 3:40 PM on January 27, 2022 [2 favorites]

I know what you mean by commercial fabric looking too clean, clear and bright next to old or ethnic fabrics. There are different issues here. Stenciling with textile paint, this basically sits on top of the fabric and you would feel the difference between the background and the stenciled area. Might not bother you. If you mix a color with its opposite shade on the color wheel, it will tone it down. There also should exist a “color extender” that thins it out without weakening the color. If fabric paints are similar to acrylics, then look for that. Will fabric paint hold up to the wear and tear of sofa cushions though?

Dye will penetrate the fabric—it can even be something as simple as dyeing with tea to tone down a bright color that you have a sample for—but the fabric can’t be synthetic and most upholstery fabric usually has synthetic fibers (or it will have some kind of stain guard to protect it). Dyeing cotton canvas to make your own slipcovers is a pretty big job. It’s a lot of fabric. You’d need a very large container to dye it in to get even coverage…like a trash barrel. If you dyed it in sections, you’d never match the colors. And then there’s getting the right shade to begin with. Etc. Etc.

What do other people with these rugs do?
posted by TWinbrook8 at 5:56 PM on January 27, 2022 [1 favorite]

Your best bet is not to use fabric paints but to do batik dyeing, which is a hassle but overall the best way to paint a pattern onto fabric which will last, and to dye in those more natural colours you want. You paint with wax where you don't want dye, then paint or dip dye, then wash the wax at the end. Big job if you mean to upholster a whole piece of furniture vs a few throw pillows though.

Red is a notoriously difficult colour to dye things, by the way! Lean toward the russet side of the procion dye spectrum? Dharma's Pomegranate might be a good option that seems to be deep without pinks, but it's hard to colour match without photos. Maybe don't use red at all, focus on the other colours, it really is hard to use.
posted by Grim Fridge at 6:30 PM on January 27, 2022 [1 favorite]

You can get liquid extracted madder from Botanical Colors, e.g. this. That will be a lot easier to get started with than starting from roots.
posted by janell at 6:40 PM on January 27, 2022 [2 favorites]

Also these people at ComfortCloth announced recently on Instagram that they are going to start offering custom dyeing (they already dye some or all of their weaving yarns). If you wanted to outsource it.
posted by janell at 6:45 PM on January 27, 2022

Best answer: I just want to add (while i go away and have a longer think if i got anything to add) that in terms of matching your existing colours, you ought to consider the fade is also why nothing is matching out of the box. If you still want to, you might want to start thinking like an art conservator or restorer. But if you do, I won't be confident you can stick with market-ready products.
posted by cendawanita at 7:38 PM on January 27, 2022

I wonder if it would be worth experimenting with muddying the dyes somehow. Either by adding some brown dye or maybe even dying the fabric and then soaking it in really strong tea? Both even? That might get you closer to where you want to be. I'd also really love some pictures, I think I could probably help you more if I had some images to work off of!
posted by Sweetchrysanthemum at 9:43 AM on January 28, 2022

(FWIW cochineal has a pinky-blue tint to it, so that may not be the direction to go for orange reds.)

I *think* your question to Dharma might be (I'm not sure I completely understand your question here tbh):

>>>I have a lot of antique carpets, and I'd like to stencil fabric in shades to match. However, the shades I've tried (list specific names here) are too (pink, bright, fade strangely, &c.). I've attached some rug photos- do you have any suggestions for ( matching shades, reds that fade orange, more antique looking colors, whatever your specific needs are). My intent is to stencil on cotton upholstery fabric.

One other thing- look at dyes, which can have a wider range of colors than paints.
posted by oneirodynia at 12:48 PM on January 28, 2022

Response by poster: Thanks to all of you for kibitzing. Reading your various advices and thinking No! Well, okay, maybe? and moving things around in the house as informal material samples and changing the light and taking pictures, I've decided that while I'm okay with approximating the hues, which aren't all that precise even within each individual rug, what I really want is matching the depth of color. So I need at least yarn-dyed material, and possibly yarn-dyed wool or silk, and possibly a napped material. Onwards!

cendawanita, thank you for that question (what do repairers do?). It got me two references to the Appleton Wool color chart. Maybe I'll finish up with a woolwork pillow.
posted by clew at 4:43 PM on February 1, 2022

well, in terms of colour matching, it's basically to match the fade, so either in tonal value or sepia undertone (this is my very layman understanding of what they do), which I see you're on that track anyway. Not sure what you meant by yarn-dyed wool or silk - do you mean the technique? Insofar as textile dyers would describe it, yarn can be fibres such as wool or silk, the dyeing itself is separate from those words. As for your conviction that your rugs were dyed using pre-aniline dyes, that was why I asked if fade might be another reason why none of the freshly applied colours match in tonal value, as while organic (traditional) stuff does fade faster, industrial/aniline dyes especially old ones, were an improvement but not against their modern counterparts. In any case, I like the idea to match the depth of colour, that's certainly something I would suggest, especially if you're looking at either wool or silk yarn, as matching the textures would also be something very complimentary. Good luck!

Now I'm answering the above with the understanding you're now planning to accessorize to match those rugs, and not actually freshening up the colours of the rugs. If you are doing the second though, what little I know of carpet restoration seems to only advice fabric markers for small sections of rugs, to only match the surrounding pattern and mask the bald spots. Worse cases usually calls for patching (from another carpet of similar colour and pattern) or loosening up the warp or reconstructing it to reweave the section. In any of these cases, you do not apply dye directly to the rug because it's impossible to do the next steps of setting and washing off the dye properly, without harming the surrounding areas or the warp itself.
posted by cendawanita at 8:36 AM on February 2, 2022

It tends to be true that various saturations and fading levels of madder reds will harmonize rather than clashing, so I think your idea of madder-dyed wool for embroidery - or fabric-/piece dyed wool for cushion covers- will be fine even if it isn’t an exact match.
posted by janell at 5:01 PM on February 2, 2022

« Older A repossessing academic memories novel?   |   Help me scrub my head, sans perfume. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.