{Raleigh NC Newborn Photographer} How to Dye a Flokati Rug

July 19, 2016  •  2 Comments

I decided to write this blog post for my fellow photographers who are like me and enjoy making their own props.  A little known fact about my photography business is that I make almost every prop that I use.  The only thing I buy is the backdrop fabric and an occasional wrap and blanket here and there.  Just about everything else I make myself.  

One of my favorite props to make is colored flokati rugs.  A flokati rug is made with long wool shag fibers.  The texture of it is a little rough, so I never put babies on it without a layer of fabric in between, but flokati has such an interesting texture and looks very pretty when used in newborn photography.  There are many amazing vendors out there who sell beautiful flokati rugs in all different shades, and I'll admit that if you want a more full, lush looking rug, you may want to buy one from a vendor, like Luneberry.  These are much fuller and more lush than the ones from Rugs USA that I dye, but if you are just starting out or enjoy DIY projects, read through this tutorial for some tips on the process of dying one yourself.  I've dyed many flokatis and even occasionally sell them.  

You'll need to buy a flokati in natural white.   I buy them from Rugs USA when they are 70% off.  This makes a 3x5' rug cost about $55.  Shipping is free and usually very quick.  

Before you start, gather your supplies.  I do almost all my flokati dying outdoors whenever it's possible so that I don't have to worry about accidentally getting dye on something inside our house.  I use our yard and I wait for a nice warm day.  

For dye, use Rit dye, but definitely buy the liquid kind.  Don't buy the powder.  It doesn't dissolve well and will create blotches of color.  I buy the bottles of dye at Walmart.  They seem to have the best price, even if you have a coupon to a craft store.  I keep a stock of basic colors and I combine them to make any shade I want.  Have a few old buckets handy too. 

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You'll also need a hair brush.  I just bought a cheap one from the dollar store.  You'll use it to brush the flokati.

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You'll need something to hang the rugs on while they dry.  I stole these plastic saw horses from my husband.  I always hose them off before using them.  You don't want dust and dirt getting on your rug.  

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Other things you'll need:

-a garden hose with a sprayer.  You'll need hot water to dye the flokati, so here's a little trick I do for an easy way to get hot water.  In the morning, I turn on my hose and let the hose fill up with water.  I then place it in the sun where the water will warm up.  Of course, it has to be hot outside, but I only dye flokati when it's hot and sunny outside.  Not only so the water in the hose gets hot, but also so the flokati can air dry fairly quickly.  If it dries too slowly, it'll get a mildew smell and you don't want that.

-a pot of boiling water

-about a cup of vinegar

-a tablespoon or two of laundry detergeant

-a long stick for stirring, one that you don't mind getting dyed

-a huge plastic tub

-a pair of rubber gloves so your hands don't get dyed

 

Step 1: 

Now that you have the supplies you'll need, get some water boiling on the stove.  While it's warming up, go outside and prepare your flokati.  I lay mine out flat in my driveway.  The first thing you need to do is brush it.  This releases loose fibers.  Whatever fibers get stuck to the hair brush, keep them.  You'll need them later to test the color of the dye.  Brush the entire flokati.  Leave it alone for a few minutes.

Next, get your giant tub ready.  We need to fill it up with nice hot water.  The water should not be so hot that you can't touch it, though.  This is the point when I fill it with my hose, which is hopefully full of hot water from sitting in the sun.  I then get the pot of boiling water and dump that in too.  Depending on how full the tub is at that point and how hot it is, you can either fill it the rest of the way with the hose, or go get some hot water in buckets from a shower in your bathroom.  You want the tub filled most of the way.  The flokati will need to be able to fit inside it, be completely covered in water, and not be too crowded.  After you have a tub that's mostly full of nice, hot water, dump in the vinegar and laundry detergent.  It should look like this.  In this picture, my tub isn't filled nearly to the top because on this day I was dying a smaller sized flokati.  The photo is deceiving- it was still at least half full.  

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Step 2: 

Go back over to your flokati and give it a good hose down.  It needs to be wet before you can dye it.  But it can't be soaking, dripping wet.  Go spray it thoroughly.  While you are mixing the dye, the flokati will have a few minutes to lose the excess water.  I had my favorite 5 year old helper do this part for me.  He loves using the hose.  As you can see from the photo, water is already draining off the flokati and running down the driveway.  I used to do this step while hanging the flokati on the saw horses.  But I quickly realized that because of gravity, the top of the rug would dry off and the bottom would be soaking wet.  If the rug is extremely unevenly wet, it could affect how evenly it dyes.  So now I wet it on my slightly inclined driveway.

 

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Step 3:

It's time to get the dye to the right color that you want.  At this point, I take the extra fiber that I brushed off of the flokati and put it in a small pale of water.  I'll use little blobs of it to test my dye to see if it's the right color.

There is no perfect recipe of dye to get the exact color you want.  You just have to experiment.  I don't like bright, bold colors, so I've never made a rug by simply pouring in a single bottle of dye and being happy at that.  On this day, I was going for a muted sage sort of color.  I believe the colors I combined were green, blue, and brown.  Start with less dye than you think you'll need.  You can hold a blob of the fibers into the dye for a minute or so and then pull it out to get an idea of how your dye will turn out.  Here is my son holding a ball of fiber after texting it.  The color looks good to me!

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This is important:  Keep in mind that the loose fibers that you brushed out to use for testing do not hold dye as well as the flokati itself.  They are good for testing the shade, but not the darkness.  Your flokati will dye quite a bit darker and fuller than the loose fibers you tested.  Err on the side of a lighter shade.  You can always add more dye later.

Step 4:

When you think you have the color that you want, pick up your wet flokati and give it a little shake to get out any excess water.  Place it in the tub and stir gently.  Do not stir vigorously or you could felt the rug, which will ruin it.  Keep the rug moving by stirring it around in the tub, but just do it somewhat slowly.   raleigh nc newborn photography how to dye a flokati rugraleigh nc newborn photography how to dye a flokati rugraleigh nc newborn photography how to dye a flokati rug

It only take a minute to a few minutes to dye it.  You can test the color by pulling out a part of the rug and squeezing the dye out.  That should show you approximately what it will look like when dry.  Try not to panic and take the rug out too fast.  If you only let it sit in the tub for a few seconds, the dye will not have enough time to be absorbed evenly and you'll end up with light and dark blotches on your rug, instead of a uniform color.

Step 5:  

When your rug looks like the color you want, carefully take it out (don't splatter dye on yourself) and drape it over the saw horses.  Spray it down with the hose until the water dripping off of it is perfectly clear.  This takes a lot of spraying.  When you are finished, you'll need to leave it to dry.  I recommend putting it in a nice sunny place so it dries quickly.  I check on mine periodically and fluff up the fibers.  That seems to help it dry faster.  Here is my rug drying.  I love the color- it ended up as a sort of muted seafoam/sage color.   raleigh nc newborn photography how to dye a flokati rug dryingraleigh nc newborn photography how to dye a flokati rug dryingraleigh nc newborn photography how to dye a flokati rug drying

Did I mention to wear gloves?  I discovered right before dying my rug that we had run out of rubber gloves, so I had to do without.  Yikes!

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One helpful hint if you do accidentally dye your hands like this...go to a pool if you have access to one.  Taking a shower seems to do nothing, but spending an hour swimming at a pool seems to take almost all the dye off.  It's the only thing I've found that works.  Must be the chlorine in the water. 

A few days later, I used my new flokati for a newborn portrait session.  Here is my new flokati in action.  

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I hope you enjoyed this tutorial.  Good luck and happy dying!

 

 

 


Comments

2.Teresa(non-registered)
Wow! You're so talented. I'm amazed how you mix different dye to get the great color in the picture.
1.Laura(non-registered)
This is so neat, Erica! I have two flokati rugs and now this tutorial is making me want to dye one!! I love the step by step instructions, great post! :)
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