Posted by: Laura Pierce | March 20, 2021

Over the Rainbow… in swatches!

‘Rainbow Bubbles’ by Laura Pierce, 2010

Back in 2010, I was heading to Texas to teach at the Yellow Rose Rug Event! As a couple of my students wanted to hook bubbles, I needed to practice a few myself. I had hooked a few bubbles in my rug ‘Emmy’, so it had become part of my ‘repertoire’. However, since I was working from a photograph for Emmy’s bubbles, I didn’t really know what was involved in creating a bubble from scratch. I studied lots of photos and illustrations of bubbles and created this pattern to test my skill. First, I needed to dye my ‘bubble wool’ and it would be a rainbow of wool in several values.

Around this same time, I had created a box of dye recipes; using the 3 primary colours to create all the colours of the colour wheel, or a rainbow. Since soapy bubbles with light on them are covered with swirling rainbow colours, I knew that was what I wanted!

Rainbow of Dye Recipes: recipe cards with dyed samples attached, with the box of recipe cards.

Fast forward to 2020… I maintain a supply of Rainbow Pastel Swatches; up to 3 values. My supply was getting low, so I spent many days in July, dyeing 3 more swatch sets with 8 hues each! Gathering all my previous notes about dyeing these swatches, I made dyeing notes to dye each hue in 3 different values. However… when I was done dyeing, washing and drying my wool; I could see that there were some big value jumps. More figuring and more dyeing to create a fourth value…

Dyed wool sorted into 8 hue swatches; 1/3 yard pieces ready to be ripped and assembled into Rainbow Swatches! Previous swatches sit on top of each pile.

Satisfied with these four rainbow swatches, I used the dyed salvages to make new clean dye notes for each value. This way, next time will be a cinch!

Zooming with a small group of rug friends; I proposed a rainbow rug challenge. In my mind was a wonderful, large painting by Frank Stella, that I’d seen in an art show at the deYoung Museum in San Francisco. I shared this inspiration and my swatches with my friends; Laurie and Louise dyed up a wonderful gray swatch to complete our colour plan!

Painting by Frank Stella at the deYoung Museum, San Francisco, January 2019

“Visitors to Gallery 14 at the de Young immediately encounter the riot of geometric color that is Frank Stella’s impressive 12-foot-square painting, Lettre sur les aveugles II (1974). This vibrant work was the first of Stella’s paintings to enter the permanent collection of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.” from the de Young website.

We enjoyed the challenge and the inspiration. Frank Stella uses very saturated colour and my swatches are pastel. That was okay, because we didn’t want to copy his painting, just be inspired by his bold use of colour and various values of gray. I’m not a big fan of gray; I find it hard to work with as it seems to dull my colours. Frank Stella is using several values of gray and creating a glow! so how does that work? It was an informative challenge; letting us know which colours worked together, which ones spoiled the mood and which ones stole the show.

‘Circles & Bars’ by Laura Pierce, 2020

I had raindrops in mind and was going to use the beading stitch to use my colours with my gray. It worked until I got into the darker grays. Mud! I left it in for awhile, then replaced the darker middle section with green and blue. The second circle without beading was more successful. The third circle was big and came undone as I circled around, so I abandoned the circling and reverted to my favorite; ‘Random Fill’. Blending the colours made me much happier and I enjoyed seeing which combinations pleased me. Trying to only use the wool in the challenge, you’ll find a bit of dark purple masquerading as gray.


  1. WOW beautiful

  2. What a fascinating study. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Hi Laura!

    An interesting story, perseverance came through! Beautiful colors.

  4. Truly, a thoughtful artistic approach and outcome! Appreciate the journey…

  5. Thank you for your comments… glad to hear them. A new project coming up using more rainbow swatches… and some rainbow spots I’ll need to dye!

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