baabay, Aaave got da bluuuues!

and also some greens.

This post is brought to you by my inability to resist a truly awful pun. Sorry about that.


I need to get blues and greens done in time for the first course weekend after next, I did the other colours last year but kept putting these off because blue is such a stinky job.

I’d never used woad powder before though, and I have to say I rather liked it and will definately pick in preference to indigo in future. I’ve done several shades of blue, from dipped once to dipped four times, but most of the greens were single dips as they went nice shades first time.

I also treid a new way of keeping the dye bath at the correct, rather low temperature. Rather than hovering over it for hours making sure it didn’t overheat (which would ruin the colour) I assembled the bath and then stuck in the my oven on its lowest temperature (50) and left it alone for two hours. It worked perfectly. I’ll do that again. Of course now I need to clean the oven but then you can’t have everything, can you?

There is one tiny problem with the greens though. You dye greens by overdyeing yellows with blue, and since I used several different yellows I had to take the labels off to dip them – the labels which told me which yellow was which – consequently I have no clue whatsoever which yellow contributed to which green because I got them all mixed up.

Never mind.

~ by opusanglicanum on February 10, 2014.

11 Responses to “baabay, Aaave got da bluuuues!”

  1. Don’t apologise – the occasional truly awful pun adds sparkle to life!
    If I recall correctly indigo is a real pain to dye with – goo to know you enjoyed using woad instead!

  2. amazing color

  3. That’s some nice colours, but why do you need to clean the oven? Did they overflow, or has the smell of the dye got stuck inside?

    Actually, what would you recommend for dyeing in a field at at event? Myself and a friend are thinking of trying some later this year, the question is how to do it – iron or copper pots or wooden vats?

    • Iron pots will make your colours dark, copper is also a mordant but I’ve never used it as such, I think it makes bright colours. Then again most copper pots are tinned on the inside and tin is also a brightening mordant and it’s one you use quite sparingly so it causes wool to shred if used excessively.

      I wouldn’t recommend trying woad at first, specially not at an event, try madder or maybe weld(madder gives more impressive colours) as both are mainstream dyes throughout history. Cochineal is good fun and gives very bright colours, and you can use it for several baths ( I generally get three Fromm madder, giving red, orange and apricot, weld generally yields just the one, but you can get six or seven successively paler shades from 100g cochineal)

      • THanks. I know madder works well at least.
        The trick of course is also getting hold of a copper pot in the first place…
        And looking at the period pictures, I remain somewhat confused as to what sort of vats dyers did use, whether wood or metal or something else.

      • copper pots are not cheap, and you’re going to need a biggun. I don’t do anything even remotely involving fire at shows due to my near blindness without specs, so I use an old stainless steel pot at home. I would love something big enough to dye decent, useable bits of fabric in though, but can’t find anything for a reasonable price.

        I wonder if they would use something like the domestic copper used to heat laundry water? I can’t see how wood would work since dyes need heat, even though not an extreme heat, its still fire. setting up a dye workshop is always an expensive business but must have been even more so historically

      • Yes, I’ve found metal pots to be expensive these days.

        The thing is, regarding historic dyeing, the sources I have are very reticent about exactly how it was done, and some pictures show vats that are being heated, others wooden vats with no fire near them but the cloth definitely being dipped/ soaked in them. Maybe they are for the mordant? Or the other option is that the water was heated in vats made of pewter or copper or whatever and the water let out into the large wooden vats when hot enough. That would I think greatly reduce the amount of copper etc that would be in solution; the dyes themselves react with the metals, but water by itself doesn’t so much.

        Oops, having written that I then find on page 336 of “English Medieval INdustries” which is on google books, that “The dye bath was usually prepared in a cualdron over a direct flame. The cloth might be dipped straight into this or the liquor might be transferred to a separate vat.” There is mention also of keyhole shaped fireplaces, obviously with a metal cauldron fitted on top.

      • I think metal pots have always been expensive.

        There are. Some non conventional dye methods like the solar thing where you put everything in a jar and leave it in the sun for months that don’t use a heat source(I’ve never tried it beca use it does small quantities and has unreliable results) but am not sure heating the water and adding it the dye bath separately would be effective. Many dyes need to simmer to bring out the colour. It would be interesting to try it and see what happens though- although it could be an expensive experiment. It you’re going to torm try and have a chat to John and Debbie from mulberry dyers as they’re far more knowledgeable than me.

        I think I have paper copy of that book somewhere, I’ll try and dig it out and have a look

  4. I’ve found EMI to be an invaluable summary and starting place about these topics; it should be updated and reprinted, it came out in 1991!!!!!!!!

    A lot of it is still correct, but we have much more detail and information e.g. on which copper alloys were used for what and you can probably come up with such examples from your own expertise.

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