Not sure what I did wrong/right

It’s sort if one of the accepted truths of early medieval reenactment that a true black is impossible until the introduction of logwood ( a new world dye). This has always bothered me a bit because there are some very obvious blacks on several pieces of embroidery that predate logwood, most notably the Bayeux.

I almost got black without logwood when I was dyeing for the antependium, but my blue vat ran out and what I was convinced it needed was another couple of blue dips.

Then last week, this happened, and I’m not entirely sure how…image

Three skeins came out mottled browner green, and three are definitely black black Blacketty black- that’s my commercially dyed black linen bag in the corner for comparison.

See, everyone makes mistakes, and a few months ago I made one. I set up an indigo bath wanting blues and greens to go with the dyeing I did last year. (Indigo and woad, btw, contain the same dye chemical, indigotin, but indigo is the commercially exploited dye because it contains more of the compound, so for authenticity purposes it’s fine to use indigo if you can’t get your hands on woad).

I did the bath the usual way, and it looked fine, except that as soon as I started dipping wool in it was obviously not right at all. Even after a single dip- and it often takes four or five to get decent colour- everything came out deep navy blue. The blue was so deep it obliterated the underlying yellows.

I tried to correct it, left it for a bit, added more spectralite, but nothing worked and in the end I reluctantly abandoned the bath.

After thorough washing and drying the skeins I had were not only too dark but the blue was very fugitive and came off over everything it came into contact with.

Now I could have just chalked it up to experience, but wasting wool bothered me. So on Monday I threw the six skeins into a dye bath with some odds and sods of leftover dyes- a handful of madder, a bit of walnut, and couple of oak galls I found when we went out for a walk- I thought that if was lucky I’d get a dark brown. Browns good, it’s almost as hard to dye a decent brown as it is to get black, but instead I got black.

And I’m not really sure how to repeat the experiment. I am, however, tempted to keep a skein on my person at events just to wave under the noses of the nay-Sayers.

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~ by opusanglicanum on February 19, 2014.

18 Responses to “Not sure what I did wrong/right”

  1. That’s a gorgeous black! Is it fugitive like the blue, or did it get set up?

    • It’s still a little fugitive, but then no more than most blues ( I can never get then quite t but find they’re fine when the finished piece is washed, it’s just that my hands get a blue tinge working)

  2. Intriguing!

    (I have to say, though, that without a how-to, even an example skein is probably not going to shut up the naysayers…)

    • Oh, I know what dyes went into it. Besides, even if it doesn’t shut them up, it will mightily piss off the nay Sayers, which is actually one of my hobbies witching reenactment

  3. beautiful!

  4. What’s to stop the original blacks from being the unrepeatable results of experimentation or mistakes? Or might they have changed colour over the years?

  5. You’re an alchemist, clearly. Have a shot at pure green a la lord Percy next. BTW do I need to bring anything for the workshop on Saturday – no materials list so far.

    • I’m providing everything apart from scissors, I think they have some in the education suite but I can’t vouch for their sharpness, so if you want to bring a pair feel free.

      If I cornered the market in green I could be rich beyond my wildest dreams!

  6. How wonderful! Clearly, you’re onto something spectacular and will go down in the history books as being the woman who rediscovered the dyeing technique of the true black… if only you could remember how you did it!

  7. Now that’s interesting, although to my eyes on this monitor, even the ‘black’ bag looks more like a dark navy blue than a black.
    Maybe there was a difference in the indigo that you used? Have you changed your water supply recently?

    • Monitors are very variable that way

      I know I cocked up the indigo bath, but beyond that I have no clue. I’d actually wondered if there was something wrong with the thioria I used.

      • I found mention of a later period black dyeing recipe somewhere I was reading this week, but I now can’t recall where. It contained a bit of everything as well. I shall let you know if I find the source.

      • The recipes are often long lists of ingredients for black, although not necessarily all in the same pot. Let me know if you find it – i do have several of the Dover editions

  8. huh, wonder if there was too much oxygen in the dyepot.

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