dye experiment

Because I work every day in historical costume the clothes I wear for work are just that, my workclothes, and I don’t want to wear them for re-enactment stuff at weekends because they feel dull and frumpy and boring. Consequently I’ve always had a separate set of outfits for anything I do at the weekends, even if I’m getting paid for it.

Unfortunately, when I was a Roman at the Ashmolean this summer I discovered that my weekend Roman outfit had been very badly mothed. It’s not unwearable, but I thought I’d downgrade it to workwear, or possibly cut the bad bits out and make it into something else.

I’m a firm believer that if you replace a costume you should take the opportunity to upgrade at the same time, so I decided the new Roman frock would be naturally dyed (well, apart from the tablet weave I’m going to reuse from the old one until I have time to weave new).

I really love the pale peachy apricot you get from exhaust madder, but I didn’t have the time, or the spare materials, to achieve this shade by the conventional method of using several baths, so I decided to experiment with doing it first time.

I needed more madder root to use as  a handling artefact with schools (it gets spilled a lot because children) so I decided to use that and then dry it out again in order to get better value. Unfortunately drying wet madder out isn’t all that simple at this time of year because leaving it in the sun isn’t an option, so I had to ladle soggy madder into old tights and put it on the radiator. my radiator is now pink.

Anyway, I did a two step process wherein whilst the fabric wetted out one evening I simmered 100g of madder. The wool fabric is the stuff I use for embroidery, so I had ten metres on hand for classes, the piece weighed 800g, and it’s a nice lightweight tabby that drapes well – drape is the thing with Roman. The next day when I got back from work it was cold, so I sieved out the lumpy bits (normally I do loose dyestuff in the bath, but theres a danger that could make cloth blotchy because bits don’t circulate as well in cloth), then I added the mordant (alum, 15percent) to the bath with the cloth and simmered for another evening.

It’s almost dry now, a bit brighter than I envisioned – less yellowy and more orangy, but I think it’s very pretty?



~ by opusanglicanum on November 19, 2015.

20 Responses to “dye experiment”

  1. A very pretty colour and a useful description of the process

  2. It is very pretty. I imagine the pink dribbles down your radiator look very fetching too!

  3. Having just had an encounter with madder at the weekend, I can just imagine what your radiator looks like!

    But the fabric looks good, so it was worth it!

    • ooh, what did you dye?

      • It was just a workshop, making shade cards of wool and silk, but the tutor also added in a wonderful mixture of laces and other fabrics so we could see the variety of effects available..

      • I lead some dye workshops for a local yoof group a few years ago, resources were a nightmare cos of price of pots and stuff. I made them do felting whilst the pots were cooking

      • Thus neatly keeping them out of mischief!
        We were taken on a walk around the Botanic Gardens in the rain to find out about plants that yield dyes. Oh, and we had lunch, too!

      • Well
        They don’t really have botanic garden in Hartlepool, so that sounds lovely, but felting was the better option. Which botanic garden did you go to?

        Gareth goes to the one in oxford and steals cuttings whilst I’m at work. I keep expecting him to get arrested. And he’s always whining the the bird of paradise in leamington is too tall/ not in flower for him to steal pollen from ( his great ambition is to recreate a bird of paradise hybrid that flowered once at kew about 100 years ago. He thinks he has a baby one, but it’s very sick)

      • We were in Glasgow. I’ve written it up for my blog, and I think it goes up tomorrow.

      • I keep wanting to go to Glasgow as I’ve never visited the burrel(?) but unfortunately Gareth has Glasgow high on his mental list of places where you will definitely be stabbed ( also includes most if south leeds, all of Bradford, and Nottingham). Maybe if I tell him there’s a botanic garden I can tempt him…

      • Well, I didn’t get stabbed. And there’s Mackintosh, and the Burrell, and MoMa, as well as the Botanic Gardens!

      • he’s very hard to convince on the not stabbing thing (this is the man who thinks if you honk at someone when they cut you up driving they’re going to get out and stab you – I pointed out that 90% of the time I have swords and axes in my van, but he refuses to be swayed on this) not that he’s a nervous paranoid wreck or anything…

      • “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still”, as my mother used to quote at me!

      • I don’t think it would ever be possible to persuade gareth not to be a paranoid weirdo, so I haven’t really tried that hard, to be honest

  4. OOoh, that does look very nice. I hope you’ll show it to us in its finished format.

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