Saturday, 21 June 2014

WW1 and Khaki

If you follow me on Facebook you'll have read that this year we have lots of demo work commemorating the Centenary of the start of WW1.

In the past I would have said "ugh chemical dyes, no way!" But having started researching the colour Khaki not only is the subject fascinating I've discovered they used lots of natural dyes too!

In the age of "let's patent that" we appear to have a patent for every variation of recipe that they could come up with to produce the colour.

Actually I should perhaps clarify Khaki a little! The word I understand comes from Urdu and means earth or mud. The colour itself can be anything from a tan to brown to olive to grey. It is attributed to Sir Harry Lumsden in Peshawar India where In 1846 he was trying to raise a troup of Guides. He was apparently told to make sure they were "loosely, comfortably and suitably clad" Not a thin red line then! He went to the market and bought white cotton cloth then took it down to the riverbank, wet it out and then rubbed mud into it. He dried and ironed the cloth and made shirts and pants for his troups - hey presto they blended into the hills around!

This colour was adopted officially by the British Army not long afterwards.

So far I have tried a couple of recipes - 1 for cotton and 1 for wool. The cotton definitely looks "khaki" but the wool is not what I would have thought of as that colour. The recipes are different but both are based on cutch and fustic with the use of chrome (eeesh devil's mordant!!!) The wool is also fascinating in that I dyed both Blue Faced Leicester and Merino together in the dyebath - what a difference in the way they have taken the dye!

We will be selling cotton bags, yarn and bookmarks during the year and making a donation to Help for Heroes from the sale of each.

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