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.

Friday 20 June 2014

Don't throw it away!

2 days ago I decided I needed to use a boiler, lifted the lid and immediately held my nose! There was liquid in there that ponged, had a scum of mould on the top and the liquid (when I got through to it) looked colourless.
"That's going" thought I so started scouping out the liquid into a bowl to throw into my waste liquids tank. When I got close to the bottom there was a thick layer of gloup - sludgy, squidgy gloup!
I scouped this out but then thought "wonder what happens if I dye with this?" Found a pan and poured it in.
Rooted though mordanted stuff and found 100g shetland tops and worked it through the gloup. I heated the pan to almost boiling - must have been about 90 degsC. Simmered for about 1/2 an hour and then left it to cool down. When I took the tops out I was stunned at the depth of colour there!
The I added 100g yarn and reheated - well basically did the same again, still more colour but slightly paler.
Haven't added anything else yet, but I don't think it's exhausted!

I should add that this was originally a madder dyebath in use about 6 months ago - I'd used a different boiler to my normal one and then forgotten it!
Just shows you shouldn't throw anything away certainly not without checking it out!

Tuesday 17 June 2014

Textile Tidings

It's taken a while but I've finally got back into my account! I will endeavour not to forget my password again.

So - what is the title about then? Well over the years when I've gone to Guilds and Museums doing my demonstrations and talks about "The Life and Times of the Mediaeval Dyer" or Roman or Tudor or Geargian and now World War 1, I have frequently been asked whether I have written a book with all the information in that I've been talking about.

The answer has been always "No!" However it has occurred to me that a compilation of period textile "facts" would help me no end - getting older and the brain being slow, if everything was written down in one place then it would be easier to refer to, so I've decided the time has come to start this compilation.

The title will be Textile Tidings hopefully a mix of interesting little facts about anything to do with dyeing, spinning, weaving, fibres, sheep, silk, etc, etc.In the paper version all references, primary sources etc will be annotated with the "fact" so it can be verified.

However I also thought it would be fun to put facts out into the big wide world as a bit of a game. So on twitter and facebook if you see #TextileTidings please join in and say what you think something might be or when it was or what it was.  I won't be able to do one every day - we don't always have the use of computers and phones when working (Mediaeval Dyers didn't have them!!) But they'll be out there as often as possible!

Watch out for #TextileTidings!