Saturday, January 13, 2018

Everything you need to know about garbing you learned in Kindergarten part 3! Primary Colors!

My own yarn that I dyed with Safflower on the left, madder on the right.  The middle one was a mix.  


Madder. Almost every single cultural group throughout the middle ages and Renaissance had access to madder. It's really the most common dye because it will grow pretty much anywhere.   It has a decent shelf life of about a year but, the fresher it is, the better and more "red" the color will be.  In the picture of my own dyeing attempts, the madder was getting towards the end of it's shelf life.  Still, I got some pretty nice orangy reds out of it, as you can see.
Early 13th Century Extant Pellote

14th Century Illumination

15th Century Illumination

Yellow: As mentioned in the previous post, the Irish loved saffron dyed (or safflower dyed) lienes. In the image above, I've used safflower. Weld also can be used and I have some weld dyed yarn. Weld tends to be "sunnier" yellows while safflower (And saffron) are more "lemony" yellows. Both can be quite bright. I have seen, in person, neon yellow from saffron. My own silk dress, dyed in safflower, is one shade removed from neon yellow. We are talking BRIGHT colors.

Codex Bodmer 1170-1200
14th Century Illumination

Jean Clouet (1485 -1541, French)
Blue: Indigo and woad were both prevalent throughout the middle ages. A study recently done on one of the first settlers of Iceland shows that her apron dress was dyed with Indigo. She passed away between 700-1100 A.D. There is a pretty good article on the Indigo and Woad already but there are a couple of details that need to be explored.

In the 15th and 16th C, when the ways to the east were opening up for Europe thanks to exploration and improved sea travel, indigo started to take over from the woad trade. Indigo is super easy to use and doesn't require quite the years of work that woad does. Many governments in Europe felt that indigo would cause woad to become extinct and cost woad dyers (and woad growers) to go out of business. To protect the interests of the woad dyers, some governments in Europe outlawed Indigo.

This tells us a couple of things - a) Indigo was pretty cheap in the later SCA period and b) you couldn't really tell the difference between woad dyed and indigo dyed. It's just the dyes stuff that is illegal, not the color. This is very important in the next post with purple.

2nd Quarter of the 14th Century
15th Century

13th Century

With these colors, you have...primary colors! In kindergarten, we should have all learned about the color wheel.
Taken from Color wheel artist

All you need is red, yellow, and blue to make up every single other color. Medieval people knew this, too! There has been scientific studies showing that madder was overdyed with a blue dye (woad or indigo) to get purple. This is based on testing of textiles from the mid 14th C. So, the idea that "well, that color didn't exist" isn't accurate. Some colors would be more common than others (madder red was very common) but very few colors were impossible to get the middle ages.  Seriously, as you'll see in the next post, safety cone orange is totally a medieval color.


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