Natural Dyeing at the Tinker Park
What a great evening prior to the Civil War Living History Days event. Participants learned the art and history of dyeing materials naturally. It was a pleasure to present Vicki Webeck to the class as she is a well-known textile dyer. She hails from Florida and spends many months rendezvousing at various living history events throughout the east coast.
Vicki shows fabric dyed with Black Walnut
The first class Vicki attended was about 6 years ago at the Genesee Country Village and Museum in Mumford, NY with Frieda Peasly. Frieda recently stopped by for a visit to give a demonstration on our spinning wheels here at the Tinker Museum -Check out the earlier post. Vicki's dyeing method has evolved from specific recipe dyeing to a more laid back dash of this, and bit of that. She provides dyed textiles for many reenactors.
Some of the many seeds to be used to for the Historic Dye Garden next Spring here at the Tinker Homestead. Many of the plants on the land here, The Tinker Family used to dye their fabrics with, one being Queen Anne's Lace.
Queen Anne's Lace has some interesting folklore attached to it. Queen Anne, wife of James I of England, was an avid lace maker, and is the namesake of the flower. The tiny purple dot in the center represents a spot of blood caused by a needle prick to the queen’s finger, and this tiny sliver of color was thought to cure epilepsy.
Pounding Queen Anne's Lace
To test the colorfastness of a fabric/plant, try pounding a piece of the dyestuff on the fabric, then give a clear rinse and hang outside in the sun to dry for several days. After washing, you'll see how the dye holds.
Notice the chartruese of Queen Anne!
Wool soaking in Alum as a pre-mordant
Mordant is from Latin "to bite," mordants are chemicals used to fix pigments into fabric during the dyeing process. Alum and iron sulfite are common mordants.
These are usually considered the discards of the vegetable, but not always. Some people have discovered their powerful ability to lend a rich golden color to soups and to dye yarn and fabric. The Greeks traditionally use red onion-skins to dye their Easter eggs a bright pinkish red.
Onion Skins in the dyebath
Onion skins give a lovely golden color
The black walnut tree is native to central and eastern U.S. It is a very tall tree growing to a height of 130 feet. The trunk is covered with a dark brown to black bark. Black walnut shells were used in 1st century Rome to keep hair from turning white. The hulls give many shades from light grey, brown to black. Black walnut is 0ne of the many trees used by the Tinker family for dye.
Pulling the wool from the Black Walnut dye bath
We also used Logwood, this tree is native to Central America and the northern part of South America, and can be mail ordered through many sites found on the web. It has a reddish, twisted and gnarled trunk that grows to a height of 50 feet and is covered with thorns. Logwood was discovered in Mexico by Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century. Logwood yields a purple dye.
The many purple hues of Logwood
One of my favorite dyes to work with was Brazilwood.
The discovery of the New World and the establishment of trade routes to the Americas led to the introduction into Europe of new mordant dyes such as brazilwood. The most commercially viable resource of Brazil in the first decades proved to be the item that gave the country its name, brazilwood, a tropical hardwood useful as a textile dye. Brazilwood yields a beautiful assortment of red hues.
The dyestuff soaks overnight in a jar of simmering water, then gets added to the dyepot later.
Mail ordered Brazilwood before and after soaking
Checking the wool, just beautiful!
Giving a clear rinse
The finished product!
Photo courtesy http://www.renaissancedyeing.com/latest/?sectionid=1