All in all I didn’t really want to talk about blue moons today, that just came up…lol..but I wanted to talk about purple, its meaning and how to get shades of purple in your dyeing.
Purple is a pigment secreted by marine gastropod molluscs (species names are murex and purpure). According to legend, the dog belonging to Melkart, the phoenician god of dyers, was responsible for discovering purple. In modern day Lebanon and Syria there were traces of use of Murex found in archeological sites dating back to 1500BC: whole hills of crushed seashells have been found right next to the dyeworks in these communities. The farming of Murex was difficult: first they had to find the molluscs in the waters of the Mediterranean , then break open the shells. The molluscs were then left to soak for some time in big basins and then they had to remove the liquid from a very tiny gland. Exposed to the sunlight the juice turns from white to a yellowish green, then to green, then to violet and then finally a deeper and deeper red. You had to control the duration of exposure of the liquid to sunlight very very precisely.. The dyed silk, wool and fabrics were very very highly priced. That’s why they call purple a royal colour, reserved for kings, noblemen, priestst and magistrates. It represented prestige. In ancient Rome the colour purple reached the height of popularity. Under the Roam republic, the toga, a mark of citizenship, was edged with a purple band. The robes by triumphant soldiers were completely purple and bordered with gold and the generals at the head of the armies wore a paludamentum , a purple cloak. Then roman emperors made the olour exclusively their own. Purple became the symbol of political power. Caligula haad the King of Mauritius killed because he wore purple and Nero, another example of a “nice” emperor…, condemned anyone wearing purple to death. In the 15th century Pope Paul II decreed that Cardinals could wear purple but it was cochineal insects that provided the violet/purple, not the molluscs. How they exactly got those ancient purples from the murex remains a mystery: the recipes were lost by the ninth century and it wasn’t until the very beginning of the 20th century that the chemical structure of purple and the methods of dyeing were discovered. If you thought purple was valued in Europe alone, you are mistaken.. At the other end of the world and totally isolated from one another, in Mayan and Aztec society in Latin America, purple was also highly valued and…yes…they also extracted the juice to make purple from similar molluscs, so called purpure patula mollusc. And, it was also a very royal colour. Ofcourse , to get purple I don’t go fishing for particular molluscs…no what you can do to get a very nice royal purple is use a plant! The Madder plant or Rubia tinctorum. The Madder is a leafy , sprawling plant thatis actually considered a weed here in Victoria …Its dye material comes from the root not the leaves. You chop up the root and dry it into a powder. You can only get clear, bright colours with a heavily concentrated dye bath. You will also get much deeper colours from roots that are 5 years or older ! There are tricks to get the right colour: if you use a hot water dye bath you have to keep the temperature below 60degrees Celsius or the colour will become browner ! If you use alum you will get a red, tin will give you an orange and chrome will give you a violet. Heres a recipe which I use to get those nice deep velvet purples you see in this weeks offerings : 100g of protein fibres 20g madder powder concentrate 4 litres of water mordant used: iron and cream of tartar Best to use a cool water dyeing method and simmer on low for 1-2 hours until the dye is a deep mahogany hue. Leave the dyebath to cool until the fibres are the depth of red or purple you want. Rinse the dyed fibres in warm water until clear.
Next week I will delve into some other dyeing magic and tell you another secret ! shhhhhhhhhhh ;-)
Welcome to the magical world of natural dyeing !
Dates to Remember:
Sunday 29th-September 2013 from 9.30am to 3 pm
And now: drumroll!!!!
Hand dyed IxCHeL Madder Bunny Tops
100+grams Prices are listed below each different type of madder blend