Colouring Outside the Lines: Cochineal & Woad Dyeing

We were delighted to be part of the Festival of Creative Learning again this year!

Our first workshop was based on dyeing woad and cochineal. After playing with cochineal at our Rosslyn Chapel workshops, we decided we wanted to have a workshop dedicated to it. We combined it with woad since we also felt it was time to start our experiments with that pigment since our plants should reach maturity this year!

Beginning with woad prep, we divided our workshop participants into small groups to mix the woad extract with the soda ash to let it sit before adding it to the vat. We were expecting it to be similar to our experiences to indigo since the pigments are very similar, and it was. After the requisite half hour of letting the woad and soda ash sit, we put the mix into the vat, adding the sodium dithionite to the top. The Ph level need adjusting, so we added a bit more of the chemicals to the vat, and waited. It worked and the wool went into the vat.

 

As with indigo, woad changed colour after it was exposed to the air. It was fascinating to watch the process as it was much slower than the indigo transformations. (You can watch a video here.)

_MG_4967-14
Wool floating at the top of vat, showing the colours develop as they are exposed to air.

During the various waiting periods for the woad, we divided the group again to mix the cochineal extract with water to form a paste. Since we had a few cochineal, we also let those interested crush them to see how the colour is released when the crushed bug is mixed with a little water. Once the paste (and crushed cochineal) had been added to the vat, we added the wool.

The range of colours produced from the cochineal was extraordinary! We got everything from light pink to a deep magenta, almost maroon. This was one of the team’s favourite pigments to date.

_MG_4953-7
Range of colours achieved with the cochineal.

This year, we also provided bags for participants to dye and allowed them to bring their own items to add to the vat. The bags were folded in different ways to create patterns on them. Shirts and socks and bags were added at various stages, with fun results!

Advertisements

Colouring Outside the Lines: Vellum Edition

For our second Festival of Creative Learning workshop, we decided that it was time to break out the vellum and quills! We wanted to have a session that was drop-in so that people could come in, play with colour, relax, and spend as much time as they wanted to on their take-away project.

_MG_5022-34

 

 

So, we provided small bits of vellum (a mix of animal hides, including deer, cow, and sheep), quills, instructions and ideas, and the pigments. The first group of participants were lucky in that they got to be our assistants in mixing the pigments for use with vellum.

We ordered the oak gall ink so that we wouldn’t have to worry about collecting enough galls and mixing it ourselves. However, the indigo, verdigris, cochineal, and lead tin yellow did need us to mix it. A few volunteers were brave enough to try their hands at breaking the eggs and getting out the yokes!

Mixing it with a little water and the pigments, we had the colours ready to go in no time. Then it was up to the participants what they wanted to draw (or colour)!

 

Festival of Creative Learning 2018!

We’ll be holding two workshops during the Festival of Creative Learning at the University of Edinburgh. Both workshops are free of charge and open to the public.

Where: 50 George Square, 2.54

When: February 21st, 10:00-13:00 & 13:30-16:00

The morning session will focus on dyeing, using woad and cochineal. We’ll have woad plants & cochineals for everyone to see & we’ll explain how they both yield colour before we use extracts of the dye to dye wool! Participants will also be allowed to bring one item that they’d like to dye with either colour. There are a limited number of spaces available for the morning session!

The afternoon session will be based around the process of decorating a manuscript! We’ll have a variety of inks, quills, and vellum for everyone to experiment with. This will be operated on a drop-in basis, but we ask that everyone registers their interest so that we know how many quills to sharpen & people to expect!

Booking information is available here:

To book the morning session: http://www.festivalofcreativelearning.ed.ac.uk/event/colouring-outside-lines-medieval-pigments-how-use-them

To book the afternoon session: http://www.festivalofcreativelearning.ed.ac.uk/event/colouring-outside-lines-medieval-pigments-how-use-them-0

Please note that the links above are only for University of Edinburgh staff and students. If you’re outside of the university and would like to participate, please send us an email (edinburghmedievalpigment@gmail.com) or a DM on Twitter (@MedievalPigment). Just include your name, affiliation (if applicable), and which session(s) you’d like to attend! We’ll add you to the list that way! If you have any other questions, please get in touch!

We will be live Tweeting the sessions on the day & will post a follow-up blog shortly after the event.

[More news about the garden & its progress will be posted soon!]

Colouring the Past: Photos

With thanks to the Festival of Creative Learning, ECA Textiles, our volunteers, and our participants.

Colouring the Past: Madder & Weld

Time for experimenting with madder & weld! Once again, we prepped the Dye Lab and eagerly awaited for our participants to arrive.

 

When everyone had arrived and was debriefed on what we would be doing, we handed it over to them! The experiments for madder & weld were comparatively much simpler than the indigo experiment. Instead of having to worry about mixing chemicals and waiting for PH levels to even out, all that was necessary was to mix chalk with water and the pigment extract with water before combining them and putting them into the vat, and giving the vat a good, but gentle, stir.

 

 

We decided to use extracts of the plants rather than the ground plant itself because of time constraints. In the case of both madder and weld, to use the plant would take a couple of days to yield viable colour. The extracts take a couple of hours from start to finish. (Longer if you want to go for deeper shades.)

 

 

To give the dye vats a chance to settle, we also gave this group a short presentation on EMPP, our goals, the history of madder & weld, and a quick introduction to medieval colour recipes. Then, it was back to the lab to put the wool into the dye vat.

 

 

After awhile, we decided to add more extract to the madder vat in the hopes of expediting the process of getting a deeper red, as we seemed to be stuck on a deep shade of dusty rose.

 

Ultimately, we ended up with a very vibrant yellow from the weld. And the madder gave us a range of reds. We also had some mordanted wool that we had dyed indigo on Day One that we over-dyed with the weld, which yielded several shades of yellow and green on the one skein, dependent on how evenly the indigo had dyed.

 

img_9360

 

 

Once all of the participants had left, our team cleaned the Dye Lab and took all of the yarn to the Greenhouse, where we hung it over the rafters so that it would dry in the coming days. (And maybe inspire the plants to grow a little more.)

 

 

While we were there, we checked on our seedlings, watering where necessary. And after some more debate and comparison, we decided that maybe, just maybe, that one plant that wasn’t labelled was madder!

 

img_9411
Maybe Madder?

 

We hope everyone who participated enjoyed the workshops and everyone else enjoyed hearing about them. Our team is ready to dye again, and experiment with other possibilities with the pigments.

Look out for information on how to get involved in our next workshops!

In the meantime, though, if you’d like to try your hand at home dyeing, we have been using Wild Colours (wildcolours.co.uk) for both our seeds and our dyeing supplies, and can recommend their home dyeing kits for an afternoon of fun.

Colouring the Past: Indigo

As Part of the Festival of Creative Learning at the University of Edinburgh, we hosted  two workshops on colour!

Day One was focused on indigo; Day Two on madder and weld. Both days’ workshops were held in the Edinburgh College of Art Textiles Dye Lab, and we owe a huge debt of gratitude to Lindy, Sally, and Fiona for letting us use the space, helping us prepare for the workshops, and offering us advice along the way! We also owe the Festival of Creative Learning a huge thanks, too, for their gracious financial support of the workshops.

The Festival of Creative Learning looks to take learning outside of the traditional classroom, and infuse a little extra creativity into it, as well as encourage students, staff, and wider community members to try something new. Our workshops allowed students and staff from across the university to experiment hands-on with colours used in the Middle Ages (and beyond). From the beginning, we wanted to put the entire process in the participants’ hands, which meant they were the ones actually doing the dyeing, and our team was helping out by clarifying instructions, troubleshooting the vat, and answering any questions.

 

The day began with us setting up our supplies and prepping the wool in the Dye Lab before participants arrived. Once we had everyone briefed and ready to go, we divided them into two groups. Each group measured out the chemicals and indigo that we would need to ready the vat. Once everything is added, you have to leave it for about thirty minutes for reactions to take place.  Unless you forget to add the Spectralite. In that case, you may be waiting a little bit longer (like we were). In the downtime, though, we introduced everyone to EMPP, our goals, and gave a brief history of indigo and medieval recipes for dyeing with it. After the presentation, we mordanted the wool that would be used in the next day’s workshop.

 

 

Once the indigo solution was added to the vat, we again had a little time to wait before it was ready to use for dyeing. So, we took a trip to the garden and the greenhouse, where the seedlings are slowly realising Spring is around the corner.

 

img_9317
The dried madder roots we ordered for the workshops had sprouted new growth, so we made a impromptu decision to plant a couple out in the garden in the hopes that they may yield a mature plant.

 

Once back inside, we put the wool into the vat and left it to dye. We also added a few pieces of parchment to see what it would do. As hoped, it came out a gorgeous shade of blue. (If you’re going to try to dye parchment at home, make sure you lay it out flat, and weight it down while it’s drying to prevent the edges from curling up!) During the waiting period, we answered questions about the dyeing process, our garden and greenhouse, and medieval colour in general. Finally, it was time to pull the wool out.

 

 

One of the most interesting parts of the dyeing process is watching the wool turn from a yellow-green to green, and finally, to blue. By the end of the workshop, we had a full spectrum of blue!

 

 

We cleaned up the lab, prepped for the madder & weld workshop, and left the wool to dry!