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.
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!
Lead Tin Yellow
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)!
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.
Wool soaking as part of the scouring process.
Soda Ash, Spectralite, and the Indigo!
Combining all of the ingredients.
PH Sticks after testing to make sure levels were accurate.
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.
Image Courtesy of the Festival of Creative Learning & Alice Boreas Photography
Mixing the solutions.
Adding the indigo solution to the vat.
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.
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.
Indigo just out of the dye vat.
The range of wool as it was exposed to more air.
Indigo-dyed yarn a few seconds out of the vat.
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!
One of our lighter samples.
Shades of Dark Blue.
We cleaned up the lab, prepped for the madder & weld workshop, and left the wool to dry!