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Kinthalis
04-04-2005, 03:44 PM
You usually see a lot of bright colors in tapestries and drawings of the period, as well as in modern costume. I've been reading that modern customes do not represent historically accurate colors (take a look here for examples of typical modern costumes (Here (http://www.medieval-banquet.co.uk/medievalladies.htm) , Here (http://www.medieval-banquet.co.uk/medievalmen.htm), Here (http://www.revivalclothing.com/cat.htm), and Here (http://www.costumes.org/history/100pages/timelinepages/timeline.htm) ).

My question is, how realistic is this? What kind of colors, dyes and fabrics did medieval European peoples have access to? What was the difference between what a merchant could afford as compared to a noble? Where colors more expensive? Did they have colors as bright as we do today?

Gulo gulo
04-04-2005, 04:21 PM
If you can track down some local SCA Laurels, you'll most likely get more info than you can handle.

I know that the locals can tell me all about Norse felt finds, how to make your own indigo dyes and how pink is 'period'. It's just a matter of finding the right laurel. They'll talk your ear off and give you the documentation to prove it.

http://sca.org/geography/welcome.html If you find your local Kingdom, contact the Chatelaine and they should help you.

Washoe
04-04-2005, 04:47 PM
Iíve often wondered about this myself. I just canít imagine that textile technology could have been very sophisticated 500 years ago. The ability to possess what we would consider comfortable cloth must have been limited to only the very wealthy. And making it must have been an extremely laborious procedure. I donít have a cite for this, but I remember reading somewhere that clothing from this time period was primarily made from burlap. I would imagine that color choices were dismally limited, too. There must be web pages out there on the subject of textile historyóIíll go see what I can dig up.

Ezstrete
04-04-2005, 04:52 PM
What kind of colors, dyes and fabrics did medieval European peoples have access to? What was the difference between what a merchant could afford as compared to a noble? Where colors more expensive? Did they have colors as bright as we do today?[/QUOTE]

Ezstrete
04-04-2005, 05:04 PM
What kind of colors, dyes and fabrics did medieval European peoples have access to? What was the difference between what a merchant could afford as compared to a noble? Where colors more expensive? Did they have colors as bright as we do today?[/QUOTE]

Traveling through Europe one finds that most,if not all, colors were available and that,even as it is today in all things,availability was dependent upon the purse of the purchaser.

There may be some modern shades or tones which didn't occur to the imagination then--but I believe that if given one on the modern color swatches they could have duplicated them------ at considerable expense!.

This also a moderrn condition----------------if the buck is there someone will come up with the desired product.

Or try their damndest to do so!

EZ

Ms Boods
04-04-2005, 05:19 PM
Iíve often wondered about this myself. I just canít imagine that textile technology could have been very sophisticated 500 years ago. The ability to possess what we would consider comfortable cloth must have been limited to only the very wealthy. And making it must have been an extremely laborious procedure. I donít have a cite for this, but I remember reading somewhere that clothing from this time period was primarily made from burlap. I would imagine that color choices were dismally limited, too. There must be web pages out there on the subject of textile historyóIíll go see what I can dig up.

Hallo! Textile artist and mediaevalist here.

Up until the Industrial Revolution, all handwork, spinning, weaving, carding, combing, was indeed labour intensive and non mechanised. Just about everyone spun thread, children, women (including noblewomen), sailors, prisoners, inmates in insane asylums (a German expression for 'You're bonkers!' is 'Du spinnst!' -- 'You spin!') -- it was an unending task. In fact, the last part of the cloth-making process to be mechanised was wool combing.

500 years ago, wool was the most common fabric, followed by sturdy linen -- the upper classes had silk and cotton, as silk was very expensive (and who could wear it was restricted in some places by sumptuary laws), and handspinning cotton is very labour-intensive -- but wool spins up quickly from fine to course, and readily takes dye.

Wool and flax (linen cloth) were one of the bases of late mediaeval and early Renaissance Flemish and English economy.

Don't be mislead that if it was pre-mechanisd that cloth was necessarily coarse. Egyptian mummy wrappings are sometimes found to be 500 threads per inch (good, modern cotton percale sheets are 200 count). Now of course that doesn't mean every day clothing was made to this precision! But wool can be quickly and spun nicely enough that people weren't going about dressed in coarse sacks.

If you ever have the chance to visit the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, do check out their textile library -- you will see that it was indeed possible to create very finely made and detailed fabrics.

There are many, many colours available in nature to make rich colours -- and I use the same metallic salts to prepare and set natural dyes as people did in antiquity and the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Sun fading and just old age and exposure to air will cause all dyes eventually to fade -- but look at the 11th century

Bayeux Tapestry (upload.wikimdia.org/wikipedia/en/3/37/Bayeuxtap1.jpg)



Lovely colours.

And the Wienhausen Monastery in German has magnificient embroideries from the Middle Ages still vividly coloured -- those yarns that are damaged is because of the iron content of the dyes, and have literally rusted away!

The whole rainbow was available to the mediaeval dyer, and I have got similar results; here is a sampler:

red: roots from the madder plant yield rich reds, oranges, and maroons (cochineal, which yields brilliant reds and more dye per pound than madder wasn't known in mediaeval Europe as it comes from the New World. It's the basis of carmine dyes in makeup and candies, by the way, and is actually the dried ground girly bits of wee bugs that live on cactuses.)

orange: madder

yellow: many, many plants -- marigold flowers and goldenrod yield rich yellows

green: green itself is next to impossible in nature, so one overdyes, first yellow, then blue

blue: woad (indigo, which yields more dye per pound, wasn't well known in Europe during the Middle Ages)

purple: royal purple can come from shells and was very expensive to produce. I use logwood bark for purple myself, but this is an exotic wood which is very expensive (and would not have been readily available) You can also get purple by overdyeing.

Depending on which metallic salt one uses to set the dyes, individual plants and barks will produce dramatically different colours.

Hope this isn't too general and answers some of your questions.

:)

Ms Boods
04-04-2005, 05:26 PM
PS --sorry for the double post, but my Scots auntie will smack me for not mentioning that purple can also be had from common lichens in Scotland (she dyes yarn all the time for weaving and knitting using lichen-dyed wool.)

Washoe
04-04-2005, 05:48 PM
Wow! Thatís some great stuff for starters. :) And it has enough meat on it that I can use it as a springboard to go off aíGoogliní on my own.

Hereís some web pages I found:

http://www.teonline.com/textiles.html

http://users.easystreet.com/rafaella/survey_needlework.pdf

http://www.boydell.co.uk/43831236.HTM

It looks like the technology was a lot more advanced than I would have imagined, at least for the affluent. It seems that large scale production of ready-made clothing was achieved as early as the 17th century.

Ms Boods
04-04-2005, 06:25 PM
The means were widespread -- a handspindle can be made from the most common of things, clay or wooden disks with a dowel, for example.

The funny thing is that these days, weaving and spinning is an expensive hobby! I studied with a professional weaver who had supported his family in Scotland after the war handweaving, and he used to complain about how weaving and spinning was a pastime of the affluent who had no idea what a hardship or drudgery it could be! When he first told his dad he wished to become a weaver, his dad was so horrified that he wished to work at 'slave labour' his dad smashed up his loom.

Weaving in the Middle Ages and especially into the Renaissance was a professional skill; there are many weaving guilds in Europe for example. Some looms from long ago -- and still in use -- are very complicated machines; Jacquard looms, for example.

A jacquard loom (http://www.english.ucsb.edu/faculty/ayliu/courses/english25/materials/jacquard-loom.jpg)

See the wee punched out cards at letter C? They are all punched out in a different way as they move down the threads; it's how one produces intricate patterns such as this (http://www.wholesale-fabric-discount-store.com/images/Annenburg_Fabric.JPG)


Another jacquard loom (http://lyc-jacquard.scola.ac-paris.fr/image/personnage/Metier-Jacquard-01.jpg)

A better look at the punchcards (http://mmd.foxtail.com/Exchange/jacquard.jpg)

Modern Jacquard (http://www.smith.edu/hsc/silk/Images/Jacquard%20Loom.jpg)

For widescale off-the-peg clothing, might not want to date it too early -- the sewing machine in the mid 19th is what really galvanised the clothing industry (just look at the difference in old photos of dresses in the 1840s and 1850s, and then the sudden explosion of frills, ruffles, ruchings, and furbelows for every day fashion, all easy to whip up on the sewing machine!)

Washoe
04-04-2005, 06:39 PM
Weaving in the Middle Ages and especially into the Renaissance was a professional skill; there are many weaving guilds in Europe for example.

Iíll bet that these professionals were among the upper crust of society during the Renaissance, much like the great representational painters of the time. Were weaving and dying separate trades, or were they considered to be the same profession? Did these professionals wield a considerable amount of power, like the stonemasons did?

Ms Boods
04-04-2005, 06:49 PM
Iíll bet that these professionals were among the upper crust of society during the Renaissance, much like the great representational painters of the time. Were weaving and dying separate trades, or were they considered to be the same profession? Did these professionals wield a considerable amount of power, like the stonemasons did?

Don't regard guildmembers as aristocratic, but if by 'upper crust' you mean affluent, yes, they were part of the affluent middle class. And a weaving guild (this is all ideally speaking, of course!) would be self sufficient -- a much sought after painter might be dependent on his patrons and their whims, for example.

There were weaving guilds (and it was one of the few guilds where you would have a female on her own; female weavers are called websters, for a wee bit of trivia.) To the best of my knowledge, dyeing would be part of the business -- with luck someone will correct me if I am overgeneralising, please!

I have a couple of good books on early modern guilds (15-17th centuries) with especial regard to the business and political aspects of weaving guilds, and they're packed away with the rest of my books at the moment!

Kinthalis
04-04-2005, 06:54 PM
Wow! Ms Boods Excellent post, very informative! Thank you and Washoe for taking the time and answering my quesiton in such detail.

I'm content now that picking almost any color will keep me 'historically accurate' :)

racinchikki
04-04-2005, 07:16 PM
What Ms Boods said is wise and correct, but I take issue with green being "next to impossible." Almost every plant's stems will yield a shade of green, it's just that the green thus created is very dull and mossy; to get a true, bright green the color of leaves on the tree, you'd need to overdye.

Ms Boods
04-04-2005, 07:43 PM
What Ms Boods said is wise and correct, but I take issue with green being "next to impossible." Almost every plant's stems will yield a shade of green, it's just that the green thus created is very dull and mossy; to get a true, bright green the color of leaves on the tree, you'd need to overdye.


I've managed some very dull greens here and there, but they either just look too blah or fade out too quickly; I've just never used or read about or found anyone who knows of a good natural source of green -- even in overdyeing you can have problems maintaining a good green as some yellow yielding plant dyes aren't light fast and fade, which dulls the green quickly. It's a disappointment -- it's like pokeberries; they seem to be a terrific source of rich red dye, and then fade to a pale weak pink very very quickly. There just doesn't seem to be any way to fix the colour.

I prefer the two-dye process because of the wide range of greens I've got, and also the best part of dyeing with indigo and woad (whether on their own, or overdyeing) is that when the yarn comes out of the dyepot it's not immediately blue/green/purple -- it will be yellow (the true colour of a woad or indigo dyepot; it is blue on the surface where the liquid is meeting the oxygen in the air), the yellow dye, or the red dyed -- I like to spin my skeins of yarn around in the air to re-oxygenate the wool, and watch the new colour slowly develop, like a photograph, really.

Copper solutions will give a greenish tinge to yarns and boost a green plant dye a bit as well.

Lissla Lissar
04-04-2005, 11:50 PM
Velvet was invented in the 14th century, I think. Velvet is very complicated and labour-intensive to make, so that gives you some idea of the availabl technical skill.

Cloth was more valuable then, because of how time-consuming it was to produce. People didn't have sets and sets of clothes, but I doubt many wore anything close to burlap. Fine woolen thread is relatively easy to produce, and you can make pretty nice fabric even on a simple loom. Early period medieval clothing was based on triangles and squares, to waste minimal cloth.

Ms. Boods, was there some sort of loom technological advance, that partly caused the 14th advances in tailoring, or is it related to the rise of towns and craft specialization?

I know a bit about costume history, but not too much about the actual fabric. Certainly by the 15th century they had gauze and heavy satin- you can see it in extant portraits.

Ms Boods
04-05-2005, 08:59 AM
Ms. Boods, was there some sort of loom technological advance, that partly caused the 14th advances in tailoring, or is it related to the rise of towns and craft specialization?

I know a bit about costume history, but not too much about the actual fabric. Certainly by the 15th century they had gauze and heavy satin- you can see it in extant portraits.


Floor looms, countermarche and counterbalance, appear in the Renaissance because of technological innovation (for example, spinning wheels with fliers), and a means to get yarn spun faster to keep up with the demands of a weaver. (The saying I've heard is always a variation on, it takes 5 or 8 or 10 spinners to keep a single weaver in operation. You can certainly see this in modern times if you go to a textile show, like the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival every May in Howard County, MD, because these shows will frequently have timed 'sheep to shawl' competitions, which are exactly what you think!)

From antiquity through the Renaissance, looms were verticle warp weighted looms like this (http://www.paivatar.com/AFA/library/graphics/cmot/22-loom.jpg)

You can find images of this type of loom in Egytian art (as this loom dates back to about 5500 BC), Greek vases, and in medieval manuscripts. When you go to a museum and see these round clay doughnut looking things described as 'loom weights' that's where they would go, as you can see from the picture above.

Here is a counterbalance loom (http://www.worldknit.com/Merchant2/graphics/plans/105.gif) which look and behave in a similar fashion to counternarche looms.

The jack loom was invented in America around 1925; it's one of the more common floor looms (http://www.weavespindye.org/gif/HD%20jack%20loom%20b&w.jpg) today.

Floor looms with treadles produce more fabric more quickly because you can wind on a lot more yarn on the back beam, and the horizontal construction of the loom means you can advance the warp more efficiently, and store the completed fabric on the front beam, as you advance new warp towards yourself.

Must dash off to work! Am glad my answers have been helpful -- I just wish my books were packed away so I could be more specific for you. :)

Ms Boods
04-05-2005, 09:02 AM
Weren't packed away :smack:

Miss Purl McKnittington
04-05-2005, 12:40 PM
Kinthalis, you might want to check out Cynthia Virtue's Medieval Clothing Page (http://www.virtue.to/articles/). Under "Clothing" she has some links to extant clothing and fabrics, along with some good modern fascimiles. Her Fabric for Bachelors (http://www.virtue.to/fabric/) is really great for when you're staring at a fabric going, "But I don't understand! What is this thing!?" That last link is about modern fabrics for modern uses, though.

Also, anything by Janet Arnold is a valuable resource, though she mostly focuses on Elizabethan. Her study (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0901286206/ref=pd_ecc_rvi_1/103-1152877-3082206?%5Fencoding=UTF8&v=glance) of wardrobe accounts -- holy wow. There's another book (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0851158404/qid=1112718448/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_1/103-1152877-3082206?v=glance&s=books) by Elisabeth Crowfoote et al about textile/clothing finds at London archaeological excavations that has lots of pictures and information. Should you want to go research happy.

And, Ms. Boods, can I be you when I grow up? Pretty please?

Kinthalis
04-05-2005, 04:06 PM
Thanks Miss Purl, I'll get straight to reading through this! :)

Limbo Donni
04-05-2005, 06:12 PM
The main problem with bright colors is that they fade. You can get a good red smear on cloth by crushing rose petals into it. But the stain quickly fades to tan and then ivory.

DrDeth
04-05-2005, 08:41 PM
Mostly Wool, and linen. However, they had grades of Wool that make Pashmina feel coarse.

And not all wool was Sheeps-wool.

Of course- hide and leather was also used.

In general- Ms Boods has a completely correct and informative post.

Lissla Lissar
04-07-2005, 01:15 AM
Yes. Janet Arnold is Costume Goddess. There's a bit in one of her books- I think it's Eleanor of Toledo's burial gown- where she says she had to guess at the back pattern because the corpse had decomposed so badly. She had nerve, that woman.


Huh. I didn't know they only had warp-weighted looms up until the 15th. That's extremely limiting. I've done spinning (drop spindle and wheel) and weaving on a box loom with heddle, and it's a very limited and annoying way to make fabric. I am doubly impressed at early medieval weavers.

picker
04-07-2005, 01:46 AM
Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival every May in Howard County, MD

Heh. I lived there for fifteen years, including high school. Do they hold this at the County Fairgrounds?

Ms Boods
04-07-2005, 09:37 AM
Heh. I lived there for fifteen years, including high school. Do they hold this at the County Fairgrounds?


Indeed! I used to help out there with one of the vendors for years.

Ms Purl -- I would like to be me when I grow up :)

Anyway, glad I could help answer the questions; please if I have mixed up anything or got my facts wrong, I hope someone will sort it out. Handwork has been a hobby and a source of extra income for more than 30 years for me, and it's been nice that I've been able to handle and study a lot of mediaeval textiles first hand as a side field in my history work (The British Museum has some nice old things, and I've been on a cook's tour at the Victoria and Albert Museum's textile storage facilities -- do you remember the final scene in Indiana Jones when they store the Ark? That big, high vaulted room that goes on forever? The main textile storeroom at the V & A looks just like that!)

Again, must dash; I play lute in an ensemble and we have rehearsals today.