Dyed in the wool.

Having been a living historian for many years I have studied clothes and different cloths from the 18th and 19th centuries. In order to "be right" it takes a bit of patience and lots of money. I have from time to time had to divest myself of articles which were incorrect. A fellow living historian can spot something incorrect at a hundred yards. It is almost a level of Dantes hell watching films in which the actors are not properly attired.

All my family has participated in living history. A funny story is: My youngest daughter was on a field trip to a nearby historic location. She was concerned that the tour guide was dressed improperly (the guide was not wearing panniers) and the guide did not know why clay pipes had a long stem. I recieved a call from her teacher that night. Genevieve was right.

When examining period clothes it is always good to remember that people in the 18th and 19th centuries were always surrounded by germs and bacteria which we no longer are, especially TB. TB spores can go dormant for years, so it is wise to wear a mask and gloves, and never eat any thing until you wash your hands thoroughly.

Now for Woad.

Woad (Isatis tinctoria) is a native of southeastern Europe, the Balkans and Italian penninsulas and what is now southwestern Russia, and the Crimea. It has been know since before history. Since prehistoric times it has been the predominant dye and it produces a beautiful colour.

The woad plant is a relative of the broccoli family. The woad leaves are picked, crushed and rolled into balls. Later the balls would be pressed into powder, and soaked to ferment. This fermentation process produced a noxious stink, a cross between rotting cabbage and sewage. (Stop! This is one of those things which causes me to wonder how prehistoric man figured this out.) Queen Elizabeth I decreed that no woad making would be allowed within five miles (!) of anywhere she would pass.

After 2 weeks of this fermentation the woad is dried into a powder once more.

Soaking cloth in water containing woad does not change color until it is removed fom the soak, whereupon a chemical reaction occurs as air hits the cloth, the color changed from yellow to green, and turns the cloth blue.

Ready for this? Go here to read about 18th century makeup...



Baron Korf said...

Is there a reason for a clay pipe to have a long stem other than to cool the smoke?

Brantigny said...

My dear Baron, yes. each new smoker broke off the end before he used it. The pipe slowly got shorter.