Why rain water is used for our natural dyes

Written by [email protected] on March 24, 2007 in Dye House News

The wonderful news is that it is raining! For the first time since Christmas. Tap, spring and even river water (I've tried them all) in our part of the Pyrénées are very very hard. While some natural dyes positively glow in this, dyes such as brazil-wood, logwood and cochineal do not and these we usually dye in rain water. We are running very low in shades produced with these natural dyes, so we are very relieved to see the rain.

Crewel Wool

As always at this time of year demand is increasing and I have had my fingers crossed for quite a few weeks that I don't have a run on some of the purples or reds.

Here is an old recipe from "The Secretes of the reuerend Maister Alexis of Piemont" (1580) which uses rain water to dye red and although brief contains a lot of dyeing wisdom.

To dye redde

Take halfe an unce of Brasyll scraped, halfe an unce of Vermilion well brayed. Boyle them together in rayne water, and put into it the bignesse of a Nut of Alome. Seeth all unto the halfe, and dye with it. You may seeth also the Brasyll twice or thrice putttyng to it at eche tyme a little Vermilion. Also you may make of it as many dyings and coloures as you wyll.

Translation courtesy of Drea Leed of Elizabethan Costume.

So now at last seething can recommence in the dye house.

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