Dyestuffs

HOLM OAK is the tree that nourishes the kerm, a scarlet insect not unlike a holly berry (hence Holm Oak and other names meaning holly, including the tree's specific name, ilex, which is also the generic name for the hollies). The ancients made their royal scarlet dye from this insect, and the Bible furnishes the oldest evidence of the existence of a scarlet dye; there it is called tola, or tolaat, a word also meaning worm, which is what 'kerm' means. Matthew 27; 28 is translated as "And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe", is assumed by Graves to refer to kerm-scarlet. He must be right, for surely there was no other source of scarlet in biblical times? The roots of TORMENTIL (C P Johnson), and of DYER'S WOODRUFF yield a red dye (Usher), as does the rootstock of BLOODROOT (Speck) and so, in more or less satisfactory style, do all the Asperulas. DANDELION roots (Dimbleby) and GOOSE-GRASS roots (Grieve. 1931) also yield a red dye, and so do PUCCOON roots, or perhaps paint would be a better word. The colour could be obtained by simply dipping the fresh root in grease, and rubbing on the object to be painted, which may often be the human face (Teit). But the prime blue dye, at least until 1897, when the German firm of Baeyer produced synthetic aniline dyes, was WOAD, and then INDIGO (see Hurry, Ponting, and Leggett for technicalities). But in Europe, resistance to the introduction of Indigo, has to be seen as a protection for woad. In fact, it was proscribed in Elizabeth I's reign as a dangerous drug, described as "the food for the devil" (Hurry), indeed Devil's Dye is recorded as a name for the plant (C J S Thomson. 1947), and reckoned downright injurious to fabrics, a myth that was sincerely believed in a number of countries (Leggett). In 1609 Henry IV of France issued an edict sentencing to death any person discovered using the deceitful and injurious dye called inde. In fact, it was not until 1737 that French dyers were legally allowed to use it (Hurry). CHICORY leaves will yield a blue dye. too (Hemphill).

TANSY gives a brilliant yellow dye, but with the disadvantage that it is very difficult to fix (Wiltshire), and FENNEL leaves also will dye wool a golden-yellow colour, with chrome mordant (Cullum). GORSE bark will also give a yellow dye (Jenkins. 1966) (green, according to Murdoch McNeill), and the Navajo used BROOMWEED (Gutierrezia micro-cephala) for yellow, or a DAHLIA (D pinnata) roots for orange-yellow (Elmore). Other Indian groups used the pulp of the stalks, and the roots, of SMOOTH SUMACH to produce yellow (Buhler; Gilmore). Another sumach, VENETIAN SUMACH, will produce a yellow colour from its wood, though it is hardly ever used nowadays, for it is really not permanent at all (Leggett). However, with the proper mordant, it can dye cotton and wool bright yellow through to brown or dark olive. With logwood, it can produce black. POISON IVY roots too will give yellow, and so will ORANGE BALSAM, if the whole plant is used (both H H Smith. 1923). The flowers and leaves of GOLDEN ROD will also give a fine yellow (Barton & Castle). COCKLEBUR leaves are another source of yellow, and are used in China for the purpose (F P Smith). But TURMERIC will be recognised as the best known yellow dye, even if it is certainly not fast to light, and needs a mordant. Curry powder is its best known manifestation. But the Pacific islands and New Guinea are probably the only areas in which turmeric dye is still used in its simplest form, and the main use is in body painting, often with sexual overtones. In Samoa, where yellow is the colour sacred to the gods, the gathering and processing takes the form of a religious rite. SAFFLOWER is one of the oldest dyestuffs (the fruits have been found in Egyptian tombs that are 3500 years old, and since then it has been grown, for centuries past, in India, the Middle East and East Africa, and so for the dye obtained from them (H G Baker). There are in fact two dyes obtainable from them - safflower yellow, similar to true saffron, and often used as a substitute for it (Leggett), and car-thamin, a red colour. It has long lost its predominance in Asia, but is still grown in India for local use, such as the dyeing of ceremonial clothes, or in the making of a brush paint for cosmetic rouge, etc., (Buhler). The pigment known as Sap Green is made from BUCKTHORN berries boiled with alum, and, when mixed with lime-water and gum arabic, Bladder Green (Grigson. 1955). As a dye, glovers would use the berries to give a yellow colour to their leather (Aubrey. 1867). The traditional Welsh dyeing practice was to crush the unripe berries in water, and then to evaporate the infusion to a consistency of honey. After boiling the wool in this a green colour was obtained (J G Jenkins. 1966). DYER'S ROCKET, or WELD is one of the oldest dyes known, and has been cultivated for the purpose since Neolithic times (J G D Clark). Caesar mentions it as being used by the Gauls. It produces a golden-yellow dye, or, with alum, a dark yellow. The tradition in the Welsh woollen industry was to cut second year plants in autumn. Boiled for three-quarters of an hour on its own, it would produce pale yellow. If mordanted wool was used, many shades of yellow and light brown could be obtained, and the dye would be fast (J G Jenkins. 1966). Lincoln, or Saxon Green was obtained by dyeing blue with woad, and then yellow from Dyer's Rocket (H G Baker). WHITE HICKORY

will give a yellow dye, if set with alum (R B Browne), and the twigs and leaves give a tan colour, again, if set with alum (S M Robertson). The wood of OSAGE ORANGE (Maclura pomifera) will give yellow-orange (Schery). DYER'S GREENWEED young shoots and flowering tops will give a yellow dye. When mixed with woad, it gives the colour known as Kendal Green, used originally by the Flemish weavers who settled at Kendal, in Cumbria, hence the name (J Smith. 1882). AVENS roots, too, will dye wool a permanent dark yellow (Barton & Castle).

BROOM will give wool a moss-green colour (Jenkins. 1966). HOP leaves and flowers will give a brownish, or yellowish brown, dye (C P Johnson), and a light brown colour for wool was sometimes obtained from BIRD CHERRY bark (Fairweather). SLOES will give a slate-blue dye with no mordant. A pound of the berries to a pound of wool must be brought to the boil, and then boiled for a further hour with the wool. The colour comes up when the wool is washed with soap (Coates). This is confusing, for Geraint Jenkins said that if the wool was washed immediately after dyeing in soapy water, it would turn into a slaty green. When alum is used as a mordant, the colour is rose-pink, according to S M Robertson; but the impression Jenkins gives is that rose-pink will result directly from the berries. It should be noted that sloe juice is indelible.

On the Hebridean island of South Uist, WILD SORREL was used on its own to dye wool red; mixed with indigo it could dye blue (Shaw). The roots were used in the Welsh industry too - two parts of sorrel to one part of wool, the whole lot boiled up for three or four hours, to produce a brown colour (Jenkins). ONION skins will dye wool brown (Dimbleby), or yellow, with alum. With a tin mordant the colour will be orange (Coates). [See also EASTER EGGS]. Another unlikely source of a blue dye is BUCKWHEAT straw (Schery), and of course the floweres of MARSH GENTIAN will also give blue (Usher). Even HOLLYHOCK has been used for blue dyes (Northcote, Usher).

An American homemade dye was made with PERSIMMON bark, mixed with that of Red Oak, to give a yellow colour (R B Browne). In the Hebrides, BURNET ROSE was used, with copperas, to make a brown dye (Murdoch McNeill), and elsewhere, using alum as the mordant, the hips were used to dye silk violet (C P Johnson). One of the uses of MARJORAM was as a dyestuff; made from the flowering tops it gives a dark reddish-brown colour, but it fades quickly (Rohde. 1936). PRIVET berries will give a bluish-green dye with alum, and the leaves will give a yellow colour (Coates) with alum, or with chrome a light brown, and a dark brown with copperas (Jenkins), green with copper sulphate, and dark green with iron (S M Robertson).

HENNA can be used as a fabric dyestuff, as well as a protective cosmetic on the person. It is used to dye silk and wool in Morocco (Gallotti), and in India, too, both fabrics and leather are coloured reddish-yellow by its means (CIBA Review. 63; 1948). CUTCH (Acacia catechu) is an important dye plant; by boiling chips of the wood, a permanent brown dye can be obtained (Barker), and the leaves and shoots can be used as well. The dyestuff is known as Cutch, or sometimes Gambir (Le Strange). Much of the catechu exported comes from the Gulf of Cutch, where it has been used as a brown dye for over two thousand years, hence the name. True khaki cloth is made with cutch (Willis). Navajo Indians used the juice of SOAPWEED (Yucca glauca) for a black dye (Kluckhohn), and a black dye, "Sabbath black", it was called, was made by boiling the roots of YELLOW FLAG in water, using iron as a mordant (Macleod). The flowers will give a yellow dye, and the root was used for wool dyeing on the Hebridean island of South Uist. Using alum as the mordant, a shade of blue to steel-grey was obtained (Shaw).

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