Normally when you start a new educational course you are bombarded by information and we look at these books and DVD and online content with a mix of horror, trepidation and dread. I have recently gone back to education and the box turned up with all the literature in it and it got me thinking About how these documents of doom can turn into a historical document that reflect the thinking and ideas of the time. I have on order, thank you eBay, a book on dyeing of natural fibres that is 80+ years old. First published in 1924 this is to accompany the book I recently bought from eBay “ scouring and dyeing with vegetable dye recipes by K Grasett” first published by The London School of Weaving and priced at two schilling and six pence.
The book gives an excellent insight into the teaching of dyeing and finishing at the time and takes you through the various process to get a finished product.
I do like the section on washing of cotton that begins “ Cotton is much more Troublesome to wash and prepare for dyeing than either wool or silk.” I am reading this wondering when the word troublesome was last used in a dyehouse to discuss a particularly “troublesome” batch with regards to levelness or fastness. Certainly times have changed. The book does represent a time that has long since gone for the textile industry, I wonder how many workers have been employed / retired, sadly in recent times being made redundant, all the time this book have been sat in a box on a shelf etc watching the industry change. How many people has this book and its partners in the series, this is volume 2, helped to train. The book is probably becoming relevant again as there is a whole section on Dye plants, and I know that there is a certain area of the craft market that is gaining interest in vegetable / natural dye arena. So maybe it is a case of if you stay around long enough you will become fashionable again.
Looking at something like this you also realise how things have changed and probably become easier for us modern dyers, as an example here is the recipe for dyeing a dark red on Wool
Wool: One Pound Hand spun
Mordant: Alum four ounces; cream of tartar four ounces.
Dye Cochineal, four ounces , Madder quarter of an ounce, Indigo paste , one egg- spoonful
Method: Mordant with alum four or five days previously, and hang up in a dark place in a linen bag. Enter into the dye bath the cochineal, madder and tartar and when thoroughly dissolved, enter yarn and boil for 20 minutes. Then take out the wool and add one egg spoonful of indigo paste well mixed in hot water, and add to the dye bath. Mix well and re-enter wool and boil for twenty five minutes. I wonder if anyone has tried this recipe and what the results were. I think we should start a campaign to return to more traditional types of dyeing and more importantly the “egg spoonful” is woefully under used in the modern dyehouse. So if you have tried this recipe let me know and more importantly if you have some old books from college or university keep old of then they are historical documents and in 100 years from now, someone may sit looking back wistfully at the way we used to teach web design or computer programming.