It is an ancient custom among dyers to reckon on thirteen shades of blue, from the deepest to the lightest. Although their denominations be somewhat arbitrary, and that it is impossible exactly to fix the just passage from one to the other, I shall notwithstanding give the names. They are as follow, beginning with the lightest:Eytmologically watchet blue is perhaps the most interesting of them. A parish clerk in Chaucer's The Miller's Tale (c.1390) is 'yclad ... al in a kertell of a liht vachet', or wachet, or watchet, or even waget, depending on which manuscript you consult. If you Google 'watchet blue' you'll most likely find some reference to coloured alabaster visible in the cliffs near Watchet on the Somerset coast, demonstrating how easily the interwebs disseminate misinformation. You might also find the suggestion that 'watchet' derives from 'woad', and that's certainly possible, maybe even probable. But the Reverend Walter W. Skeats (1885) dismisses both propositions as "so bad" that he "ventures to make [another]". According to Skeats 'watchet' derives, via vachet, from "the curious old French word vaciet, a bilberry [Vaccinium myrtillus] ... applied both to the fruit and the dye", and he quotes from various French language texts that support this. As a dyer rather than a lexicographer it all makes perfect sense to me. And I suspect my dear friend Sonia would agree ... to see the results of her bilberry dye experiments follow the link and scroll down. Or, if you've mastered time travel, you could ask Good Queen Bess ...
milk-bluepearl-bluepale-blueflat-bluemiddling-bluesky-bluequeen's-blueturkish-bluewatchet-bluegarter-bluemazareen-bluedeep-bluevery deep or navy-blueElijah Bemiss, The Dyer's Companion, 1806
Item, one peticoate of watchet or blew satten, embroidered all over with flowers and beasts, of Venice golde, silver, and silke, like a wildernes.Inventory of Queen Elizabeth's Wardrobe, 1600
Don't forget to visit the other Colour Collaborative blogs for more of this month's posts, just click on the links below ... CJ at Above the River Sandra at Cherry Heart Sarah at Mitenska Gillian at Tales from a Happy House Jennifer at Thistlebear What is The Colour Collaborative?All creative bloggers make stuff, gather stuff, shape stuff, and share stuff. Mostly they work on their own, but what happens when a group of them work together? Is a creative collaboration greater than the sum of its parts? We think so and we hope you will too. We'll each be offering our own monthly take on a colour related theme, and hoping that in combination our ideas will encourage us, and perhaps you, to think about colour in new ways.