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25.6.15

28 The Colour Collaborative: June: Found

Blue found texture, David Gunter

I'm a dyer, this should have been easy, I 'find' colour - via the dye plants that yield it - almost every day. But I decided to eschew the obvious and make things harder for myself ... I went hunting for colours in my earliest dye books, and found thirteen blues.

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:

milk-blue
pearl-blue
pale-blue
flat-blue
middling-blue
sky-blue
queen's-blue
turkish-blue
watchet-blue
garter-blue
mazareen-blue
deep-blue
very deep or navy-blue

Elijah Bemiss, The Dyer's Companion, 1806


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 ...
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.

24.6.15

35 Yarn Along

Image of knitting yarn and needles left on top of a magazine.

Transitions. They begin with an ending, end with a beginning, and between the two lie much doubt and ambiguity. That inbetween is where I'm at just now, writing my way through it, publicly in part*, because writing's what I do. But enough of that ... thank you muchly for your recent forbearance ... now, let's move on.

It really is entirely coincidental that my current reading** is focussed on change. Hole & Corner celebrates traditional skills, craftsmanship, and the handmade. British at its core it also situates the 'doers' it describes in the landscapes that nurture them, wherever those may be. Interview, memoir, and life story are its bread and butter, as are exquisitely observed photographs of people, their workplaces, and the things they make.

Also on my work table ... Red knobbed knitting needles, one of three pairs in old UK sizes - 9, 10 and 11 - that I paid pennies for at a recent vintage textiles fair. And 200g of natural grey British Gotland 4ply from The Little Grey Sheep, destined to become a Mara or a Spighe di Grano shawl, now that I've wound it. (Help me out here, will ya' ... which do you prefer?)

I could happily only ever knit with undyed wool, I doubt I could tire of its nuances, particularly if it was grey. Likewise I favour unbleached linen. Drab is good. And utility is one of my favourite words. Why make anything more complicated than it needs to be? Don't you agree?

* See this post, and this.

** I'm also continuing to read Jean Giono's Joy of Man's Desiring.

This is a Yarn Along post. As always, the links above are not sponsored.

17.6.15

83 Lately

Flowers in a jug.

The convalescence thing ... it seems it's almost as easy to do too little as it is to do too much. And boredom can elevate your blood pressure just as surely as stress can*. I've spent the last ten days in a Goldilocks-ish pursuit of an elusive 'just right'.

It's been an interesting exercise, identifying what most disturbs my equilibrium in order to avoid it. The obvious and probably universal - deadlines, sleep deprivation*, and increasingly doolally Aged Ps**; the particular and generally short lived - five whippets with a tummy bug is life's most recent little gift; and the unexpected - knitting, specifically knitting for babies when you're following doctors orders and limiting your yarn wrangling time. I've already ripped back one tiny jacket, I'd barely begun it before it had been outgrown.

Keeping this blog supplied with photographs isn't exactly stress free either. Shooting in natural light at home presents something of a challenge ... from a photographers perspective the windows of this house are all in the wrong places and most are quite small. Out and about I must cart gorillapod and monopod with me, given that the nerve damage to my shoulder also affects my ability to hold a camera steady. I'd always intended to make more use of my iPhone 5 than I did, but now that I have an iPhone 6 Plus with, significantly, optical image stabilisation, I'm hoping to revisit both iPhoneography and Instagram. To which end, any recommendations for Instagrammers worth following would be most welcome.

So here I am, looking for ways to make life simpler - and that includes a few in the pipeline changes to this blog - and what do I do ... take something else on. The team at TEND recently decided that they needed a commissioning editor and it seems I'm it. I was tremendously flattered to be approached and want to thank Debbie for thinking of me. Don't worry, the first issue I'll be involved with is Spring 2016's so I still get my summer off.

There, I think that's you just about caught up with me, I'm off to catch up with you. A long evening reading blogs and hanging out on social media beckons.




* Medication-induced hypertension's one of the principal reasons for my convalescent summer, but the bigger picture is somewhat more complicated and also includes pain-related insomnia.

** I'm rather fond of Dicken's Aged P, Wemmick's elderly father in Great Expectations, who "required as much watching as a powder mill" when awake, but who mostly slept his days away. My own Aged Ps are equally occupying.

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