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notes from the desk of Lord Ihone Munro

Dying Leather Blue

Experimentation on using the elderberry dye method from The Secretes of the Reverende Maister Alexis of Piemount. The following process notes are my attempt to refine the process. For images, please scroll to the bottom of the project notes.

Subsequent Attempts

I've been playing back and forth with the results of the elder berry test since I first started on it a couple weeks ago. So far, I've had similar results to those that were published initially, but wanted to place some comments here.

In the image below, I numbered the swatches by which test I was conducting. The first test results were commented on in full, but for the second I reduced the amount of water to try to concentrate it down a little further. For the third test, I used white wine and a full pound of dried berries in an attempt to leech more color. The tones were distinctly different for the attempt using wine, but the tests between just concentrations were very similar. The more purple swatch below the numbered tests is actually blueberries, just because I wanted to see the tonal differences between the berries that were being used.

Note, I really liked the purple from the blueberries!

In addition, to test the duration of testing to make sure that it was having enough time to soak, I left a swatch in the second (more heavily concentrated) batch for 3 weeks. The only difference in doing so was that I developed mold in the leather from having it sit in a damp environment. The color itself remained unaffected.

I believe that the color differences were very dependant on the actual berries, after having tested the blueberries as well. The noted berries in the original texts pointed to the European Dwarf Elder - whereas the berries that I had purchased were a different (but available) variety. It's quite possible that if using the berries that were originally noted, it could produce a wholly different color. In addition, I believe that berries that were harvested in a different time (than when the ones I found were freeze dried), it could produce a different tone. I believe as well that if they were fresh berries, the tone would have been far richer in general.

The blueberries smelled so much better when they were cooking down!

Constructive feedback is both welcome and appreciated, please let me know if I missed some pertinent information or if there's somewhere I can improve. As always, thanks for reading!

Sources Cited
  • The secrets of the reverend Maister Alexis of Piemont by Girolamo Ruscelli. OL25228326M
    Translated from French into English by William Ward
  • Medieval Leather Dying by Marc Carlson, original compilation by Ron Charlotte also has a direct translation available.
  • Wikipedia, entry about what a mordant is, along with entries on usage