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notes from the desk of Lord Ihone Munro

Rendering Dye Materials

During the course of the research that I'm conducting, I've come across several different versions of rendering the materials used in the dye processes that I was unfamiliar with. As such, I'm attempting to summarize the methodologies that have been referenced both for my own future use and for use by others that might be interested in preproducing the effects that I'm in the process of researching.

A Note on General Material Use

Some materials that are being utilized in the various dye formulas have been a little difficult to come by. While some of the referenced compounds and chemicals may have been common place for those in the industry within period, that doesn't necessarily translate to readily accessible by going to the hardware store in today's world. I will do my best to make sure to note discrepancies on dried or prepackaged materials that I will be using within my experimentation, as well as how it may have differed from what was done in period.


It would seem that the use of berries in period dye would have come from a fresh source. Some of the types of berries utilized in the dye process are less easy to come by in my area, so I am using dried where I would prefer to use fresh. My process for using dried berries at present is to first rehydrate them prior use and let them rest for a couple of days. This allows the water content to return to the berries and settle. When rehydrating for a boiled berry formula, I add the remaining liquid from the rehydration process into the boiling water so that I don't lose any of the rehydrated juice itself. At that point, I boil as indicated within the recipes as specified.

Tree Pulp, Tree Bark and Nut Shells

Several formulas call for using tree bark or shells from various nuts. When selecting for a particular formula that calls for shells or bark, pay careful attention to whether the notes that you are referencing call for ripe or green materials. At times, the sap from green bark will turn a different color from dried (or outer) bark. In the case of tree pulp, you will generally see reference to where in the tree your material should come from. In the case of the Brasilwood tree, for example,
the heart of the tree is a rich orangeish red when pulped and boiled. The outer wood of the same tree will yield a more yellow color.

Potash Versus Pot Ash

I have found in several places that there are references to using ashes within a formula. Some of them read directly as "potash".
If you look up potash in the dictionary, you'll see that the first entry is talking about potassium carbonate. You'll see this in a lot
of fertilizers that are available in modern times, but it more or less comes down to a substance that's dug up from the earth in
mineral form. If you break this up though, you get "pot ash", where the word originally derived from. Pot ash is quite simply
ashes that are burned down inside a pot, then have water added to them. Pay careful attention to the differences between the
two when reading through formulas - references to potash will be made as a part of the tanning process, but leeching color
from pot ash by adding water to it will be used in making dyes. This is particularly important when formulas reference shells
or non-wood materials.

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!