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Period dye colors?

Posted: Sat Feb 23, 2008 9:34 pm
by Duvan
Is there any good website out there that really explains all the colors that could have been in use during the Middle Ages (preferably pre 14th century)?

They seldom seem to explain just what kind of colors they are talking about... The best thing would of course be if there actually were pictures of the colors too. :)
If it says for example "natural reds and browns" I'm not really sure what I'm supposed to look for in cloth shops. :)

Sorry if there are already many threads like this, I did not find much with the search function.

Posted: Sat Feb 23, 2008 11:01 pm
by Sophia
You need to get hold of a trader called Phoebe who trades under the name of Tinctoria. She is normally at the International Living History Fayre which is next weekend.

She does a wonderful pack containing samples of wool and silk dyed with period vegetable dyes. The dye types run right through to the C16th and she includes some basic notes.

Alternatively I believe The Mulberry Dyer (who trades at The Original Re-enactors Market w/e 15th March) has produced a similar pack for Historic Enterprises.

Hope this helps,

Sophia :D

Posted: Sun Feb 24, 2008 4:38 pm
by gregory23b
Duvan, best get a sampler, using the computer monitor for real colour values is notoriously hit or miss.

However, there are loads of sites about traditional dyeing, it is a popular activity.

Second Sophia's suggestion re Phoebe or Mulberry Dyer.

Posted: Mon Feb 25, 2008 8:40 am
by Wiblick
I third the recommendation of Phoebe's dye sample packs, I've had marvellous fun comparing her swatches with commercial fabric swatches I've gotten from various fabric companies and have come up with some really good matches.

I match them against linen as well, I know linen couldn't really achieve the same colours as wool and silk but it's nice to be in a period looking colour.

Must contact Mulberry dyer for theirs, saw it on HE's website....

Posted: Sun Mar 02, 2008 9:19 pm
by Duvan
Okay, but let's assume I'm okay with modern dyed cloth... just would like the actual colors to resemlble something that you could make from natural dyes too.

Any site out there with colors? Computer monitors and photos make it look different I know, but at this point I don't think I want to make my own dyes.

Also, somebody mentioned linen... linen was usually bleached or kept natural color right? Or was that only during the viking period... Did they dye linen as well closer to the 13th century??

Posted: Sun Mar 02, 2008 9:35 pm
by Sophia
Phoebe's swatch packs are designed for to help you to match colours of modern dyed cloth and to inform you about what dyes would have been used to obtain the colours so you can answer basic questions from the public.

Unless you are very experienced you will need to actually see the fabric in the flesh so to speak. I would not recommend matching colours from screens to an inexperienced person.

On the coloured linen front, this is something I have been considering, There appears to have been coloured linen for the Roman through post Norman Conquest period but by the War of the Roses this was disappearing and linen was no longer being used for outerwear except in headcloths and coifs. Linen linings for the later period are unbleached and body linens, aprons, etc. are as white as you can get them - the higher your station in life, the finer and whiter your linens. This being said you should buy off-white linen not modern optic bright linen which is not correct. The only coloured linen for the later Mediaeval seems to be woad dyed blue - certainly in the Tudor period there are references to blue linen aprons.

No doubt some pre-C13th century specialist will now elaborate on my comments.

Sophia :D

*Who specialises in C15th and C16th*

Posted: Sun Mar 02, 2008 11:12 pm
by Duvan

But the... International Living History Fayre.
I'm not going to travel abroad just to get a sample of colors, even if I sure could need it :)

I guess that fayre is in the UK or somewhere far from Finland where I live.

Posted: Mon Mar 03, 2008 12:33 am
by ViscontesseD'Asbeau
I'd have a look in your local library for any books about natural dyeing and that will give you all the info you need. Throughout history, the standard dyes remain pretty well the same - woad, weld & madder, various lichens, etc. Other things get introduced at different dates (esp once the discovery of the Americas). But any good natural dye book will explain what came when or you CAN find that info online. So long as you can find decent photos of natural dyes they should give you a good enough idea to them match your swatches!

Posted: Mon Mar 03, 2008 1:11 am
by Ariarnia
Does anyone have an up to date email for Tinctoria? generates a permanent failure.

A phone number would be fine if the lady operates in such a manner.

Posted: Mon Mar 03, 2008 8:37 am
by Wiblick
I usually PM Moira (Tinctoria) through here, her handle is Phoebe. I think you should be able to search members for her. I was in contact with her last week via PM.

Posted: Mon Mar 03, 2008 2:15 pm
by gregory23b
"I'm not going to travel abroad just to get a sample of colors, even if I sure could need it "

Does Finland not have access to mail order?

Posted: Mon Mar 03, 2008 7:15 pm
by Sophia

Moira Forsyth (aka Phoebe) of Tinctoria can be contacted either by phone on 01225863484 or by e-mail

I am pretty sure sure that it you talk to her you could arrange to get one of her swatch packs by mail order.

If you are interested in the packs The Mulberry Dyer does for Historic Enterprises then this is the link.

Soph :D

Posted: Thu Mar 06, 2008 4:16 pm
by Wiblick
with discretion this dye swatch may also be useful to people, I say discretion because I believe they use some 'new world' dyes for their later period Renaissance Swatch ... tch-cards/

I have some of their skeins and they seem to have lot numbers on them rather than the names of the dye stuff which is frustrating.

Posted: Fri Mar 07, 2008 6:15 pm
by Phoebe
Ive just been told about this thread. If anyone is interested in my Dye Sample Packs please get in touch by PM or email me at
The original pack costs £20.00 and containes 27 swatches of fabric in wool and silk all dyed with natural dyes. There is also a brief history of the dyes used and a booklist for further reading. The second set costs £8.50 and containes 16 swatches. Thanks Wiblik and Sophia for your recommendations.
My website is currently being redone and I cannot be contacted through it until it is up and running in about 1 week's time.

Posted: Sun Mar 09, 2008 1:14 pm
by ViscontesseD'Asbeau
This question re. colours comes up so often, wouldn't it be worth having a sticky somewhere here giving the links we all keep giving out, when this subject comes up? It's useful for people of all periods - and even those who want to stick with chemically dyed stuff can at least have a reference to check against, if the info was all in one place and accessible? Just a thort...

Posted: Tue Mar 11, 2008 12:57 am
by BrendanGrif
This is of no use to anyone, but I have a strange little book in Spanish that I got in the mountains of Peru, it has all the colours used in traditional dyeing techniques; the raw materials and a diagram showing the entire process.
A lot of stuff involving beetles.
And then to complete it there is a swatch of each one at the back.


Posted: Thu Mar 13, 2008 4:18 pm
by Phoebe
Ooh. How i would love to have a look at that. :D If you are ever over for one of the ILHF fairs bring it along to my stall so that I can drool over it.