Red Onions to dye……..

So you might remember that I blogged about dyeing with the skins of white onions back in February; they have the gold/yellow papery skins. I had added a copper mordant to the dye pot at the end in an attempt to create a deeper, richer colour. The photo below shows the result from then.
The yellow colour was from dyeing the wool for one hour in an onion dye stuff; the deeper brown colour was created after adding the copper mordant.

1-DSCF2979After posting it, a reader commented that if I had used red onion skins, I would have gotten the same results. Nothing like a bit of experimentation……..

I tried to keep the red onion dye prep as close to the original. I used the same method I had used for the plain onion skins. I use one third the weight of the wool in skins; 33g of skins per 100g of wool. I also used the same wool type and water source.
I boiled the skins in rain water to get the dye stuff.

1-DSCF3357After simmering for an hour, I drained the water off the skins and used this as my dye.
When I added the wool I got

1-DSCF3362

1-DSCF3364I have to say that it looked quite promising. After simmering for an hour I got the following results.1-DSCF3378 1-DSCF34001-DSCF3382They are really lovely colours. The question was did the red onions give the same colour as the plain onions with a copper mordant?

To me the answer has to be no; at least not in this case. The copper mordant seemed to have dyed the wool a deeper shade of brown, whereas the red onion skins gave a deeper gold yellow. But to be honest, both dyeing attempts gave beautiful colours…. Now to start saving skins all over again…….

Bread and Cheese…….

When we were at Corfe I got the chance to see some bread made over the campfire. I’ve tried this in the past (and it worked quite well) but I was interested to see how other re-enactors made theirs.
The bread recipe I had tried in the past had used equal quantities of spelt and barley flour mixed with a little oil ( I used olive oil) and then I added some water or milk to make a dough.
After mixing thoroughly, I made flat-breads and cooked them on the griddle over the camp-fire. Served with smoked mackerel it made a delicious breakfast!!
The recipe I used is pretty close to the one described in this blog (in the section about Baking without Yeast).

At Corfe, we were lucky to be camped beside some members from Manaraefan.  These guys have great experience doing living history displays, so I figured I’d pick their brains.
I was delighted to see that they made their bread in a similar way, except they added a little yeast to allow the bread to rise, and some roasted garlic to add a little flavour.

1-DSCF3439The bread was delicious – but then again I love freshly baked bread. And another treat; another member of the group had made a Blue Cheese Spread to go with the bread, Unfortunately I didn’t write the recipe down, but from memory it was equal quantities of butter and blue cheese; cream the butter until smooth and then add the cheese.

I’m definitely going to try this again at the next show we go to. The roasted garlic sounds wonderful; I love garlic bread with cheese – viking pizza!!

Kiddy Vike

Some of the viking shows have kiddy vike. What’s that?
Well, it’s a chance for kids to pretend to be vikings and line out against the big bad bearded warriors; not just the viking kids, but also the public. It’s usually for any child under the age of 13 who (with their parents permission) wants to learn to be a viking fighter. It can be quite daunting for a viking to face a fearless mini warrior; these kids have no sense of fear and have no doubts about tackling grown fighters and whacking them on their shins!

The kids are given wooden weapons and shields, and are also given basic instructions on attack and shield walls.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The vikings form a shield wall; this is their basic defense formation.

1-DSCF3441

After some basic training for the kids chaos ensues; it’s attack time!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

And even a teddy bear isn’t safe from the vikings!

1-DSCF3455

It’s all done with fun in mind; the aim is to get kids interested and create an interaction between the child and the viking warriors world. Perhaps it might even interest some of them (and their parents) to become involved in the Viking Re-enactment scene.

Viking Raid in Corfe Castle!

Recently we were able to attend a wonderful viking event in England held in Corfe Castle, Dorset. The show itself was organised by the group Hrafnslith (or ‘Troop of the Raven’) lead by their leader Thurstan the Shoeless, assisted by his sidekick, Alric of Weldham. A full day of events included an opening skirmish between the Vikings and the Saxons, the Kings Court (where justice was dispensed on a number of crimes!), kiddy vike, and Saxon and Viking encampments.

1-DSCF3702The weekend show re-created events surrounding ‘The Alliance’ between the Saxons and the Brythonic Kings as a response to the arrival of the Danish ‘Great Army’. (The Brythonic were the Welsh, Cornish and Breton Celts).
King Alfred has gathered his allies and the army of Wessex at Corfe Burgh ready to march on Exeter, which has been recently captured and sacked by the Vikings. The Vikings take the initiative and head to Corfe in the hope of striking an early blow whilst the alliance is still forming. (For those of you that are true historians, this is fiction; the castle was actually built by William the Conqueror in 1090, and b
efore the castle was built, the area was know as Corfe Gap. However The Vikings Society needed an excuse to have a battle on the May Bank Holiday – so here we are).
I’ve included a few photos below to give an idea of the living history encampment within the walls of the castle ruins.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Saxon camp was laid out behind the palisade on the stepped tiers up to the castle.

1-DSCF35361-DSCF3430

One of the highlights of the days events was the Saxon – Viking battle. The warriors mustered in the village square, and then marched into the castle grounds, where the battle re-enactment was staged. In previous posts I’ve mentioned that the weapons used are blunts, but believe me when I say they can still do some serious damage in the wrong hands. Only after hours of training and assessment can the warriors take the field.

The photos below show some of the fun the warriors have…..

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This has to be one of the best viking events we attend.
Hrafnslith are wonderful hosts, the setting is spectacular and the castle is an amazing place to visit even if the vikings aren’t around!!

Viking Training in Swords.

That sounds like a bit of a quirky title…… but Fingal Living History Society hosted a training weekend in the grounds of Swords Castle, Co Dublin; and yes, some of the training involved sword fighting.
Mind you, there were also spears and axes, and Dane axes and a bill hook if my eyes didn’t deceive me!

1-DSCF3230 1-DSCF3218

There was a really good attendance for this training weekend. There were around fifty fighters representing groups from Dublin, Waterford, Cork, Downpatrick, Clare and also from England (apologies if I managed to miss anyone out there!).

The re-enactors use the training weekends to brush up on their weapons of choice, and also to learn other fight techniques. The less experienced fighters learn from the more experienced, and they get to practice as well. Here is a small selection of photos of the fighters playing in the castle grounds.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The training can be one on one, or as a groups of fighters against other groups.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

There is also a huge social aspect to this event as it gives members of different groups to meet and socialise with each other.

But it’s not all about the fighters and their  toys; the crafters also get together for what is sometimes referred to as a ‘stitch and bitch’. I managed to teach some people how to nalbind, and a friend spent some time teaching a few of us how to finger braid with five loops. Unfortunately I didn’t take any photos, but I did find this site that has some instructions and pictures. The braids would have been used to decorate hems on garments.

Great weekend away with lots done; looking forward to the next event!

An unexpected blue!!

This dyeing lark can becoming a bit addictive!! Since I started I find myself looking at plants in a whole new light; where before I thought about texture, colour and where the plant would fit in my garden, I now find myself looking at a plant and wondering what colour would it give to my wool? This now also seems to apply to the vegetables I cook!

1-DSCF3167

After my beetroot experiments. someone mentioned red cabbage as another plant that gives unexpected results. Naturally I had to give it a go, so I went back to the greengrocer (he really is a lovely man) and got some cabbage.

While I have no proof that the vikings would have used red cabbage as a dye stuff, it is another example of a colour which my be achieved from using natural dyes.

I used the same principle as the beetroot (twice the weight of dye material to the weight of wool), and the same method of preparing the dyebath.

1-DSCF3169
I used some wool that I had mordanted with alum before, and when I first added the wool I was quite hopeful of getting a pinky rose colour; it looked quite promising.

1-DSCF3173

But one thing that natural dyeing has taught me is that things are seldom as they appear; after half an hour the wool had changed colour again…….. to a more slate blue.

1-DSCF3174

After simmering for an hour, washing and rinsing, here’s what I got…………….. blue! A very nice blue.

It’s another good colour to add to the previous ones.

However I have been told that red cabbage is not completely light fast (and that it may fade in colour). I’ll just have to keep an eye on it and see if that’s true or not.

Now, what else have I lying in my fridge?

Beetroot……..not what you might expect!

Beetroot stains………everything! It stains chopping boards, fingers, dishcloths and white cotton material a deep crimsony red. So as a natural dyer you’d be forgiven for thinking that you wouldd get that colour if you dyed wool with beetroot. Sorry guys – not gonna happen.

I figured the best way to show this would be to dye some wool with beetroot and share my results.

First thing to do was to get some beetroot, so I headed back to friendly greengrocer and bought some.
All the literature I had read suggested twice the weight of dye material to weight of wool. However I wasn’t feeling overly confident about this project, so I bought 900g beetroots to dye 300g of wool.

1-DSCF3144
After a quick wash, the wonderful colour was more apparent….. maybe it would work; after all my fingers were now red!

1-DSCF3150

I chopped the beetroot up, covered with rain water and boiled for an hour. I use rainwater as it is more natural than the tap water in my area.
Then to extract as much dye as possible, I drained that off, re-covered the beetroot and repeated the process. In the pot the water had turn a wonderful shade of crimson.

1-DSCF3151
In a previous post about mordants, I had commented that some dye materials do not stick to the wool. Beetroot is one of these.  So I decided to do a little experiment; dye one hank in the half the dye-bath with un-mordanted wool. It looked so promising, however as soon as I took the wool out of the pot the colour went; I now had a very pale beige colour.
One thing I should point out is that the photographs are not exact replicas of the colours I’ve achieved, but they should give an indication of what happened.

1-DSCF3153 1-DSCF3154

It wasn’t a colour that really appealed to me. Anyway, after boiling for another hour, I got this;

1-DSCF3157

It’s a very pale beige colour. And there you have it; dye extracted from beetroot will not stick to wool that is not mordanted.
But would a mordant make much, if any, difference?

I’d already mordanted some wool and I added that to the dye-bath. Still no vivid red, but at this stage any colour would have been good; this looked more promising.

1-DSCF3158

When I took the wool out of the pot, the colour held. Not the brilliant red one would expect from beetroot, but a soft peachy gold colour.

1-DSCF3161

I left the wool simmering in the pot for an hour. I let the wool cool, then rinsed it through in cool water. When i was finished I had two hanks of peach gold wool. They’re quite a nice colour actually.

1-DSCF3163

As a comparison, this is a photo of the mordanted and unmordanted wool together. The colours in the photo are not as true to life as I’d like them, but I think they give an idea of the colours achieved and the need for a mordant if using beetroot as a dye-stuff.

1-DSCF3165

This was quite fun to do.
As a dye material, beetroot will not give you a vivid red (unfortunately) but it will give a rather nice peach gold colour. Would I use it again – yes!