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Re: [medieval-leather] Evidence for dyed leather for ca. 1000 AD

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  • Ron Charlotte
    ... As someone else has pointed out, the shoes could well have been fabric, but there is plentiful evidence of embroidery, and trim being added to leather
    Message 1 of 16 , Jan 31, 2005
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      At 04:08 PM 1/30/2005, Ana wrote:
      >I make shoes. Mostly for re-enactors of the Anglo-skandinavian
      >period. When it comes to stitching leather and authentic patterns I
      >think I know my stuff fairly well.
      >When it comes to other aspects of leather work or the preparation of
      >skins I am very ignorant.
      >
      >At the moment I am at the preliminary planning stage for my leisure-
      >projects for next winter as this summer is going to be so busy.
      >I see very high ranking people in manuscripts for approx. 1000AD
      >wearing coloured shoes, then either embroidered or decorated with
      >tabletweave and maybe with jewels on. There is one of Edward the
      >Confessor where one of his feet is depicted in profile and there are
      >rows of white blobs sticking out from the profile of the shoe that
      >can only be interpreted as pearls.
      >Lush. I would love to make a reconstruction - or best possible
      >interpretation from this pictorial source - just for the fun of it.
      >Real pearls, real gold braid, real jewels.
      >
      >Alas the shoes are blue.

      As someone else has pointed out, the shoes could well have been fabric, but
      there is plentiful evidence of embroidery, and trim being added to leather
      goods, especially footware. They certainly used goldleaf.


      >Therefore I am interested to find out if and how leather could have
      >been dyed in our period. As opposed to painted (cracks and peels of
      >and the only evidence I know of is medieval - please fill me in if
      >you know more) or fabric covered (difficult to do with turnshoes).
      >Okay, so various shades of brown were simply due to the tanning
      >process, black can be obtained by oxidising with iron-dust or
      >similar.
      >But how about other colours? Does anybody know of a way to obtain
      >green? Copper oxide?

      There are a fair number of leather dye recipes that survived from the 16th
      century. I've not found a lot from earlier centuries. There are a lot of
      red, green, blue, black and brown. There is some evidence of yellows as
      well. Check the archives for this group. The topic has been batted around
      a few times.


      >Does anyone know of evidence of coloured leather for this period for
      >Britain or elsewhere?
      >Does anyone know how those dyes were done?
      >
      >I once dyed a pair of grey suede shoes with modern black hairdye and
      >it came out a very dark brown. This gives me hope that authentic
      >fabric dyes might also work on leather. Oh I see a glitch coming up
      >here: most fibres withstand boiling -leather doesn't.

      Most modern suede is chrome tanned, so you were already working at a
      disadvantage. Many of the surviving dye recipes for leather clearly assume
      that you are dying alum tawed leather.


      >Another glitch in the argument: All the shoe finds for the period are
      >dark-brown/black. The question is whether they were originally
      >coloured and this is due to the environment in which they were buried.

      They have done some conservation on finds from the Thames digs, and York,
      and found clear evidence of polychrome on leather goods, but yes, the
      conditions that generally allow leather to survive burial, generally
      produce some significant chemical changes, sometime even the tannage method
      is hard to determine.




      Ron Charlotte -- Gainesville, FL
      ronch2@... OR afn03234@...
    • ana_deissler
      ... leather ... How interesting. Would you be able to provenance this information for me? Cheers, Ana
      Message 2 of 16 , Jan 31, 2005
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        > there is plentiful evidence of embroidery, and trim being added to
        leather
        > goods, especially footware. They certainly used goldleaf.


        How interesting. Would you be able to provenance this information for
        me?

        Cheers,
        Ana
      • Ron Charlotte
        ... If you login to the Yahoo group site for this group, in the file section you will find a file titled _Bibliography_Leather.rtf_. Most word processers will
        Message 3 of 16 , Feb 3, 2005
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          At 07:44 PM 1/31/2005, you wrote:
          > > there is plentiful evidence of embroidery, and trim being added to
          >leather
          > > goods, especially footware. They certainly used goldleaf.
          >
          >How interesting. Would you be able to provenance this information for
          >me?
          >
          >Cheers,
          >Ana

          If you login to the Yahoo group site for this group, in the file section
          you will find a file titled _Bibliography_Leather.rtf_. Most word
          processers will read it. There are examples in the Museum of London
          volumes on Dress Accessories, Shoes and Pattens, and _The Secular
          Spirit_. Mr. Waterer covered some examples in _Leather
          Craftsmanship_. There are some in the York finds, but I've not gotten
          that volume for my collection yet (buying books when my birthday is nearing
          can get me clobbered by my family).

          Cennini discusses methods of applying leaf to leather in _The Craftsman's
          Handbook_, and the Alexis of Piemont volumes have several real and
          simulated gold applications. _The Plitcho_ contains a couple of methods of
          applying gold and simulated gold.


          Ron Charlotte -- Gainesville, FL
          ronch2@... OR afn03234@...
        • Carowyn Silveroak
          Greetings! Sorry this is late... ... OK, that s it, I m biting the bullet! Guys, can you tell me how leather was tawwed, and pit-tanned in period, and the
          Message 4 of 16 , Feb 14, 2005
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            Greetings! Sorry this is late...

            > Therefore I am interested to find out if and how leather could have
            > been dyed in our period.

            OK, that's it, I'm biting the bullet! Guys, can you tell me how leather
            was tawwed, and pit-tanned in period, and the difference between the two?

            I've been meaning to try this on rawhide...most dyes are better if they
            are not boiled, but simmered, over a looooong period of time. Usually
            months. So, usually when I set up a dye experiment, I let them sit, and
            sit, and sit...

            Well, that sounds suspiciously like a pit tanning to me! So, if someone
            can give me the basics, I'll set up a mini pit with dyestuffs and see
            what happens!

            -Carowyn
          • Ron Charlotte
            ... Tanning uses vegetable tannin to preserve the leather, Tawing uses Alum. The two types of leather are _very_ different in characteristics, the tawing
            Message 5 of 16 , Feb 14, 2005
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              At 04:56 PM 2/14/2005, Carowyn wrote:
              >
              > > Therefore I am interested to find out if and how leather could have
              > > been dyed in our period.
              >
              >OK, that's it, I'm biting the bullet! Guys, can you tell me how leather
              >was tawwed, and pit-tanned in period, and the difference between the two?

              Tanning uses vegetable tannin to preserve the leather, Tawing uses
              Alum. The two types of leather are _very_ different in characteristics,
              the tawing process is _much_ faster, but the leather has to be handled
              differently in use.


              If you can lay your hands on a copy of the Plitcho (LOC# 68-18235), the
              entire final chapter concerns the tanning and dying of leather. This is
              16th century mind you, but it's some of the little pre-17thC info on dying
              we have. There are also leather dye recipes in _The Secretes of Alexis_
              (ISBN 9022107078). You should also look into R. Reeds _Ancient Skins,
              Parchments and Leathers_ (ISBN 0-12-903550-5)


              >I've been meaning to try this on rawhide...most dyes are better if they
              >are not boiled, but simmered, over a looooong period of time. Usually
              >months. So, usually when I set up a dye experiment, I let them sit, and
              >sit, and sit...


              >Well, that sounds suspiciously like a pit tanning to me! So, if someone
              >can give me the basics, I'll set up a mini pit with dyestuffs and see
              >what happens!

              You actually have the right idea to an extent. A number of the recipes in
              The Plicho and a couple of other sources do seem to combine tanning/tawing
              with the dying process. And you are right, for leather, they generally
              boiled the dye to extract it, but steeped the hides and skins in ambient
              temp solution.


              Ron Charlotte -- Gainesville, FL
              ronch2@... OR afn03234@...
            • Alasdair Muckart
              ... Something I ve been wondering about this. I ve heard it said many times that Alum tawed hides are not at all water resistant, since water will wash out the
              Message 6 of 16 , Feb 14, 2005
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                On Tue, 15 Feb 2005 12:14, Ron Charlotte wrote:

                > Tanning uses vegetable tannin to preserve the leather, Tawing uses
                > Alum. The two types of leather are _very_ different in characteristics,
                > the tawing process is _much_ faster, but the leather has to be handled
                > differently in use.

                Something I've been wondering about this. I've heard it said many times that
                Alum tawed hides are not at all water resistant, since water will wash out
                the alum, leaving you with rawhide again.

                If this is the case, what happens when you apply liquid dye to alum tawed
                hide? Would stuffing the tawed hide with grease help with the water
                resistance?

                Thanks.
                --
                Al.
              • Neil Carr
                ... You don t. At least, most recipes for dyeing tawed leather call for the dye to be applied with the tawing solution, not after the leather is already tawed.
                Message 7 of 16 , Feb 14, 2005
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                  Alasdair Muckart wrote:

                  > ... I've heard it said many times that
                  > Alum tawed hides are not at all water resistant, since water will wash
                  > out
                  > the alum, leaving you with rawhide again.
                  >
                  > If this is the case, what happens when you apply liquid dye to alum tawed
                  > hide?

                  You don't. At least, most recipes for dyeing tawed leather call for the
                  dye to be applied with the tawing solution, not after the leather is
                  already tawed.

                  --
                  Neil Carr
                • Grooby, Peter
                  ... characteristics, ... handled ... times ... out ... tawed ... Stuffing with grease/fat/egg-yolk does help water resistance, but it would also greatly hinder
                  Message 8 of 16 , Feb 15, 2005
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                    > > Tanning uses vegetable tannin to preserve the leather, Tawing uses
                    > > Alum. The two types of leather are _very_ different in
                    characteristics,
                    > > the tawing process is _much_ faster, but the leather has to be
                    handled
                    > > differently in use.
                    >
                    > Something I've been wondering about this. I've heard it said many
                    times
                    > that
                    > Alum tawed hides are not at all water resistant, since water will wash
                    out
                    > the alum, leaving you with rawhide again.
                    >
                    > If this is the case, what happens when you apply liquid dye to alum
                    tawed
                    > hide? Would stuffing the tawed hide with grease help with the water
                    > resistance?

                    Stuffing with grease/fat/egg-yolk does help water resistance, but it
                    would also greatly hinder dye absorption.

                    I would suggest adding the colourant to the alum/salt solution during
                    the tawing process.

                    Vitale


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                  • Ron Charlotte
                    ... Mind you, it takes a pretty thorough soaking to do this. I took some trimmings off of the alum tanned bellies I ve been experimenting with, and dropped
                    Message 9 of 16 , Feb 15, 2005
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                      At 06:25 PM 2/14/2005, Al wrote:
                      >Something I've been wondering about this. I've heard it said many times that
                      >Alum tawed hides are not at all water resistant, since water will wash out
                      >the alum, leaving you with rawhide again.

                      Mind you, it takes a pretty thorough soaking to do this. I took some
                      trimmings off of the alum tanned bellies I've been experimenting with, and
                      dropped them in a bucket of water. It took about a day for the damage to
                      really become clear (this is 8-9oz, commercially tawed material). I think
                      that the real damage would come from repeated exposure over time.


                      >If this is the case, what happens when you apply liquid dye to alum tawed
                      >hide? Would stuffing the tawed hide with grease help with the water
                      >resistance?

                      A lot of the dying methods seemed to involve dying the skin in concert with
                      the tawing process. Many of the other immersion dye recipes have a
                      significant amount of alum in the dye bath. This is an area where I've got
                      more research than experiment, at the moment.
                      The traditional methods for finishing alum leather all involve high fat
                      treatments. Egg yolk, fish oils, tallow are among many things I've seen
                      mentioned.


                      >Thanks.
                      >--
                      >.

                      Ron Charlotte -- Gainesville, FL
                      ronch2@... OR afn03234@...
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