Scarlet

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Shadowcat
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Scarlet

Post by Shadowcat »

O.K. all you knowledgeable folks. In discussion today I mentioned that "scarlet" was a cloth as well as a colour. Then I cam unstuck, because that was all I knew. Anybody got some definitions/references/comments please?

Is there anything about the weave/quality etc., that makes it "scarlet" as opposed to plain red cloth?

S.

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Sophia
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Post by Sophia »

Suzi,

From Tudor Tailor, N. Mikhaila and J. Malcom-Davies, Batsford, 2006, p.36 :

Broadcloth of the highest quality; dyed in kermes, usually red. Used for petticoats, waistcoats, hose, gowns, cloaks, lining. - " A peyre of Scarlet hoses ...two stomagers of Crimson Saten lyned with Scaarlet for Henry VIII (1510)", "3 yards 1 quarter fyne skarlett for a Clooke ... at 20s for Catherine Parr (1546)" Note G

Hope this helps.

Soph :D
aka Thomasin Chedzoy, Tailor at Kentwell Hall

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Shadowcat
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Post by Shadowcat »

Thanks Soph. Any more info will be gratefully received.

S.

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ViscontesseD'Asbeau
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Post by ViscontesseD'Asbeau »

In *Textiles & Materials of the Common Man and Woman 1580 - 1660* (Ed. Stuart Peachey), this, that suggests in the earlier period 'scarlet' meant a type of cloth but by the 1640's, the colour:
Stammel and Scarlet

Both these terms are though historically to have applied to fabrics and then come to be associated with colour as well. Scarlet is not used in connection with common people but is found in references to stammel and is thus considered here. Snipers on a church tower in Bradford in 1643 had their guns aimed at those wearing buff or scarlet apparently in an attempt to pick off officers... As the cloth quality would have been indistinguishable at this distance scarlet must have been a colour...
Ditto 'russet'. It seems to have started off as a cloth type and evolved into the name of a colour.

My thoery, for what is worth, is the late date of the change from meaning a cloth type to a specific shade of red might be explained by the fact it was only in the early 17thC, in England, that there was finally an effective 'recipe' for dyeing the colour we'd now understand as 'scarlet' when they realised you could get a much better red than the one from the widely available madder, by using cochineal from the New World - with the addition of a tin, rather than alum, mordant. So that's possibly why, prior to this date, 'scarlet' was still a generic cloth name. And presumably the red involved would not be our current understanding of 'scarlet' but something more akin to a crimson or Turkey red. That's just my theory I can't give you references for it!

Cloths were given specifications according to various qualities including weight, and it seems some broad cloths (eg: Yorkshire) were either red or undyed, which would have given them a different weight even with the same wool used and the same spinning/ weaving techniques.

(Broadcloths seem to sometimes be divided into 'whites' and 'reds' (*17thC woollen Cloth Specification*, Stuart Peachey).

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Post by Tuppence »

cunnington & beard (only book I have with me right now) describe it as a 'rich' fabric, later a colour.
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fishwife
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Post by fishwife »

Scarlet was always dyed "in grain" ie with Kermes so would be of a red colour. If you dye with Kermes you actually get more of a crimson colour than what we know as scarlet - that does only come when you add tin to the pot.

York and Beverley were licenced to produce scarlets and I do believe that Lincoln also there seems to be confusion over Lincoln "grayne" and "green" Both colours and cloths being licenced there.

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Annis
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Post by Annis »

In the book, 'Everyday costume in Britain' by Audrey Barfoot:

Scarlet: soft woollen, dyed-in-the-yarn with cochineal, used for warm underwear - hence 'red flannel'

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Post by Theotherone »

"Mistress, Maids and Men" by Margaret Wade Lebarge has the following passage
The scarlets of Lincoln were the finest of all, and the description had much of the prestige of a brand-name. Incidentally scarlet in the thirteenth century was still a type of cloth, not necessarily a colour, a point underlined by two entries in the countess's account, one of red scarlet for Richard of Cornwall, the other of "Sanguine" scarlet for the countess herself and her daughter. These scarlets were the most expensive of all woolens, costing the countess 7s an ell.
Because there would have to be three of them.

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Post by Tuppence »

Scarlet: soft woollen, dyed-in-the-yarn with cochineal, used for warm underwear - hence 'red flannel'
and kermes came before cocjineal (that right fishwife??? )
one of red scarlet for Richard of Cornwall, the other of "Sanguine" scarlet for the countess herself and her daughter
isn't sanguine red?
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Post by Theotherone »

Tuppence wrote:
one of red scarlet for Richard of Cornwall, the other of "Sanguine" scarlet for the countess herself and her daughter
isn't sanguine red?
I believe it's a blood red. Suggesting the countess may have bought red scarlet cloth and blood red scarlet cloth - different shades - rather than scarlet being used to describe the colour alone.
Because there would have to be three of them.

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fishwife
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Post by fishwife »

Quite right Tuppence, Kermes was effectively wiped out after the arrival of Cochineal in the middle of the 16th C, but was the most expensive red you could get prior to that.
I like the description of the scarlets above - must get that reference!
Sanguine is blood - think of an apothecary and the 4 humours.
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Deb
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Post by ViscontesseD'Asbeau »

Kermes is another insect dye so likely to have been pretty restricted in use in that the cost would mean it would be more likely associated with silk, than wool, maybe, so much more feasible for passementerie, tapestry yarns and the like in parts of Europe where it had to be imported. That's not to say it wasn't used to dye woollen cloth, but it's not likely to have been used to such a massive extent that entire types of broadcloth were named 'scarlet' after it!

Jill Goodwin says:
'... Many ancient European tapestries are dyed with kermes.... Kermes is made from the small dried bodies of the female shield louse '(Coccus ilicis), which lives on the leaves of the kermes oak... and the holm oak... found along the coasts of the Mediterranean Sea and inland from the coasts of Greece.... Latin scholars referred to it as 'Grana tinctorum', for ancient dyers believed the insect emerged from a grain or berry and referred to wool dyed with kermes as 'dyed in the grain'.....'
The word 'scarlet' seems to apply specifically to a woollen cloth by the later period, in England. The Vikings used the word 'skarlat', it is thought, specifically for kermes-dyed cloth which would be traded for, or gifted, by foreigners. So the terminology seems to depend on when - and where - you are.

By the 17thC, red was a colour associated with the petticoats (usually flannel wool) of countrywomen, so much so that reference to a red petticoat was usually a shorthand way of saying 'rustic'. So it's probably accurate to say there were reds - and then there were reds! Some (like stammel) more associated with working people. Some (like scarlet) less so. That both became the names for shades of red implies there is a difference, as does the fact that they become attached to cloth of different statuses.

'Scarlet' does appear to be a woollen cloth, and the quanitities required of an imported insect dye would be so high as to mean it's not likely kermes was used so widely in England. Plenty of exotic dyestuffs were imported, but the cost of such a dye where thousands of insect bodies would be needed to make a few ounces - and to dye whole bolts of cloth you'd need , say for a 30 odd yard piece of cloth, nearly 90lb dyestuff (at the least!) - means that there's no way a dyestuff like kermes could possibly be the origin for' scarlet' as a name for a type of broadcloth!

That said, the higher status of 'scarlet' when it became a colour, implies a more expensive process - and whereas there's no way millions of lbs of kermes were imported to England each year, they'd have had enough to bottom or top dye madder dyed cloth, and maybe use tin as well as alum mordant to get a brighter result?

Madder with a touch of some insect dye would be more than likely the answer! Not sure when 'scarlet' moves from a cloth type name to a colour but that certainly seems to have happened by the 1640s.

You can get nice fuschia type colours, very vivid, from certain lichens and so these are another dyestuff that would give a very pretty red, and one you could produce - but not one you could feasibly mass produce. It would be a more local and cheaper top dye to work with madder, so another possibility.

Apparently, when medieval English textile fragments have been analysed, it seems one of (if not the) commonest colour is red, but that red is usually found to be from madder, not kermes although kermes and even native lichen dyes account for a small percentage, overall.

Kermes is an ancient dye but an imported exotic.

:D

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Post by fishwife »

Just to clarify a little - Kermes was a French (and other Mediteranean countries) local product and has been used from antiquity. It is mentioned in many early manuscripts and dye books. It was used in the Middle ages particularly for scarlet woollen cloth. Following the fall of Constantinople in 1453 it took over from Tyrian Purple in the production of "Cardinal Purple"

Kermes was "cropped" twice a year, not exactly farmed but almost. for examples of quantities of trade - in 1357 one small family business in Southern France exported 1272lbs Kermes to Bruges. One person would collect over 2lbs of Kermes in a day.

A piece of scarlet weighed 32lbs. It took 12lbs Kermes to dye this cloth. I am intrigued to know where you get your quantities from Viscontesse? It is a very cost effective dye - you can exhaust it back to clear water! There is certainly evidence of Kermes being used in York. The clippings from the cloth were re - used in further dyebaths.

There is also evidence of Brazilwood being used as a substitute for a cheaper cloth, as scarlet was a rich persons cloth - 40% of the cost of production was the dyestuff.

Hope this helps,
TTFN,
Deb
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gregory23b
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Post by gregory23b »

Fishy spouse, can kermes be gotten? in smalliosh quantities, not for dyeing you understand?

have played with cochineal for later stuff but want to see the difference, recommendations?

(I have in my possession a rather nice piece of brown wool, very nice brown wool, that will be a coat ;-))
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fishwife
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Post by fishwife »

Hi Gregory 23b,
can you pm me please?
Ta,
Deb
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