This article appeared in ORR Vol. 13, No. 3
For a long time now she has been niggled by the generally accepted stories about steaming dye vats. Unimpressed by rug lore, it seemed to her most unlikely that primitive tribes people would have resorted to such processes. Fuel gathering was hard enough, without burning it for anything other than the two essentials of keeping warm and of cooking food.
If her feelings were reasonable, then it had to follow that it must be possible to achieve satisfactory results with water at "domestic" temperature. The countries in which rugs are traditionally made have a very warm climate, so a vat left out in the sun would certainly become pretty hot. Admittedly the process would be slower, but time was never a critical matter for primitive peoples who, in any case, were generally limited to measuring this in days and in lunar months.
The day after she gave me this material, with instructions to tell all and sundry in order that this technique would be incontestably "in the public domain" (and, therefore, not patentable!), I happened on Arthur Upham Pope's obituary of Friedrich Sarre, in which he related a revealing conversation between the great man and one of his students. Briefly, it went like this:
Sarre: Take these notes, you publish them.
Student: But they are yours, not mine.
Sarre: There is no "yours" or "mine." It is for unsere wissenschaft (S.O.P.A., 1981 edition, Vol. XIV).
With this sentiment still echoing in my mind, I hope that you will be able to find room to publish these results at an early date.
The purpose of this experiment is to discover if it is possible to dye wool to deep brown-red shades without heating the dye pot to temperatures detrimental to the fibre.
The wool was then placed in a vessel with an equal weight of chopped madder root and water to cover. The vessel was brought up to a temperature of 40 degrees centigrade in this case by simply placing the vessel on the back of an Aga between the hot plates and further insulating the vessel with the appropriate number of pot holders underneath.
Samples of wool were taken from the dye pot on the third, fourth, fifth, and seventh days. The results are shown in
Two vessels were prepared, the first at 30 degrees centigrade, a temperature which can be maintained by placing the pot near a radiator, for example. The other pot was left a room temperature, which was a constant 25 degrees centigrade. The results of these experiments show that given enough time, very intense shades of red and red-brown are achievable without any effort or skill involved in the process.
The time comparison to