Purple majesties
Tuesday March 27th 2007, 7:04 pm
Filed under: Knit,To dye for

I remember reading once that the color royal purple was, anciently, derived from mollusks, and that it took something like 10,000 of them to produce a pound’s worth of dye; hence, the only people who could afford it was royalty. We, in our day, being able to buy clothing of any color whatsoever, have no idea how privileged we are. I’m sure one could overdye indigo on top of brick-red madder root–and I have seen ancient Egyptian cloth that still had a touch of madder redness to it, thousands of years later–and get a brownish-tinged variant. But a true purple would have been vanishingly rare. (There are natural dyers out there who know far more on the whole subject than I.)

There are artisans in South America who still go to the shore, gather sea snails, squeeze the purple out of them, and then put them back. It washes out of their cloth to a soft lavendar over time, I am told.

At Stitches West a year ago, I bought a half pound hank of Lisa Souza’s handdyed alpaca laceweight dyed in Shade Garden, a soft purple/green/blue mix. I dyed some Misti baby alpaca laceweight in lilac last fall and knitted the two strands together into Kristine’s shawl; recently I took some light blue merino lace yarn to the rest of the hank and made the second one shown here.

I put it on, after blocking it, and felt like royalty indeed wearing Lisa’s work.

14 Comments so far
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Alison, that is a very striking photo. Of you and the shawl.

Comment by Sonya 03.27.07 @ 8:35 pm

It was windy and cold and overcast and we just ran outside to snap a quick shot. The first three, as I went through them, I thought, couldn’t you have waited for me to smile? Tell me when I’m tilted and don’t know? And then I saw this. Good job, John!

Comment by AlisonH 03.27.07 @ 11:26 pm

Good job, John! Your mom may feel like royalty, but she looks like a romantic heroine on the wind-swept moors of somewhere-or-other.

At the moment, I’m on a Mac where I can’t see the colors properly. I don’t have to remain on one, however.I’ll visit again later when the peecee is fired up.

Comment by Robin MacAskill 03.28.07 @ 1:48 am

I read not too long ago about purple dye – there was a particular kind whose name I cannot remember which came from the area currently known as Lebanon, pretty much, and it was one of the sources of power that drove the Phoenician economic engine in the classical era.

Comment by CarolineF 03.28.07 @ 5:32 am

So glad you’re blogging now Alison! When I first read the ms for your forthcoming book, I just knew you’d be a natural blogger!

Comment by Donna 03.28.07 @ 6:58 am

Heathcliff! Oh Heathcliiiiiiiiiffffffff…
Very ethereal and beautiful, Alison. I vote for this to be on Book Part Deux! Tilting is arty, you know. :o)

I keep thinking about how you were the first to love Shade Garden (I wasn’t sure) as well as Sky Drama. I can picture you falling in love with them before the wall of yarn in the redwoods, right up there at King’s Mt. Look how far we have come. :o)

Comment by Lisa S 03.28.07 @ 8:23 am

Gorgeous photograph.

And as to feeling like royalty…that makes two of us. 🙂

Comment by Kristine 03.28.07 @ 8:35 am

Beautiful 🙂

Comment by Amy 03.28.07 @ 11:31 am

Ahhh Tyrian purple 🙂

Lisa S could make anybody feel like royalty, here colour work is magical.

Comment by Angela 03.28.07 @ 5:30 pm

Lovely lovely! And the perfect color for you. 🙂

Comment by Romi 03.28.07 @ 7:28 pm

Look at you! Majestic super model indeed.

The shawl is gorgeous too.

Comment by Lisa 03.29.07 @ 5:39 am

Boy! I was going to leave a comment about how marvelous that picture is, yet it seems some others have beat me to it! I echo their sentiments. . .you, the shawl and teh colors are absolutely breathtaking!

Pam in Ohio

Comment by Anonymous 03.29.07 @ 6:51 am

Alison, that is a fabulous photo! Love it.

And in reply to your comment on my blog, I’m actually not sure I can make it to Petaluma. Mostly, I just day dream about stalking the Harlot because I think spending a day with her would be such a blast. But alas, it’s quite a long haul for me as well. I live just north of San Luis Obispo.

Comment by Jen Smith 03.29.07 @ 10:36 am

That picture needs to be the cover of a fantasy novel.

Comment by TexAnne 03.29.07 @ 5:54 pm

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