On 10/2, Andy wrote:
Margaret wouldn't have used the word "tarka", because it was only
much later that technology provided colour-fast dyes (coming into the
eigthteenth century, I think, in Scotland) with which the Scots could
begin to design "clan patterns". She would, in fact, have used
whatever the word or phrase is in Hungarian for "cross-over pattern",
and not a word describing different colours.
In fact, one of the most-commonly-used dyes in early days was
humman urine. Perhaps it did leave a blotch or two!
Although Scots of the 18th century did not have dyes as colorfast
and strongly colored as the analine and other chemical dyes used
today, they did have good dyes of many colors from natural sources,
and easily could have produced handsome and varied plaids. Many
natural dyes are reasonably colorfast, and can be used to make several
different colors by use of simple chemical mordants. Good strong
yellows, greens, browns, and oranges are pretty easy to accomplish,
though blues and reds are less so. An accomplished dyer can achieve
nice, even, and reasonably predictable colors in wool yarns from
Red dyes, in particular have always been problematical, and still
are. It is wise even contemporary dyes to wash reds seperately, and
many of the red yarns and embroidery flosses on the market are
notoriously fugitive and likely to bleed. Keep in mind, too, that the
fabrics of the past would have been washed with soap, which is less
likely to wash out colors than modern detergents.
The best NATURAL reds used by fiber artists today are made by
using ammonia to treat lichens. It is a smelly process that involves
soaking the lichens for a period of several days to several weeks,
then using the resulting brew as a dye. Urine is of little use as a
dye by itself, but of course is a good source of ammonia and works
quite well in this process (I tried it). The colors resulting from
various lichens range from violet to orange, and include some nice
reds, which could easily have been used to make tartans, perhaps less
bright than current ones, but brilliant enough in their context.
These are called 'orchil' dyes, and it is relatively easy to get nice,
even results from them.
Why Margaret might have used a word meaning "mottled" is another
[log in to unmask]