life_of_glamour: (Laureling Day)
[personal profile] life_of_glamour
I recently acquired some smalt, which is a documentably period method of tinting starch for ruffs. Having already done some tinting with cochineal, which is an extrapolated use and method based on knowing that they had purple/pink, I wanted to try out one that was definitely used for sure and true.

First thing I did was acquire the necessary safety gear, due to the numerous warnings that accompanied my jar of smalt.
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After posting this to FB I was informed by my friend the chemist that this might have been a bit of overkill and that just not huffing the smalt would be adequate precautions. Live and learn.

Then I boiled up some starch (8 parts water to 1 part starch) and started adding smalt. I knew that you could really go to town with the smalt (unlike cochineal, which gives a very vivid result with a very small amount), so I winged it a bit by dunking the corner of a paper towel into the starch each time I added a teaspoon of smalt to see if I was getting close to what I wanted the final result to be.

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Three teaspoons seemed like a good shade, so then I started working the starch into the ruff. I remembered from the cochineal that I needed to be very vigilant to work the starch in evenly or my color would be streaky and spotty.

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Wet with starch, hanging to dry.

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Then I had a brilliant flash of genius. Because I don't have a shop full of apprentices to poke my ruffs while they dry, nor a fire to hang them over, I got out my hairdryer and blow-dried it from the bottom, which allowed me to dry each ruffle individually while holding them open to avoid touching the fabric together which produces the streaky effect. It isn't perfect, because there is still some unevenness, but it is a drastically better result than I'd had in the past with the cochineal. After drying the majority of the fabric I left them to dry completely (the area around the neckband needed to finish drying still).

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Oh did I mention I was making two at the same time? I was. The other one is cochineal, for a special project I'm working on.

I realized, the next day, that I'd made a tactical error when I ran the guiding thread through the edge of the ruffle. I made the ruffles too small for the setting sticks I have. I have 3 or 4 sizes of setting sticks which are modified hair curlers, which have an internal heat source (gas or electrice). But it turns out that 1.5 inches is too small to fit the stick into. So I had to go old-school. I have a few non-heated sticks which aren't electric or gas and have to be heated from an external source. I fired up the gas ring on the stove and held my old-fashioned curling iron in the flame to heat it then set the edges.

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Not my best setting work, but I'm not bothered, the point of this exercise wasn't the setting.

OTOH, the other ruff, with larger settes, took me only 20 minutes to set, which is a drastic reduction from the hours and hours it used to take me previously! So clearly I'm starting to get better at this!
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And here's the blue one against a standard white one (which is terribly wilted and worn out and scheduled to be washed and restarched soon - this is just for color comparison).
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RUFFS!!
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The last color experiment I'm going to do is saffron, for yellow. Stay tuned!

Date: 2013-09-18 08:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] emt-hawk.livejournal.com
Those look really nice. I like the blue one, but then I'm a Ragnesfolke.

How often do you have to starch your ruff?

--H

Date: 2013-09-18 08:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lifeofglamour.livejournal.com
They last 3-5 wearings, depending on the weather and how dirty they get. The don't stand up to humidity at all and will wilt immediately at the slightest fog. They can just be re-set if they wilt, but need to be washed and restarched once they get dirty.

Date: 2013-09-18 08:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] learnteach.livejournal.com
This is wonderful. Thank you for doing the work and sharing it!

Date: 2013-09-18 08:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lifeofglamour.livejournal.com
My pleasure!

Date: 2013-09-18 09:10 pm (UTC)

Date: 2013-09-18 09:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] joycebre.livejournal.com
just beautiful!

Date: 2013-09-18 09:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fairegoddess.livejournal.com
I love that blue! Have you tried to wash that color out yet? I remember there being some issues with some of the colorants last time; since the smalt is a suspended particulate instead of a true dissolved solution, maybe the color will wash out more easily? Maybe a colored ruff would be the perfect accent to the upcoming upper-middle Elizabethans I have planned...

Date: 2013-09-18 09:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lifeofglamour.livejournal.com
Smalt is supposed to wash out easily, it's designed to do so and was why they used it in period - so you could have your color washed out and a new color put in each time you sent it to the laundress.
I expect it will wash out just fine. The cochineal washes out well, I've already tested that. :-)

The thing about the colored ruffs, though, is that they seem to have very specific times and places they were worn, and didn't seem to have been considered formal-wear. I've got a few portraits where they appear but they are all early 17th century. Earlier, during Elizabeth's reign, they didn't wear them in any portraits that I've seen yet, but they're definitely mentioned. I'm still trying to figure out where and when it's appropriate to wear a colored ruff. :-)

Date: 2013-09-18 10:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] freewaydiva.livejournal.com
Looking forward to what you find about that. Is there any evidence that you've found for colored ruffs on the continent, or is this a purely English phenomenon?

They're way groovy!

Date: 2013-09-18 11:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lifeofglamour.livejournal.com
I haven't even looked on the continent! All my sources are English, so I couldn't even speculate on whether they had them on the continent or not.
Fanks! :-)

Date: 2013-09-18 09:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] trystbat.livejournal.com
Looks fantastic!!! The final pic comparing the colors kind of reminds me of old ladies with white hair getting a light pink or blue rinse - it's that subtle touch of color but not as cheesy as little old ladies, no way :)

Date: 2013-09-18 10:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sstormwatch.livejournal.com
Awesome! Love the blue. Thanks for continuing to share this great work on colored ruffs.

Date: 2013-09-18 11:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] demode.livejournal.com
Super cool! What the hell is smalt??

Date: 2013-09-18 11:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lifeofglamour.livejournal.com
It's powdered cobalt glass. So it's glass infused with cobalt, crushed to a powder. Apparently cobalt is toxic or something and crushed glass shouldn't be breathed. So many rules!

Date: 2013-09-19 02:22 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] balutakat.livejournal.com
This might be the height of ignorance to ask, but if you can make blue and red, does that mean...possible purple ruffs? Green, with the saffron? I really need to get with it and make my Elizabethan, I have everything I need.

Date: 2013-09-19 04:43 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lifeofglamour.livejournal.com
Not at all ignorant to ask! Purple is commented upon by contemporaries, but I'm not sure how they did it. The cochineal I've experimented with gives a lovely fuschia/pink. The saffron gives yellow, and I think something called green earth (glauconite?) can give a green color. I'm not sure yet how they got the green but that was suggested to me by another lady who's researching the same thing on the East Coast. I've seen a portrait of somebody wearing a greenish-tinged ruff from the early 17th C. and it's pretty bizarre. :-)

Date: 2013-09-19 05:29 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] thelacedangel.livejournal.com
Coolest thing I've seen all week. I love reading these :)

Date: 2013-09-19 05:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] love3angle.livejournal.com
This is all so awesome!

Date: 2013-09-19 10:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] helblonde.livejournal.com
Super-cool-a frajilisticexpialadocious!

Date: 2013-09-20 08:25 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] liadethornegge.livejournal.com
Looks pretty sharp to me! And twenty minutes for the setting? You're a pro at this. I just washed my suite of ruffs and need to restarch and reset them. But I still haven't got a setting stick.

Once you wash the blue, let us know how well the tint goes out!
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