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.

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.





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.


Wet with starch, hanging to dry.


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).


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.

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!

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).


The last color experiment I'm going to do is saffron, for yellow. Stay tuned!
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