Some thoughts on interpretation
Don't treat these as an exclusive list of precise colours – instead consider them to be an indication of the range of colours available and their
There were probably two kinds of dyeing taking place in Britain during Regia’s period – that of the professional dyer and maybe what we have come to
call hedgerow dyeing.
We have very little archaeological evidence for professional dyers in this country at this time – some pottery shards with madder deposits, discarded
madder roots, dyers greenweed remains, woad seeds, clubmoss and bog myrtle remains, and dye stuff was being imported. Whether this is evidence of a true professional dyeing business is another matter, but at least some form of dyeing was happening.
Hedgerow dyeing seems to be the term used for the dyeing of small amounts of fleece or yarn, or small garments done domestically with whatever plant is handy. This would for the most part give a result which would fade easily and need re-dyeing yearly.
Nowadays, when we buy yarn to make a garment, we are asked to buy the full amount needed for the garment, as dye batches even with modern techniques cannot be guaranteed to be of similar shades. How much more true is this problem for the medieval dyer. Even with crops, such as woad and madder, grown specifically in continental Europe as dye crops this problem would still exist.
Several factors can alter the colour that a dye plant will yield – the amount of sun and rain that it receives, the latitude at which it is grown, the pH level of the soil in which it is grown, the pH level of the water used for the dyeing process, how long the dyestuff is stored and in what way and
lastly the actual dyeing process used ie the mordants or combination of mordant afterbaths, ratios of dyestuffs to fleece, yarn or cloth. All of these will alter either the colour obtained or the shade of the colour obtained.
Therefore, we cannot say – from madder you always get x-colour, x-shade, or x-depth of colour. The same goes for any other dyestuff.
Professionally dyed fibre would have generally been more consistent, but given the above, even that would not have been true to any great extent. So – what we have are a range of colours that could have been produced. That is the best that we can do.