Dyeing threads 2
The battle of Fulford website
|Conservators report that the colours of the threads are still vibrant.
This is probably because the Bayeux Tapestry has been stored for most of its life
in the dark and is now displayed in low light conditions.
They used natural dyes for their wool threads so this was the route we
chose for the Fulford Tapestry..
|Only eight thread colours?
This is what the experts tell us were the
colours in the Bayeux tapestry.
| terracotta red|
|a blue that is so dark it looks black|
But on close inspection, the Bayeux tapestry has a much more
extensive range of hues and intensities.
And, there are so many shades that can be achieved with the range of
natural dyes that there really is a full spectrum of hues, with only the
very dark colours posing a problem.
Repairs at various times were carried out in light-yellow, orange, black and
a light green thread. Conservators are correcting errors made in earlier
The colours make no attempt at naturalism. The embroiders a thousand years
ago had a pallet of colours limited by the natural dyes that were available.
However, our work has shown that a sophisticated pallet of shades and tones can
be created. The original embroiders were masters of their art as they only
employed dyes that were know to be stable.
|The fastness of the colours they used in the Bayeux Tapestry
is truly remarkable. Those lucky enough
to have inspected the work report that the colours within the threads are still
vibrant. But pale as well as very dark colours appear not to be particularly stable.
So the choice of bold colours is consistent
with the available technology which is precisely what they were trying to achieve in the design.
| The colours can
provide the contrast and help focus the design. So you will see some blue
horses and others that are piebald in a range of incredible hues! The colour is
chosen to suit the setting.
So these were the recommendations given to the embroiderers
|The choice of colours will be left to those executing each piece.|
|You will find that the threads have slightly different shades and
intensities of colour which you can employ to add texture and perspective to
|As with the direction of laying, it makes sense to plan the colours before
work begins on a group or area. Feel free to insert a bit of thread to remind
you of the direction and colour.|
|If there is a limited supply of the colour you need, take out all that you
require and put it in a separate marked bag to ensure that you have enough to
complete the area you are working on.|
|When working with the blue thread, some of the colour will stain your
fingers but is easily washed off your hands but much harder to remove from the
|Too many pastel shades together are not good. Here are a few guidance notes|
|First, assign colours to the key image – This is normally a person.
Important people have bright robes, the ordinary folk have dull colours.|
|Then assign colours appropriate to objects such as trees. There is no
need to be natural – a red or a yellow tree might be fine.|
|Horses, building and ships can also have surreal colours if that
provides overall, colour balance. Brown buildings are boring!||