New Story in Progress: snippet

Posted: February 3rd, 2014 under snippet, Story.
Tags: ,

There’s a new story barreling along this morning–not book-length, but it’s certainly alive and wiggling  in the writer’s hands, tossing off new ideas every few paragraphs.    Remember our discussion about top-down and toe-up sock knitters?   Thanks to that, I now know more about the great trade fairs at Fiveway, the craft guilds,  the pride of one particular sock-knitter, the jealousy and vindictiveness of one of her former suitors (she’s happily married to a wool merchant) ,  the duties of a Fair-warden, the duties of a Guildmaster in the Knitters’ Guild,  how booths are arranged (but not yet WHY there’s a saddler at the far end of the row in which Gralin has her booth.)    

Snippet:  Gralin, a woman who sells the socks and other items she knits, as well as a small amount of spun and dyed wool in skeins and balls, is a member of the Knitters’ Guild and thus entitled to sell her Guild-approved wares in a special section of  Fiveways’s  Trade Fair.    The craft guildmasters walk through the guild section before trade opens, and make sure no one’s selling unapproved goods.   In the open market, anyone can sell anything.


Scyllin, the Knitting Guildmaster, smiled at Gralin as she stopped before her table.  “We can count on you for an attractive display, Gralin.  Is that a new dye in this pile?”  She pointed to one ball, a dark purplish red.

“No, Guildmaster.  My aunt used healall root and added a touch of beanvine in the second wash…and it’s on a mix of Dintal brown and cream.”

“Excellent,” Scyllin said.  “How fast is it, do you know yet?”

“She brewed before Half-Spring, and I’ve been wearing socks of that dyeing since, once a fiveday, to test.  I have them on today, in fact.” Gralin stood and moved to the end of the table, lifting her skirt to show the socks, their color as strong as in the yarn on the table.

“But you have no socks for sale with that shade,” Scyllin said.

“Guildmaster, I guarantee the color in my socks for a full year and I cannot prove that yet.  Next year, if the yarn sells, and my socks have not faded, I will have some.”


Keep in mind that before you see this story in a collection or anthology, details–even characters’ names–may have changed.   But for the moment, it’s coming along nicely, and I thought you might like to see a first-day snippet of something completely new.


  • Comment by Kerry aka Trouble — February 3, 2014 @ 2:27 pm


    Were guarantees from vendors the normal practice? In Paksworld, that is – also curious when the practice started. If you don’t know, Iphinome might 🙂

  • Comment by elizabeth — February 3, 2014 @ 3:03 pm


    Kerry: Fairs and markets were a “problem” in medieval society because they made it possible for some to escape the controls of guilds and rulers both…to the financial detriment of both…so market regulation was a big deal. The organizers always claimed that the fair or special market would bring in money; those who wanted control always complained that not enough of it came to them, and that it encouraged disorderly conduct. Besides theft (at, near, or going to/from the fair), a fair was an ideal place to pass counterfeit coin (and counterfeiting has been a business opportunity for thousands of years) and to meet for felonious or treasonous purposes. Messages could be passed between conspirators more easily in a fair than at other times. To hold any kind of market, permissions had to be obtained from whoever governed there–in free cities, that was the city government, usually dominated by the local guilds. To hold a fair outside a city’s jurisdiction required permission from whoever claimed the land; some fairs were held on unclaimed land, “waste” land, for that reason. Part of getting permission was payment of a guarantee against damage. Regular city markets paid a fee, often stall by stall, sometimes guild by guild (the guild then extracted payment from vendors using its space.)

    I don’t remember what the situation was for markets under Roman rule (that there were rules, I remember; what they were, almost fifty years has erased.) I know Babylonians had rules for their markets and stated punishments for market crimes, but I don’t remember (if I ever knew) whether they demanded surety ahead of a market…wouldn’t surprise it, as it’s so widespread.

    In Paksworld, the economics of running a regular market and the rules pertaining to it are similar to those of late medieval/early Renaissance markets, varying as they did with where the market was held (in a free city, in a city ruled by a feudal lord, outside a free city on domain land, outside a free city on waste land.) Markets and fairs except in waste land are patrolled by officials of various kinds with intent to keep order, ensure legal market practice (weights & measures, and in some cases price controls, discover and halt use of counterfeit coinage, etc.) In the South, in the Guild League cities, the Guild Council for a city is the city government

  • Comment by elizabeth — February 3, 2014 @ 3:22 pm


    Should add: Fiveway’s Market Fair is sanctioned by the city and by the local lord. Both are guaranteed a flat rate plus percentage based on attendance. In this case, the Market Fair is actually outside of town, and uses (for a fee to Arcolin, now) one of the barns Phelan had built for his troops in transit, plus the adjacent field. The combined guilds get the use of the building and an area on one side of it; the open market has the rest the field. There’s a temporary fence around the whole thing to control access (not perfectly but better than no fence) and the livestock market is nearby but not in the same field. There’s an inner fence to control access to the guilds’ section. Fair wardens patrol the fences and the aisles inside. Judicars pass judgment on complaints of law-breaking; there are two “courts”–one for money-related/market-related crimes, and one for violent crimes. The fair runs 3-5 days (in really bad weather, people give up after three days and the place is a mud-pit for months.) Even the lowliest of Fiveway employees is guaranteed at least a half-day to go spend money at the fair. Besides the merchandise produced locally and transported over the mountains from Aarenis, traders come from as far as Fin Panir in the north. Think state fair, but less about exhibitions than actual buying and selling.

  • Comment by John McDonald — February 3, 2014 @ 5:06 pm


    Depending on time of year, I can imagine that the inns, taverns, etc. in Fiveway will be doing a booming business. As will the city watch and whatever troops the local lord brings to town. And let us not forget the local chapter of the Thieves’ Guild.

  • Comment by Wickersham's Conscience — February 3, 2014 @ 5:08 pm


    Seems like it would be a fine time for mercenary companies to put up a recruiting tent, too.

  • Comment by GeekLady — February 3, 2014 @ 6:17 pm


    So here’s a world building question: what do they value in a dyed yarn? Obviously they value a fast dye, but do people favor a strong solid color over a yarn with subtle (or not!) variations of shade?

    I ask because the image of color that popped up for the description was one that shaded between areas of purply red and ruddy purple, like you see in Dreams In Color. And it’s interestingness because I’m fairly certain it’s not what you pictured.

  • Comment by Iphinome — February 3, 2014 @ 6:28 pm


    Anyone interested in learning about the remains of these mediæval controls might look up the City of London Corporation.

  • Comment by Catmadknitter — February 3, 2014 @ 7:36 pm


    Geeklady- YES. Marled yarn is documentable to at least the reformation if not the Renaissance. Trying to remember if space dying was a really old technique or was a modern method to get a period effect.

    A dye bath would be used til it was exhausted. the first things out would be solid strong colors but the color would lighten and be less solid til all the chemical was used up (my theory on why children got pastels is they got the scrap end fabric from the dye bath, but that is in no way documented. dealing with stains would make the fabrics fade quickly).

    It was not unheard of to ply together two strands of one color with a third of a slightly different one (see “clouded”)

    as a craftsman, I want a color to be consistent across the fabric or yarn- it can waver within, but I want all the skein/length to have the same idea throughout, not vary wonkily from one end to the other (long repeat notwithstanding but I dislike Noro for having surprises in their color repeats and I am not alone). Also enough fabric/yarn to finish a project. A ball of pretty yarn is nice, but it’s better if its the 230 I need for socks or 1-2 thousand for a garment.

    (and I am sorry I missed the toe-up top-down discussion unless I didn’t and forgot)

  • Comment by GeekLady — February 3, 2014 @ 8:41 pm


    @CatMadKnitter – I also don’t much care for Noro, but this pair of socks I’m currently knitting my fifth sock for is Dream in Color Everlasting Sock in Plenty, which shades unpredictably between a pale barely rosy lilac and a rich maroon, but is mostly a dusty rose. The colors are too brief to even pool, and it makes a lovely mottled look. Most of their other colors look delicious too. But it left me wondering whether I’m placing extra value on the delicate color changes because it’s so easy these days to get a uniform bright color.

  • Comment by John McDonald — February 3, 2014 @ 8:47 pm


    I know nothing about knitting. How many pairs of socks could Gralin produce in a five day or between fairs? Is she providing a significant portion of the household income, or is this more a ‘hobby’ for her?

    Given her stated desire to only produce high quality goods, I can picture her having a steady clientele locally, and selling at the Fair as an added bonus. I’d buy her socks.

  • Comment by Iphinome — February 3, 2014 @ 10:37 pm


    Is the knitter’s guildmaster also known as the lord of the strings?

  • Comment by elizabeth — February 3, 2014 @ 10:52 pm


    John: Yes, everyone’s doing a booming business, including the Thieves’ Guild.

    Wickersham’s Conscience: Fiveway’s not in the right location, largely because the only two northern companies, Arcolin’s and Halveric’s, both recruit in other areas, and train in other areas. When then come through Fiveway, they’re not looking for recruits. The other companies that fight in Aarenis recruit there, rather than try to bring northern recruits over the mountains…recruits that would not, by the time they arrived, be a credit to the company. This is not to say that deals aren’t done–or attempted–in Fiveway. So the only military organizations with recruiting tents at Fiveway’s Fair are the local militias and the Royal Guard of Tsaia.

  • Comment by elizabeth — February 3, 2014 @ 11:15 pm


    Iphinome: SNORK. I love it, but no. And from below, your mention of the City of London Corporation. Yes! Years ago, when I was taking a senior/graduate seminar in medieval history, I discovered a very useful compilation of the early statutes of London and it became one of the two most important references for the paper I was working on (the other being the Fabric Rolls of Yorkminster, published in one volume of the Surtees Society collection of English historical documents.) I don’t remember its exact title, but it’s probably still somewhere in Fondren Library at Rice. My major prof was Katherine Fischer Drew, then chair of the History Dept. and translator of the Lombard Laws and Burgundian Code, among the sources I’ve drawn on for writing in Paksworld. Anyway, the city of London’s various regulations and laws offer fascinating insight into what people knew and didn’t know about, for instance, sanitation. The Yorkminster document’s notation of the cost of farm implements, shoes for oxen and horses, wages of farm workers, acreage under plough, etc., allowed me to trace the economic effect of the Black Death as it moved into the area and then receded.

    John: The Fiveway Fair occurs only once or twice a year, so she has plenty of time to knit many pairs of socks. YarnHarlot, who is a far more experienced knitter than I am–a professional knitter–says a pair of socks takes her about 16 hours. So let’s say (because Gralin is also a pre-electricity housewife with other duties) that it takes Gralin 3-4 days to knit a pair of socks. Stripes will take the longer period, because of having to weave in the ends (twice for each stripe…the inside of a striped sock, before the weaving in, seems to have hundreds of waving antennae.) If she knitted nothing but socks, and all the socks were for sale (none for family) then she could knit at least 90 pairs of socks a year. My guess is she knits about 60 pairs a year for sale, in various sizes. Speed builds with experience; my first year of sock-knitting, I managed 9 pairs, and the second year (this past year) 12 pairs. When I was sick and unable to do anything else, I knit one pair in two weeks (I wasn’t knitting all day, though.)

    Geeklady: If you’re going to knit anatomical toes from the toes up, be sure to allow plenty of length (in other words, when he sticks his toes in for you to check the slant, once you’re on the foot don’t let him stick them in all the way to the end. Anatomical toes should have some ease. (Hmmm…wishing I could draw in the comment section…)

  • Comment by elizabeth — February 3, 2014 @ 11:34 pm


    On colors in yarn. I’m a novice here, but a friend of mine has recently been dyeing her homespun yarn and showing me the results (and sending me reference info)…since I had providentially included different breeds of sheep with different colors of wool in the original Deed, had mentioned the existence of dyed cloth and yarn previously, and had established special colors for some cultures, I’m now feeling comfortable making the color stuff more specific. In addition to homespun, my friend R- tried out some dyes on a large amount of a peculiar taupe color that she was given and didn’t like, so I’ve seen the effect of overdyeing a colored yarn and also natural colored wool. That being said: the professional dyers (the ones whose workplaces stink so much nobody wants to live downwind) have access to more dyestuffs and reagents than the home spinner/weaver/knitter who wants to dye her/his own.

    The general preference in Tsaia is for solid colored yarn, and the more intense, saturated colors are also preferred. Garments (including knitwear) may be multi=colored, but rarely the yarn. However, each district has its own favorite palette, often related to the nearest lord’s colors. In Marrakai lands, red and green are favored (though, as they’re Girdish, blue is also in the palette. Girdish blue is in everyone’s palette in Tsaia, except that in Verrakai lands Verrakai blue was preferred.) In southern Tsaia, various shades of rose, red, and pink are favored, along with yellow and a locally popular green (a very yellowish green.) Also near Fiveway, for the past 10 years or so, some home dyers have produced shaded yarn of varying from deep rose to pale pink. Attempts to make a shades yarn from deep blue to pale were not successful.

    Noro yarn…I bought some Noro when I had just started knitting again and was trying out various yarns I’d never seen or heard of. I got it at half price. It made me happy to look at it, but I haven’t done anything with it yet. My other really out-on-the-fringe yarn is some laceweight rayon handpainted stuff from Blue Heron. I want a pretty evening shawl of it, but until I learn how to follow directions…I’m stuck staring at it in wonder.

  • Comment by Catmadknitter — February 4, 2014 @ 6:47 am



    brights are easier (thank you modern chemistry!!), but solids are the same as ever- you need 1) lots of dyestuff and 2) allow for enough room in your dye bath so that all the fiber can suck up sufficient dye. #2 is the one that gets you (or at least I screw it up and judging by what I’ve read, so do a lot of others).

  • Comment by GinnyW — February 4, 2014 @ 10:25 am


    Fiveway sounds like a perfect place for a fair, especially a guild fair, since it is accessible to Lyonya, Aarenis, and Tsaia. I wonder whether some of the guilds sell goods on a cooperative basis? Two or three members spend their time at the fair, but the goods are produced by more people in scattered locations? Or do all of the knitters in the general area each come to the fair?

  • Comment by elizabeth — February 4, 2014 @ 10:36 pm


    Fiveway does have the big one, GinnyW. Finthan traders come there too. There’s a fair in Fintha you’ll read about in Crown, and there are smaller fairs in and near most market towns. Guild influence is strongest in large towns…in small towns and vills, no one pays much attention to guild membership or not. So in the open fairs, with no guild-only section, what happens is that people in a remote vill will indeed band together to send merchandise made by everyone in it, with two or three people…and they’ll also send their wish lists.

  • Comment by Nadine Barter Bowlus — February 5, 2014 @ 12:55 am


    The time period during which Christopher Columbus lived is probably too late in our cultural development to provide costume info for Paksworld, but…
    At the Legion of Honor in San Francisco, I recently saw the statue, “The Young Columbus” by some famous Italian sculptor whose name has totally been supplanted by the detail with which he depicted the hose/tights worn by the young man sitting on a piling. If I’d had the time I could have written a pattern: alternating strips of cross-wise and length-wise knitting with short rows to shape the bulges at calf and thigh. Worn with ankle-high boots and a short doublet.
    Trousers mentioned for Paksworld, but not that kind of well, panty hose. At least not yet. 🙂

  • Comment by elizabeth — February 5, 2014 @ 8:42 am


    The investment of new nobles at the Tsaian court does include over-the-knee hose and short bloused pants that buckle snugly (so the fullness looks full.) Dorrin and Arcolin both have to wear that, along with the fancier shoes instead of boots, the slashed doublet, the feather in the cap and the formal long cape. But the higher hose without the “shorts”–no. The court hose are always (in Tsaia, anyway) white. That’s to distinguish them from what the pages wear with their formal short-pants uniform: black.

    Was the hose pattern intarsia? I have sworn on my favorite needles that I am not, EVER, trying intarsia. Apparently it leaves lots of loose ends to be woven in…that’s according to YarnHarlot. My eyes go blank thinking about it. Fair Isle I can understand intellectually…carrying a color from one of its design elements to another.

    Fond as I am of wool, I don’t think I’d like wool pantyhose.

    BTW, this morning I’m wearing the Herdwick wool socks for the first real wearing. We had another cold front blow in overnight, and tonight on the way home from choir should be very cold (for us–low 20sF) so that’s perfect for a test of “how warm, compared to the other socks.” Right now, sitting by the north window of my study, with long johns and knit slacks on, my right thigh feels the chill…but both feet are blissfully warm.

  • Comment by GinnyW — February 5, 2014 @ 8:54 am


    I was interested because we have not seen much of Fiveway, except as a point to pass through on the way from Tsaia to Aarenis, with maybe a royal courier stationed there.

    If this is the site of a large market, it seems possible that there would be a Royal Guard station (for import tariffs), or perhaps merchant houses and the guilds maintain permanent establishments of some kind, away from the political center in the capital. It would certainly be an attractive place for Lyonyan craftsmen dissatisfied with the lagging markets there to resettle. In other words, now I see it more in terms of craft and marketing, and and less in terms of agriculture. It seems odd (self-destructive or indicative of social disfunction) that the Dukes of Verrakai did not give themselves a more direct route to the fair?

  • Comment by sheepfarmer's granddaughter — February 5, 2014 @ 9:20 am


    at the York Viking festival a few years ago I expressed my suprise at bright yellow cloaks, and was told ‘onion skins’.

  • Comment by gustovcarl — February 5, 2014 @ 10:26 am


    Question: What is the difference between Girdish blue & Verrakai blue?
    They seem to be close enough so that Dorrin can wear one more-or-less in place of the other.

  • Comment by Nadine Barter Bowlus — February 5, 2014 @ 7:35 pm


    Christopher Columbus’ knitted tights were not intarsia. The strips run the length of the leg. I think the alternation of maximum stretch direction made the tights very flexible, but not baggy. Knit in wool, probavly very practical for a sailor. I think I may try to replicate the design for a smaller person, like my younger grandsons 16 and 3 months old. I’ll make them without feet, like leggings.

  • Comment by GinnyW — February 6, 2014 @ 7:33 pm


    Congratulations on the new socks!

  • Comment by elizabeth — February 6, 2014 @ 10:30 pm


    Thanks GinnyW! I’m very fond of warm feet.

  • Comment by Catmadknitter — February 7, 2014 @ 6:03 pm


    Knitted stockings! now there’s something I know a bit about. For instance,e this is the result of a lot of research on how to knit an acceptable pair of silk stockings for Elizabethan England:

    the page is technique not documentation. For court wear it would be silk if at all possible, very fine wool, knit at a gauge of at least 10 sts to one inch, but more likely 14 or more sts to the inch. I have only seen color pattern socks listed as Renaissance on the German Hosier Museum, and frankly their documentation is *awful*. Colorwork is indeed appropriate to the time but not silk stockings. Texture is. Overall texture does seem to be common around extant work, clocks (specific patterning at ankle) are an argument- yes clocks are late period but how common were they and were thy knit in or embroidered later?

    1) Intarsia is for working flat or it leaves a bit of a seam. we have no extant stockings worked flat til after the renaissance that has been brought to attention (then a fabric was worked on a knitting machine (end of 16th cent) then cut and sewn). the point of intarsia is to work large blocks of color. Yes, there will be ends, but ends can be (should be!) tucked as you go.

    this is what intarsia looks like on the wrong side:

    you can see where the blue just *stops*.

    when working in the round you can do intarsia, but it leaves a seam many find undesirable:

    and once again you can see how the blue part of the pattern stops at the edge of the medallion. Intarsia was used for the God-Awful sweaters for the US Olympic teams.

    I am going to suggest that probably stockings didn’t have intarsia for the tech level you seem to be shooting for.

    Now for what is called Fair Isle. it’s better called stranded work, as it was used from some the earliest unquestionably knit fragments in Mamluk Egypt, some of the first knitting to be found in Europe (Spain and Italy 14thish cent) and would eventually be very popular in Scandinavia to present day (google Dale of Norway. YUM).


    stranded works best over-all patterning like so:

    no blob of color in any row is very long because the resting color is being carried behind it. Because I never do anything the easy way, the piece above is both stranded and intarsia:

    you can see where both the blue and the yellow care carried when not in use. Oddly its the only wrong-side photo I have of my work. Stranded is popular for socks- you can work it in the round smoothly, and it’s double-layered which is warm and cushy. Here’s a fun example of stranded socks:

    if you want to KISS the stockings are stockinget. Knowing humanity, though, I’ll hazard each Aristocratic Line has their own texture pattern.

    Oh and *not* like aran sweaters. Irish families don’t have their own pattern, that was made up of whole cloth in the early 20th cent by the guy selling them in New York. Yes, villages might have their own variations (it would be an interesting thesis or dissertation), but it wasn’t by family.

  • Comment by elizabeth — February 7, 2014 @ 11:08 pm


    Catmadknitter: My mother did stranded knitting, so I know how that works. At the time of the existing stories in Paksworld, the only formal thin stockings were those worn at court in Tsaia and in some parts of Aarenis, and they were “smooth”–stockinette, in other words. Socks varied in thickness with the knitter’s or owner’s preference. The simplest colorwork was horizontal stripes, often using leftover yarn from another project (the way I started making striped socks…having not enough of a color for a sock, but enough of two or three colors. Stranded knitting exists, though I haven’t “placed” it yet (where is it most common, what are the patterns, etc.) Texture work is, as you suggest it would be, more common.

  • Comment by elizabeth — February 7, 2014 @ 11:13 pm


    And I should’ve mentioned I found the pictures fascinating. Thanks.

  • Comment by elizabeth — February 8, 2014 @ 8:54 am


    And…I don’t see that I answered the question about Girdish & Verrakai blues (haste makes waste, in rushing through comments…) Girdish blue is a rich medium blue (when new…clothing fades, and a Girdish yeoman is not required to match a particular shade.) Not as dark as navy or Prussian or cobalt blue, but not an unsaturated or light blue. Verrakai blue is a light blue, many shades lighter than Girdish blue, although (as noted in description of cloak Haron Verrakai had ordered) Verrakaien often wore blue in multiple shades, but always including the pale Verrakai color.

  • Comment by gustovcarl — February 8, 2014 @ 2:26 pm


    Ah. Thank you.

  • Comment by Catmadknitter — February 9, 2014 @ 9:09 am


    I was delighted to get that portrait of Sir Christopher Hatton- we know stockings were patterned, (the Eleanor de Toledo stockings were textured and had an eyelet pattern) but it is nice to get a second source. You can hear the conversation between man and artist “I paid good money for these stockings, put the patterning in!”

    st st is quicker to work but !!! that is a lot of st st! I’m one of those that can only get so much zen out of miles of st st and really need a pattern to keep from dying of boredom! st st can be easily worked in low light. Interestingly they used to ball their yarn around a dried goose crop- current theory is so they could hear where it rolled off to in low light.

  • Comment by GinnyW — February 9, 2014 @ 11:29 am


    Where is the saddler at the end of the row of stalls in relation to the livestock?

  • Comment by John McDonald — February 9, 2014 @ 4:03 pm


    If the booth are inside, then the organizers could have to allow a walkway around the ends of the rows. And the saddler was the overflow from another row, especially if the Knitter’s Guild did not take up a full row.

  • Comment by elizabeth — February 9, 2014 @ 7:19 pm


    GinnyW: The Guild saddler is nowhere near the livestock. The process of having a saddle adjusted for a given animal and rider occurs after the customer chooses a design. He has two or three completed saddles on display (and could fetch more from his shop), and a stand on which riders can sit in them and rider-adjustments can be estimated.

    He also makes and sells other tack–bridles, etc.–at the high end of such things. He has ready-made reins, saddlebags, water-bottle holders, all kinds of rigging for saddles, decorations for existing saddles, saddle pads, riding whips, etc. He will do repairs at the Fair, in his stall (whether it’s his original work or someone else’s, though he’s pricier than the saddlers out in the open market. But caravan leaders like to have good-looking tack on their mounts; it shows their status.)

    John McDonald: The leatherworkers, including the saddler, are allotted booths near the entrance from the general market this particular year. Naturally, some locations are considered more valuable than others, so the Guild Council reassigns booth locations in a regular rotation. You would think more sales would come from being in the same place every time, but although the open market is laid out in a familiar pattern, the Guild Council feels that in their elite market variation improves profit. Individual guild members often disagree with their assigned area. Leatherworkers like being “up front” because (for the saddlers in particular–there are two) customers may come in lugging a heavy saddle that needs work, or may go out doing the same, and they’re more likely–the saddlers think–to do business if the distance is shorter. However, so far the Guildmaster has not been able to convince or bribe the other Guildmasters into making that assignment permanent.

    They are not indoors, but in the adjoining outdoor area. Indoor positions are reserved for very special guilds and the Guild section “refreshment area.” Those products needing more protection from thieves (wine, jewelry, moneychanging, weapons, food booths (need more protection from weather) and the very exclusive refreshment area for visiting masters of Guilds where they can talk business privately. Sort of.

  • Comment by GeekLady — February 9, 2014 @ 9:40 pm



    That’s interesting, I wonder what type of onion skins. Yellow onion skins produce a very rich red – I use them to dye Easter eggs – so maybe white?

  • Comment by Catmadknitter — February 10, 2014 @ 8:39 am


    Geeklady- i can get a trace of red out of purple onion skin but when I used yellow onion skins mordanted with alum or cream of tartar I got a wonderful gold

  • Comment by GeekLady — February 10, 2014 @ 6:48 pm


    @Catnadknitter that is fascinating! I save all my yellow onion skins over the course of the year and boil them up with a little vinegar to make red dye for my eggs at Easter. Is it the mordant process that changes the color? If I cooked the dye with a base rather than an acid would I get gold? But then it probably wouldn’t penetrate the egg shell well without the vinegar.

  • Comment by elizabeth — February 11, 2014 @ 6:31 pm


    Catmadknitter: What would be a natural (?) source of alum? Or cream of tartar, for that matter (I hope it’s not scraping tartar off teeth and mushing it up with some liquid…) Since I’ve just discovered (in the story) that Knitter B has a shade of gold that Knitter A doesn’t…and yes, onions are there.

    GeekLady: I’m fascinated by the discussion you and Catmadknitter are having about colors from onion skins. My mother and I once tried dying eggshells with onion skins but didn’t know a mordant was needed. Evidently, the local water wasn’t sufficiently supplied with possible ones…I vaguely recall that we got a weak pale beige out of yellow onion skins.

  • Comment by Fred — February 12, 2014 @ 12:15 am


    “Cream of Tartar” is also known as “tartaric acid”. The crystals which form at the bottom of a bottle of wine are a pretty pure form of tartaric acid – that was where pre-industrial folk got it. About as pure as anything was!

    “Alum” is a natural mineral – but at least in our world, it referred to many different minerals, with different sources, again in pre-industrial times. (I learned more about it than I already knew by reading the Wikipedia article, which talks about its use as a mordant – and which variants were not liked as mordants.)

  • Comment by elizabeth — February 12, 2014 @ 9:24 am


    Fred: Thank you. After some Googling, including Wikipedia, I now have an excellent reason why the color palette of Old Aare is different from the color palette of Aarenis and especially the Eight Kingdoms. At least…I think I do. More research is necessary.

  • Comment by Genko — February 13, 2014 @ 12:40 pm


    I have died Easter eggs by wrapping onion skins around the eggs with string and boiling them, no more. That creates different and interesting patterning, mostly soft yellows and browns/tans of various intensities. The water here is soft, and I never considered whether differently-mineraled water might change the color. I don’t think I use vinegar either, though it’s been quite a few years since I actually got it together to do this. I like the results, but I’m usually pretty busy that time of year (let’s face it, I’m pretty busy most times of the year).

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