Tag: natural dye

Spinning Merino

Several years ago, my friend Liz passed a washed merino fleece off to me. During summer 2020, I decided to finish processing it and spin it. The staple was quite short, so I decided to card it into rolags. Carding was a little difficult, because I didn’t have the right density of teeth in my cards, but by the end my rolags were looking pretty nice. I spun the rolags using a short forward draw, because it gave me a lot of control over the really short fibers.

The washed fleece (ignore the See’s candy in the background).

Pretty rolags and singles.

Finished singles.

1172 yards of finished, plied laceweight yarn.

Once the yarn was finished, I decided it was the perfect amount to split into smaller skeins for my madder dyeing adventure (coming soon!).

The Great 2020 Dyeing Project (Fade Test Part 1)

After taking a class on natural dyeing using different yellows and indigo in May 2019 at Maryland Sheep and Wool, I decided it was finally time to dye the Romney fleece I bought in 2017. However, I wanted to test sun-colorfastness first, as I had noticed some garments that I dyed with commercial dyes were fading significantly after 2 years of SCA wear and washing.

I decided I wanted to test weld, madder, and indigo (the great triumvirate of medieval dyes) plus cochineal; I also wanted to test these dyes in combination.

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A Bag for a Pilgrim

I made this bag for Lochmere Midwinters in January 2019 as part of their Pilgrim Bag competition. The picture shows the fabric a much darker blue than it is in real life.

Materials & Techniques

Outside Bag Body

    • Material: Wool, handwoven on a rigid heddle loom, fulled, and hand-dyed in indigo
    • Techniques: Handsewn with commercially-dyed wool

Bag Lining

    • Materials: Linen (commercially woven)
    • Techniques: Handsewn and felled with cotton thread


    • Materials: Commercially-dyed wool in Atlantian colors
    • Techniques: Inkle-woven and handsewn onto the bag’s back


    • Fluffy fluffy goodness made of wool


    • Don’t worry! The badge hasn’t gone missing: this is the bag’s first “pilgrimage,” so it does not have a badge yet! After this event, I will sew a badge (perhaps a Spike?) to the front flap.

Pattern & Construction

Thanks to Mistress Karen Larsdatter’s links pages, I first found the pattern by Sabine Scholl, the pattern by Myriam Gateault, and the translation of Scholl’s pattern by Lord Coblaith Muimnech (Ansteorra). In several manuscript images on these pattern pages, there were blue bags with white tassels and details (Atlantian colors!). I then remembered the wool cloth that I had handwoven, fulled, and dyed in indigo—it would be perfect for this bag! Addendum 2019: I used a small rigid-heddle loom to weave the cloth out of a rough commercial wool; I then fulled wool by putting it in my home’s washer/dryer and forgetting about it!

While I prefer the look of the trapezoidal bag in these patterns and illuminations, I wanted to use every inch of my handwoven/hand-dyed fabric, so I settled on a rectangular bag (but still with tassels, because who doesn’t love tassels?). Because the final construction was simple folding and bag-lining (pun definitely intended), I did not use a pattern; I relied on the dyed fabric’s width and cut the lining to match.

Finally, while straps in illuminations are usually a single color, I wanted to reinforce the Atlantian colors of the bag body, so I patterned the inkle-woven strap with white and multi-toned, asymmetrical blue stripes. I wove a long enough piece to serve as a strap, then sewed it to the back of the bag to create the same visual, from the front, that I saw in the exemplars. Addendum 2019: I used a modern inkle loom to weave the strap. The asymmetrical blue stripes were a necessity, as I had a limited amount of match yarn remnants!

Period Exemplars


These three exemplars gave me confidence that a blue-and-white square bag with tassels could be possible across multiple centuries.


Lord Coblaith Muimnech, Lord. “Trapezoidal Shoulder Bag.” Coblaith, http://www.coblaith.net/Bags/TrapezoidalBag/default.html.

Karen Larsdatter, Mistress. “Pilgrims’ Bags.” Medieval & Renaissance Material Culture, http://www.larsdatter.com/pilgrims-bags.htm.

Myriam Gateault. “Schmuck und Accesoires – Pilgertasche.” Diu Minnezît, https://www.diu-minnezit.de/realie_details.php?sid=0&lid=0&rid=119&tid=1.

Sabine Scholl. “Mittelartliche Umhängetasche.” Tempora Nostra, http://www.tempora-nostra.de/mode_umhaengetasche.shtml.