Monday, May 2, 2016

The Kool-aid Peplos

I need to get some clothing done to wear to the SCA's 50 Year celebration within the next few weeks while still working on the IRCC dress a good portion of the time. I also can't do things too fitted because I'm once again having a bit of rapid weight loss. My solution is to do some quick Greek peplos (well, they are sort of peplos. Peplos would have been open at the sides. I'm sewing up the sides so I don't go all Spartan and get labeled as a "thigh shower." ) My registered name is Praxilla, after the poet from Sicyon, writing in the 5th century BCE, so the choice isn't totally out of left field.

University of Cambridge Peplos Kore
Although many people make their peplos out of linens, in Ancient Greece, they would have been fashioned from wool. The reason usually given for substitution is expense. I happened to have found some very lightweight suitings as well as a wool challis recently on clearance (for around $4 a yard) and had some other lightweight wools in my stash, so that was not an issue for me. What was an issue was the lack of color. My wool fabrics are beige and vanilla. Not because that's what I wanted to buy, but that is what was cheap.

More Peplos Kore from the Bunte Gotter exhibition
But it is Greek, right? White would be best, right? No, actually, Greeks wore lots of bright colors. We've known what sort of colors since the 19th century thanks to bits of paint still found on excavated sculptures like those at the Acropolis in Athens. The colors are probably an additional reason that their clothing was made of wool rather than linen. Linen didn't hold color well previous to modern chemical dyes. There are also examples of Roman Senators complaining that they were cold while wearing a toga, so it isn't the only reason for the use of wool. But lightweight wool can be just as comfortable and cool as linen, so I'm not too worried about using it in June in Indiana.

Amphora at MFA by the Camtar painter showing nifty patterned bands
I decided to take the painted Peplos Kore at the University of Cambridge as inspiration, since it uses some of the bright colors and patterns the Greeks were known for (although possibly not as wild and crazy as they actually were-- yes, this might be conservative!) Not to mention the fact that it was created about 530 BCE, so it fit nicely into Praxilla's time period.  I got super excited to do some dyeing. And then my kids got sick so I couldn't go out for supplies. Oh well, I guess we punt. I have done a lot more dyeing of wool fiber than I have wool fabric and I have a selection of Wilton Cake Colors and Kool-aid that I use for that. Mostly because I used to make felted wool toys for kids and so the food safety of the colors was more important than the colors themselves. Not that the food dyes don't make for nice colors, they certainly do.

 Also, they are easy to use. The only issue I ran into is I usually dye in a pot on the stove top and none of my pots are big enough to dye the fabric necessary for a peplos. So I tried dyeing with Kool-aid in my washer for the first time. I just turned on the hot water, mixed up some Blue raspberry lemonade with hot water to dissolve it and dumped it in. Kool-aid doesn't need anything else since there is already citric acid in the mix. The color didn't take nearly as quickly as on the stove. I put in 15 packets to about 6 yards of fabric because that's what I had. I let it soak about 2 hours. Usually you know it is done because the water will be clear and all the color will have been absorbed by the fiber.

 There was still quite a bit of color in the water when I got impatient and just let the rest of the cycle run.  I think there was a lot more rayon in the fabric than reported (I think it was supposed to be 80/20) so it didn't take as well as would be hoped and it didn't full very much.  I was just going to call it and plan to redye, but once it finished I decided the color would be fine. It isn't as vibrant as I was planning for, but it should coordinate nicely with the robin's egg blue and orange sari I found in my sewing room that will become the palla for this outfit. Tomorrow's plan is to block print the edges in blue and orange  for further coordination. I also found a couple of packets of wine colored RIT hanging around in my cleaning cabinet and that's in the washer now with more of this same fabric (I think I got it for like $2 a yard, so I can't be too upset about the extra rayon.) Since the RIT is a multi-fabric dye, it'll probably take better to the mix of protein and plant fibers.

Just in case I need to point this out, Kool-aid and cake colors won''t work on non-protein fibers. They work great for wool, silk, hair, etc. They won't work on linen, cotton, rayon, and other vegetable fibers.

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