Northern bedstraw red

Yesterday we arrived home from Cudgel Wars, a 10 day long event in Aarnimetsä (Finland). Before we went to Cudgel Wars I had start looking for Northern bedstraw (Galium boreale L.), known as vitmåra in swedish. This flower is a close relative to madder (Rubia tinctorium L.) known as krapp in swedish. Northern bedstraw have been used for dyeing fabric and can be found at fragments of cloth after chemical analyses according to this article:

I wanted to try and make my own red and since I don’t have any brazil wood or madder roots I thought that Northern bedstraw would be a good substitute. I don’t know if they used it to make paint with but since they knew how to dye with them as they did with madder and indigo that both were used to make paint for illuminations in manuscript they might have used northern bedstraw to. I need to keep digging to see if I can find a source. Also madder don’t grow wild here and I haven’t planted it in my garden (yet…), northern bedstraw however does.

I was lucky to find some flowers by accident when sitting down by the sauna at the site and could not resist them. Since I didn’t have patients to dry them and wait for going home and trying to make pigment out of them I decided to try on site. Since we was living in our tent I had nothing to shimmer the roots in. So instead I put them in a mug (after cleaning them), boiled some water and poured it over the roots, added some alum and then they were left like this for 3 days. When the water had turned red enough I started to prepare a clothlet out of my lake pigment,(lake pigment or lac was what they called pigments/paint made out of plants that was in a liquid form. I was not able to finish the process there so when we packed down our camp I packed the lake pigment with me home.

Yesterday and today I have keeped on working with it. I heated it up and let the roots boil on the stove, only to notice that if the lake becomes to warm the red pigment turns brown. I found another article about dyeing with Northern bedstraw and the author says “When you are ready to dye, heat the pot for an hour or two to 60 degrees celsius, much higher than this will brown out the red. At this point you may either leave the roots in the pot or strain the liquid off to dye with and repeat the fermentation process with the roots for lighter shades.”

Today I went out in my garden and found more roots! So now I know that I have plants for making green and red pigments in my garden. I also tried to boil some Sweet scented bedstraw, (Galium odoratum) roots since I grow that flower in my garden (myskmadra in swedish). They are related to Northern bedstraw and gave a little colour but not as much as the Northern bedstraw. Now some of the lakes evaporate in our window and the clothlet is slowly getting more and more red.

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