Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Period Dyes - Fun with Period Measurements

While I'm still waiting for the details from the museum on my stick-purse project, and now that I'm done the Kingdom badge leather carving project, my next bit of experimental leatherworking is going to be figuring out some period recipes for leather dyes. This will tie into the stick-purse as I'm going to want to use some of the dyes to help with that project as well.

This weekend, while everyone else is out of town, I'm going to start work on this.

The first and easiest recipe is for a yellow dye, so I'm going to start with that one. All of the ingredients are available in regular local stores, so I don't have to order any pigments online to get this one going.

The first step is to figure out the measurements. Most of the recipe is in ounces, so that's easy enough, but it does say to use "two half mezzette of clear water". First question to answer, what the heck is a mezzette?

I found a post-period reference from the 19th century that gives me some reference information for the mezzette as a measurement. It read " Liquid Measure. The Barile of wine is divided into 20 Fiaschi, 80 Mezzette, or 160 Quartucci, and contains 12*042 English gallons." (Source:

I'm going to assume that the asterisk is actually supposed to be a period, so that the measurement is 1 barile = 12.042 gallons.

Since there are 80 mezzette in a barile, that means that 1 mezzette = 0.15 gallons.

As a starting point, I'm going to assume that when the recipe says to use two half mezzette it actually means two and a half (instead of 1/2 + 1/2), so that means I need about 0.375 gallons of water, which works out to between 1.4 and 1.5 litres.

I'll start with that I guess and see how the dye turns out. The main pigment for this dye is turmeric, and I've found some modern recipes for dying fabric with turmeric, so I can always compare the concentrations and see if they match.

Updates to come on the weekend.

*** Oops - bad math.2.5 mezzette should be 0.45 imperial gallons, not 0.375. That is 2.05 litres. Didn't seem to affect the end result though.

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