The over-dyeing of the Vicar’s Cassock



Meet the “Reverend Vicar Theodocius Playfaire”. His cassock and other accouterments, were made for him with the same fabric as the first pirate costumes we made, back in 2010. We  got a really good deal on this fabric. We found it at a discount store where all fabric was $.99 a yard. Not knowing how much we needed, and we ended up taking about 70 yards of the grey heather fabric, of unknown fiber content, alone.

The fabric was dyed over with Black RIT dye, for used with natural fibers. The faire it debuted, we had an unexpected deluge at our home faire.  Everything got soaked in a warm summer rain, which is almost unheard of on California’s, Central Coast. The dye bled out into the Vicar’s smock a blueish purple, and the band of his ruff to fuchsia. The robe and accessories faded to a dark grey. You could also see the heather effect through the over dye. At the end of our home event, this year, I offered to re-dye the pieces of the costume that needed it.41rjpAE9nYL

When we purchased the fabric, I think we did a burn test we, and we thought it was all cotton. With that in mind, I ordered 2 packets of  Black iDye. I then used the Washing Machine Method, to dye the vestments.

imag1039I used both packets, and doubled up the salt to the the dye into the fiber. I then set my timer to go off to in 7 minutes to reset the washer.  The pieces I was dyeing needed to turn black. After an hour in the dye bath, they had turned a Dark Brown instead, and you could still see the heather effect through the dye.

After discussing with A and others, who also make their own costumes, we determined that I should try again, using 2 more packets of Dye, and the Stove Top Method of Dying. As a test to see if this would work better I also lessened the amount of fabric. I left out the Cassock, and dyed just the Scholars Cap and Stole. Less Fabric and more concentrated dye solution should equal better results. Right?? Well, I got a darker a darker brown, so better yes, but not what the client payed for, nor what is required to be, as historically accurate as possible.

The discussions began again. I was frustrated, and ready to light things on fire. (My go to


My garden

thought when a deadline is looming, and things are not going the way they should.) I did not burn anything, Instead I took a day to do dirt therapy. My garden, or part of it, (image to the right). It has saved several projects and my sanity on more than one occasion.


After a day off from all things fabric related, the discussions began again. We came to the conclusion that, the fabric must be mostly synthetic. The heather effect of the original fabric showing through the multiple dye baths was a clue, I should have payed more attention to.

41L07knYNGLAs time was running out, I ended up going to our local Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts, and bought all but one of their black iDye Poly.I think it was 3 out of the 4 available. As mentioned in, Adventures in Dying 2017 Part 1, iDye Poly must be done by the Stove Top Method.

I first tried with just the Stole and the Scholar’s cap.  Using my Tamale Pot used only for dyeing. I followed the directions on the packet, and worked in the kitchen so I could stir the pot. Shakespearean comments like, “Bubble, bubble toil and trouble” were appropriately made. Once done, I poured the garments out of the pot into the washer to cool. I then ran the garments, in a cold water cycle.


Result of 3rd dye bath, 1st time with dye for synthetics.

The good news is, the heather effect  was no longer visible. But the fabric was another even darker brown. Once again the expletives flew…


On the left, my tamale pot, to the right A’s largest cooking pot

I decided that I needed more dye than I had used at one time, up to this point. I went to our local Jo-Ann and bout 3 bottles of Graphite RIT DyeMore Synthetic Dye. I also bought a bottle of RIT Fixative.  I asked A, if I could use her largest cooking pot, for one more attempt to dye the all of the vestment pieces. I was ready to be done.  

For this attempt I went to the web site ritdye.com. I read the directions all the way through, then set up to dye the garments on my front porch.

Step one was to gather all the Items I needed onto the porch. I grabbed one of my plant imag1045benches, a few marble tiles we had on the porch, the camping stove, and a few small tanks of propane, salt and the water hose, 3 bottles of  dye, metal tongs we were never going to use in cooking again, rubber gloves, and dish soap. I also grabbed a cooking/candy thermometer.

It takes a lot of water to fill the pot i was using. I poured in 3 imag1046cups of salt as it is used in dying cotton and linen fabric, it also helps to get the water boiling. I also added 1 teaspoon of dish soap to the water. The water needs to be 200 F° or greater. This took a very long time, about 2 hours, with both burners going full boar.

I lost patience and added the dye to the water at 180 F°.  Shortly after putting in the dye the water did come to a boil. The dye bath does have to be at almost a boil for the whole process. The instructions on the page state that the first 10 minute are critical to a an even dye process. The vat and its contents have to be continuously stirred for that 10 min. It also states that the fabric imag1047could be in the dye from 10 min to 1 hour. The color is black I used 3 bottles of dye, and the full hour. I sat in my chair on the porch an read a chapter at a time in a short book. Between each chapter I stirred for a few minutes. I even broke the wooden spoon I’ve been using for the last 5 years to dye fabric. I then got a 1 inch dowel from the garage.

In addition to breaking the spoon I went through 3 canisters of propane. 1 canister per hour with both burners fully open. The rubber gloves saved my fingers from some serious burns. The solution was very hot and and my finger got into the bath as I stirred.

Once the hour was up. I turned off the stove and disconnected the canisters. The instruction stated, that you let the dye solution and the garments cool slowly. I left it to cool over night, with the pot lid on. I stirred it periodically, until I went to bed. (It was still warm at midnight, when I stirred it for the last time.

In the morning, after 2 cups of coffee, I used a glass bowl and a plastic measuring cup I keep in the garage, to remove some of the excess dye solution. Then my husband poured out the rest, without dumping the garments.

I ran the garments through a warm rinse cycle and and them through a cold wash cycle. I hung them up to air dry. Once dry, the vestments were BLACK.




I did make quite a few garments for this year’s Faire Season. The following one of  three costumes started in March and completed in time for our home faire in July. It was also one of the most complicated projects I’ve worked on, to date. It currently totals seven pieces, in six colors and three different different fabrics.


Meet Demetrius the Griffin

Demetrius is a friend of a guild member, who I first met at a Renaissance Faire gone Baroque Piracy, last March. I gave him one of my business cards and the emails began.

His goal was to dress as a Traveling Merchant of the Renaissance Era. He had many ideas and 3 concept drawings, which he sent copies of. Two of which are shown below.


Concept Sketch


Full Color Concept Drawing of Demetrius the Merchant

Through emails we planned the minimum pieces he needed , that I could make. One robe with vents for the wings and tail, pants, shirt, a faux shirt or dicky, a hat and a coin pouch.

We then met for measurement taking and fabric selection. The original idea was to dress him in neutral tones of brown and grey. After some discussion we broadened the color palette, to a light grey shirt, light brown or tan pants, a dark blue robe with gold linen trim, a tan hat with gold trim, and a gold coin pouch with a blue rolled hem.

In this post I will discuss 2 of these pieces, the pouch and the hat.


Coin Pouch

The simplest item to make was finished first. This was the coin pouch. Two pieces of gold heavy weight linen trimmed with a blue woolly nylon rolled hem, and  a casing stitched for the draw string.

The hat was the second item of this project to be completed. It is a cone shaped hat From a Victorian Santa Claus Pattern, that I modified.

In the drawing the hat would sit between the ears and drape over the back of the head. The color would match the robe and be trimmed in grey faux fur. We changed it to be the same color of heavy weight Ginger colored Linen. and trimmed with a wide band of Autumn Gold heavy weight linen. The band was doubly interface to ensure it wound stand up.and the cone was lined to give it more fullness in draping.


The Hat is Finished with a Gold Colored Feather

As you can see the completed hat does not sit between the ears. We could not find a way to hold the hat in place without using bobby pins or something else that would pull out Demetrius’ fur, or require attempting to pin it to the mask, which could stap the head within, or pull out fur, in the pulling out the pin.

For now at least,  the hat sits on one ear, with a feather in the band.

The Cowl as we know it is a medieval garment. It is made up of a hood and skirting. It may have evolved out of bands of fabric wrapped around the head, neck and shoulders, used in the ancient world. The cowl is still used today.

Monks within some Catholic Orders, to this day wear the cowl as part of their habit.  Some of these would be Benedictines, Franciscans, and Augustinians are just a few.

We can see remnants of this today, in our hoodies, Star Wars Jedi Knights, and many of our favorite video, and cartoon characters.

When ever we do a faire one concern all of our members have is protection from sunburn. We all use sun block, but that requires remembering to use it in the first place, and reapplying it. We also wear long sleeves and hats. These options, though they protect the areas cover, can miss some spots.

Nick, being quite fair skinned, had requested that we create a cowl to cover his head and neck.

We began to research patterns, and Ari began the designing process. She wanted to minimize the number of seams. but insisted that it no be a full circle. She ended up making two mock ups.

The above photos were the first mock up fitting. It may be the t-shirt and the fabric used for the mock up, causing the fabric to stick together,  but the fabric over the shoulders did not seem to lay right, and bunched wierdly.

The second mock up coincided with a fitting for the rest of his peasant costume in which the pants had to be taken in and adjustments made to the waistband. His jerkin needed to be redyed as the original blue was fading to lavender. The smock i made him was also finished, and ready for its final fitting, therefore the full costume of a peasant man.

Nick chose a heavy weight natural linen for this project. This means that the linen was not bleached, nor dyed. Its coloring ranges from a light cream to a beautiful brown, giving the fabric more character and visual texture. It also drapes very well.

We chose not to line the cowl. Ari suggested using a simple, decorative sewing stitch along the seams to make the edges lay flat. I chose the herring bone stitch.

Once I got the working of the Herring Bone Stitch I expanded its use to not only along the sides of the seams, but also along the edges. I have way too much fun hand stitching, I may have lost a bit of control, but I don’t think I over did it. and Nick was very please with the final product.

Here, it is not quite completed. The portion where the hood front overlaps needed to be hand tacked so it would not gape and display the inside seam, and hide the stitch by folding over.


Finished Cowl

This did not entirely work as the Hood portion may have too large an opening. It may also be that the Linen fabric really like to drape. For the next one we may try to stiffen the fabric by using interfacing along edge of the hood, and also lining it in the same fabric as the shell, making it reversible.


     A. and I have been quite remiss in posting here. For that we apologize. It’s not that we haven’t been working on projects. We have had quite a few, but remembering to sit down and type or take pictures of the project in progress…. well I at least have a hard time taking the pictures. That being said…. Let’s continue.


The Bright Blue Shirt

     In the last 5 years ,we Peasants have acquired new guild members, some of them have never been to a Renaissance Faire. In the past we just made costumes for them. They do not always stay. We are not horribly expensive, and we try to work with in a budget, but were not cheep either. This year, we decided to loan costume pieces so they could do a faire in costume, and decide if faire was for them.


The original color of the shirt.

     A and I have been a part of our Renaissance Guild for a long time. Our costumes have evolved over time, and as we have aged We keep the costume pieces and our shape and sizes have also. We’ve also had other members donate costumes. On a few occasions we’ve also had random faire folk contribute to our collection. Shirts, jerkins, trews, smocks, skirts, and bodices. Some of these pieces aren’t quite accurate in color, or style.

     J. is one of these new members. He had never been to a faire before, but another member had brought him in as an applicant. He was quite excited about joining, but needed a costume ASAP. (Our home faire was coming up quick.) A and I needed to put a costume together quickly. We have a very small collection of pieces for men. We found a a pair of trews, or pants. We found a jerkin or vest. The only shirt that we had that would fit him was a very bright, electric blue. This blue was so bright we didn’t think it could be achieved with natural dyes that would have been affordable for an English Peasant.

We had to change it…

     A. took the first leg of this journey, but kept me updated by text throughout the process. Some


Results of not having enough RIT Color Remover or too much water.

of these including pictures.

     Using RIT Color Remover, she tried to remove some of the color. This worked, but not as one might expect. After 15 minutes in the bath it be came a “dark ? mud? color”. 45 minutes later, it was a medium chocolate “hot Cocoa” color. She then washed it in a regular wash cycle.

     We discussed options. Run it through another cycle with the dye remover, leave it out in the sun to see what would happen, or bleaching it, as a last result. A. then decided the color was not going to get any lighter, and was going to leave it be. After washing it in a regular wash cycle, she found the color removal was inconsistent. Some of the cotton fabric was a brownish color, and other areas were still a bright blue. The polyester thread was still the same vibrant blue was originally.


10 minutes into dye removal attempt #2

     A., re-read the directions and realized she should have used 2 packets instead of the one. She decided to run it through another cycle of RIT Color Removal, this time using less water, and agitating herself instead of letting the washing machine do it. 15 minutes into the dye removal bath, she sent me a picture . It was a beautiful rust color. She left it in the bath for the recommended 30 minutes, then washed it.

     A., later sent me this photo, stating that it wasn’t as bright in


The shirt was still wet, and not as dark in person.

person, but the color was consistent. As you might see in the picture, the thread used to stitch it together was still bright blue.

     Once again we discussed options. The polyester thread was still that unnaturally, bright blue. We didn’t like it. Even if it is just the top stitching, that blue had to go.

     I went to A’s house the following weekend, to pick up the the shirt and work on other projects. We discussed the options for dying the thread. I had already had two packets of iDye Poly, one in green and one in gunmetal. We decided to go with the Gunmetal, but I couldn’t find it, when I got home.


This was not what I expected.

I went with the green.

     Polyester, being a synthetic, petroleum based fiber, requires the stove top method, as the heat needed for the dye to penetrate, cannot be reached or maintained in the washing machine.

     I armed myself with a Tamale pot filled with hot water, a wood spoon and a packet of iDye Poly green dye and prepared for a hot hour in the kitchen.

     This was supposed to be a 2 hour project, from the time the water began to boil to the washing and drying of the garment. Chemistry, however, had other plans…

     The dying part went well enough. The fabric of the shirt


First wash after Poly Dye.

got really

dark, but since the fabric was 100% cotton, I figured most of the dye would wash out. It was a dye for synthetic fibers, and the goal was to dye the top stitching threads.

     For an hour I stood in the kitchen, on a hot day, stirring the pot. When the time was up I dumped some of the liquid out of the pot and carried it out to the washing machine. I ran the shirt through a cold


At least the top stitching is green.

rinse cycle, and once again chemistry threw me a curve ball… The shirt was now a navy blue so dark it was almost a purple/black. This was not acceptable for a peasant. The color of the time period we portray, would have been too costly to produce.

     I ran is through a hot water wash cycle, hoping some of the color would bleed out. The color

lightened, but was still to dark to be worn by a peasant. The goal for dying the top stitching worked perfectly, though. Its a beautiful green.

     I went back to the washing machine, hot water and Oxi Clean. Half an hour in, I got impatient, I added a capful of bleach, and waited 2 or 3 hours more. Finally, I had a shirt I could hand over to a peasant. This “2 hour project” lasted an entire day.


Finally!! Its an acceptable color.

IMG_20150316_174002637aSometimes it’s a little difficult to get excited about the upcoming faire season, but not when you’re sewing costumes months in advance! This month we completed basic peasant costumes for a very nice couple. They were pretty please with the outcome and looked great in their new garb.







The pieces we made were:

For him:

  • a collared shirt in natural muslin
  • a brown linen flat cap
  • brown linen trews
  • a dark green linen jerkin with plain epaulets

For her:

  • a banded collar shirt in natural muslin that has more feminine gathering into the neckline (but reduced bulk in the body) and a ruffled cuff (making it higher class than peasant)
  • a full circle, six gored skirt in chocolate brown linen
  • a custom pattern bodice in (reversible) dark green and rust linen with plain epaulets and tabbed skirting


These are the basic pieces for the peasant wardrobe, though women usually wear two skirts or an ankle length shirt and one skirt. Adult women also always wore some type of head covering (only young/unmarried girls and loose women left their hair down for all to see). Other basic items include a belt, shoes/boots, a belt pouch, eating knife, and mug. That’s all you need to be an English Elizabethan peasant – and likely all you had clothing-wise.


The countdown to SLO Faire is at 8 days and it’s our 30th year!

I still need to finish my new bodice (if I don’t want to be stuck in the one with the tight arm holes – and I really don’t), finish stitching the dags on the short sides of our new pavilion, make a tall hat for a Puritan, make a new pair of bloomers, stitch some eyelets. Oh, and locate the hanging’s for the Lord Mayor’s pavilion as well as pack. No pressure.

Faire is July 19 & 20, 2014 1585  at Laguna Lake Park in SLO. Come one, come all for meat pies, pasties (that’s pAsties you eat, not pasties you wear), jousting, stage shows, vendors, Queen Elizabeth and her court, as well as dirty peasants, constables, rogues, falconry and a good time.

For more info and to purchase tickets, visit the Central Coast Renaissance Faire.

I just found a pic of our illustrious Lord Mayor on Ravin’ Mayven‘s Pinterest board for ren costumes. She’s got links to some nice costumes, though not all are Ren or historical. There are a few custom order listings for Ren/Tudor/Snow White costumes, among others. She also links to some other Ren / SCA costume boards that seem to be worth taking a peek at.

Thanks to Ravin’ Mayven (and Rachel for originally pulling the pic of our Lord Mayor onto the realm of Pinterest).

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