Back in June I posted a blog called 'Bleaching with Cow Dung' about some upcoming experiments I plan to do regarding bleaching linen the old-fashioned way, before the advent of modern chemicals in approximately 1765.
The linen fabric was immersed or boiled in a number of different solutions of which cow dung really was one of many. Also used was stale urine, water filtered through hard wood ashes (lye), fermented bran, buttermilk. There are various recipes or instructions using one or two or more of these acids or alkalis then followed by laying the linen out on the grass in the sun for a few days, keeping it wet, then boiling or immersing again, then 'grassing' or 'crofting' again for weeks or months, up to six months or even more. This would have been done over the summer months when the days were longer and the sun higher in the sky and stronger and I will be attempting these starting in April.
In the meantime, there are a couple of winter bleaching traditions I am working on, always involving first wetting the fabric:
- sunlight on fresh snow
- frost in moonlight (apparently the moisture turns to ice crystals and refracts and intensifies the moonlight).
Inasmuch as the sun is higher in the sky in the summer, and the moon is opposite the sun, the moon is higher in the sky and out longer in winter than in summer. My friend and bleaching partner in crime, Cyndy, told me about this from a book by Robert Mudie.
So far I have limited results with the sun on snow (left) marginally winning out over the two-month moonlight one (centre). The weather conditions of course do not always cooperate - the November moon had no sub-zero temperatures, the January moon was covered by clouds most of the time. For some reason I cannot now remember, I decided to also try frost with no moon or sun, outside under the deck roof; amazingly, this one is competing very closely with the moonlight one (right). The lower sample is the control sample - all pieces were first scoured for 8 hours in washing soda.
I did say the results were limited.