Purple! I love it! It’s our current featured colour in our colour series, and my turn (Suzy) to write the post. Got me thinking, all this time, I have used purple in almost everything, painting, drawing, dyeing, batt making, I spin it, I weave it, I paint my house in it, but what do I actually KNOW about purple?! I discovered, not very much, until now. I did some research and found some stuff to share with you.
The first thing I wanted to know, was, why has purple been associated with Royalty? Looking back through history, Purple was a rarely seen colour, in nature as well as in created textiles and fabrics. When we see it, often its in the context of an historic portrait of some very important person, like Queen Anne here (Edmund Lily, 1703)
Way back before this portrait was painting, Roman Emperors were wearing purple, it was a special colour, set apart. And the reason? Actually quite simple, purple was hard to make and cost a LOT of money, really a lot! Apparently, we have been using the colour purple for a very long time, as long ago as 1900BC, but you know what it comes from? Shellfish. Yep, originally, people collected a giant quantity of shellfish, a specific kind, can you believe it took 12000 of these shells to collect enough dye (1.5grams) for one purple garment?
I realise now, how very fortunate and yes, spoiled, we are today with our simple to access textile dyes we use so easily, pre-made for us in powder form, in any quantity we like, and at very affordable prices. Back in those days, purple dyed garments were often literally worth their weight in gold. We saw them on the very wealthy and powerful because they were actually the only ones who could afford it! Because of this, the colour purple became very much associated with Royalty, and imagine, it must have been something very impressive to see these richly purple robes being worn, simply because of their utter rarity. So of course, this colour became known as ‘Royal Purple’ or even ‘Emperial Purple’.
After a while (centuries) the dyes did get cheaper to produce however the colour was often still protected, by royalty themselves. Queen Elizabeth I made a specific law, the ‘Sumptuary Law’, which forbade anyone but close relatives of the royal family from wearing purple, this had the effect of maintaining the association between the colour and social status, only nobility could wear it. Its almost inconceivable now that something as universal as a ‘colour’ could be regulated, and people banned from wearing it.
In fact it wasn’t until about the mid 1800’s that the colour purple became really accessible to everybody, because at this time, a young scientist, who was actually working on a cure for Malaria, stumbled upon a formular to synthesise a purple dye suitable for textiles, one which later because known as ‘Mauve’. From this point onwards, purple textiles and fabrics became much more widely available, and today is clearly a very much loved colour. It has also developed new associations for us!
Perhaps because of its earlier connection with Emperors and Kings, who often considered themselves to be ‘godlike’, the colour purple is also associated with spirituality, the subconscious, even ‘enlightenment’. Often the images that depict some kind of supernatural event or occurrence, and even images of the cosmos itself, will be based on a pallet of purples. It is also still used to evoke connections with luxury and wealth, richness and warmth, and extravagant emotion.
It is an interesting secondary colour, mixed from opposite sides of the colour specturm using hot reds and cool blues, which create three distinct kinds of purple depending on the amount of each colour used. Its useful to bear this in mind when you are colour blending and mixing yourself:
This week, we have created a special ‘Secret Colour Garden’ in Purple on Pinterest to share with you. I hope you get as much inspiration as I do from it! I really love this one, so many wonderful and delicious shades to motivate and get your creativity boosted 🙂 What are your impressions? I tend to see the lighter purples as being fun and pretty, lighthearted.. and the darker shades as more sensuous, mysterious and graceful.
If you have a purple yarn photo you would like to link to, please leave a comment and show us your shades!