Some woad info provided by Pat Fish
A WEAVER'S GARDEN by Rita Buchanan Interweave Press, Colorado '87 ISBN 0-934026-28-9
Isatis tinctoria Mustard family.
May have been the first plant cultivated for its pigment. By far the most widely used dyestuff in Europe for centuries, prior to the introduction of indigo from India in the 1600's.
An easy-to-grow and reliable source of blue dye.
Germanic name "weeda" source of "weed." Grows in a "weedy" wind dispersed manner.
Likes full sun and moisture and rich compost. 12"-15" apart.
Basal rosette of oblong, slightly hairy leaves first season. 6"-18" wide. Spring of second year several stems 2"-3" tall. Clasping leaves on stems. Scentless 4-petaled yellow flowers, papery fruits, single seed. Dies after seeding - reseeds.
Woad processing was a Medieval industry, thousands of tons annually. 13th to 16th c. Germany and England acres of woad planted.
Processing leaves for storage and transportation:
Freshly cut leaves ground between rollers or grindstones into a mushy pulp, then the pulp was spread out in a uniform layer on the ground or floor of a shed to dry. A blackish crust formed as the woad dried. Workers were fussy about sealing up any cracks or crevases in the crust, lest worms or maggots spoil it. After it had dried a week or two the woad was kneaded into a uniform mix and then carefully shaped by hand into balls or loaves appx 1 lb. The balls were spread on racks to dry, indoors if wet weather, or in sun. After 2-4 weeks the balls were judged ready if they had a good violet color and an agreeable smell when broken apart. The next step took place in a special barn, a couching house, which had a smooth brick floor and brick-lined walls. Wagonloads of woad balls were ground into powder, heaped 3'-4' thick on the barn floor, then sprinkled with water. The woad began to heat up and ferment right away, and released clouds of stinking vapors. The pile was turned each day, shoveled and pitched so that the mass would ferment evenly. After several weeks the pile shrank to 1/10th its original bulk. The dark residue that remained was bundled into 150lb-200lb bales and sold as woad dye.
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submitted by: Anonymous
on: 01 Jan. 1997