Thursday, July 4, 2013

Blue, blue, blue... Pastel Blue!

The last day of June 2013 was a special day for lovers of blue, pastel blue to be precise. It was the first event by the Association "Accompagnement et Développement de la Filière Pastel" in celebration of this ancient craft: Fêtes de l'Or Bleu en Pays de Cocagne - 30 Juin 2013 in the park of  Chateau de Loubens-Lauragais. And the sun spread its golden rays on all those wonderful members who had worked incredibly hard to make this a spectacular event. 

The Pastel plant (Isatis tincoria) has been known even before Roman times for its many beneficial uses. Within the course of the centuries, it was recognized as the miraculously versatile plant that it is, and in other times was condemned and even prohibited by heads of state, even misinformed kings, to be grown or used in some countries for being an invasive and health-threatening toxic plant.  As always, it is the right measure that makes the difference.
Chateau Loubens-Lauragais (France) Note the window panes,
picking up the sky's blue to join in the color scheme of the festival!
Quote:"If this plant is known around the world, Lauraguais was one of his election land. "Given below in the kingdom, pastel comes although Lauraguais" writes Olivier de Serres in his Theatre of Agriculture in 1600. This small agricultural country Languedoc became the most famous granary of Europe pastel the Renaissance culture knows a remarkable growth and is the wealth of this entire region. But this blue gradually falls into oblivion with the arrival of indigo dyes and chemicals."  

Pleu Pastel Balls = Coques / Cocagnes and Pastel seed in the small bowl
Luckily, it evaded extinction and its use never died out completely. Towns and regions became prosperous (Toulouse in France and the five Färberwaid (dye woad) towns in Thuringia, Germany). Little known is the fact that the French expression "Pays de Cocagne" stands for that imaginary and miraculous land of milk and honey, land of plenty Paradise on Earth, a bountiful Schlaraffenland. 

Carded sheep fleece dyed Pastel Blue
The "Blue Dye" industry prospered indeed, and the wealth can still be seen in some places in France, England and Germany, where beautiful mansions by Pastel growers and traders recall the haydays of Pastel Dyeing.
Upright Loom Weaving
Why "Cocagne" ? The word comes from "coques" (shells) which is the ball shape of the traded form of  the "bleu pastel dye". There are various places in European countries where the curious-minded Pastel fans can see and even participate and take classes in dyeing with Bleu Pastel, such as in Lectoure, France. Online sources will make this beautiful yarn available to textile fans around the globe, notably Renaissance Dyeing in France.
Sur le Pont d'Avignon... that is what they were singing!
Spinning with a spindle - note the Pastel Blue hands!
Pastel Country Bovine - note the shimmering horns!

Dyeing for blue...

Carding the fleece to spin into much coveted skeins of Pastel Blue yarn
Town Crier with a modern mike

This link might come in handy for knitters and crocheters alike: Helpful Tips (at bottom of post).
Also see this post for information on a store in Revel (Midi, France) selling Pastel products: Elisabeth.Tricot.

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