More about Coventry Blue

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As promised, more about the  famous blue cloth produced in Coventry in the 1300’s and known throughout Europe at the time as ‘Coventry Blue’.

The blue cloth was dyed using woad. Woad is a plant related to the cabbage. The green leaves produce the blue dye. The blue dye which comes from the woad plant is the same blue which comes from the tropical indigo plant. Indigo is used to dye denim jeans. The fastness of the woad dye – it didn’t fade – resulted in the saying ‘True as Coventry Blue’, shortened to ‘true blue’ . This means loyal and steadfast.

No one knows what colour Coventry Blue was as no samples of the blue cloth have ever been found – also the dyers recipe was passed down by word of mouth so no one knows how it was made. As a result it is not to possible to recreate it and the exact colour will always remain a mystery. We can only guess at what it might have looked like.

The importance of blue in the city’s history has almost certainly given rise to the blue football strip of the Coventry Sky Blues football team.

In 2013 The Weavers’ Workshop ran a project called ‘Reinventing Coventry Blue’ as part of Coventry Mysteries – to find out a bit more about the project you can download a short video here.  The finished woven triptych, ‘A Kind of Coventry Blue’ was gifted to Charterhouse on London Road, Coventry and can be viewed there on open days, check their website for opening dates and times.

Thanks again to Sara Maycock for information on Coventry Blue.

About The Making Project

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1 Response to More about Coventry Blue

  1. Erika says:

    I have been following the weaving project with great interest and have found every time I look at the blog there’s something interesting and thought provoking. Last week I looked at dyes: madder, woad etc., and this has prompted me to make this comment about “woad”.

    This plant has the Latin name Isatis tinctoria. It has been cultivated in quite a number of European countries and used in the dying and weaving industries. The Celtic Picts (the word means “the painted ones”) are believed to have used it to paint their bodies blue before going into battle to scare their enemies.

    More to the point of the origin of the blue colour of “Coventry Blue”: In both Germany and in France the woad plant has been widely cultivated during the middle ages. There were even laws passed to protect this plant and the surrounding industries by forbidding the import of Indian indigo. The penalties for breaking these laws were excessively heavy. Woad dye was used widely in tapestries, and it is said it never faded unlike the red and yellow in the same tapestries.

    Maybe it is possible, after all, to get an idea of the colour of “Coventry Blue” by looking at ancient tapestries which have been crafted before the widespread import of Indian indigo. You can find a comprehensive article on “woad” in Wikepedia.

    I really enjoy the weaving blog. Erika

    Like

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