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  1. #11
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    What color is Saffron, exactly?

    So this thread has gotten me thinking about saffron kilts, and I've always wondered what color "saffron" really is. I've seen everything from a dark brown to a very bright orange called "saffron."

    The reason I ask is because I work at a university where our colors are orange and black, and I thought it would be cool to have a saffron kilt (from the orange end of the spectrum) to wear to university events.

    Thoughts?
    "Per mare, per terras."

  2. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Macdonde View Post
    So this thread has gotten me thinking about saffron kilts, and I've always wondered what color "saffron" really is. I've seen everything from a dark brown to a very bright orange called "saffron."

    The reason I ask is because I work at a university where our colors are orange and black, and I thought it would be cool to have a saffron kilt (from the orange end of the spectrum) to wear to university events.

    Thoughts?
    Originally it had to have been relative to the colour of the spice saffron. If you have a pinch of saffron in hand its red-orange, but use it to dye food it produces a bright yellow. Use it to dye textiles and it can vary based on how much is used and for how long, and the type of fabric. Theravada Buddhists in southeast Asia are referred to as wearing saffron robes, and they show a spectrum of colours from a rich red to pumpkin orange to bright sunny yellow as well. Of course, it's far too expensive to regularly dye clothing with actual saffron unless you happen to be very rich, so other yellow and orange dyes across the world were also used. Saffron is one of the most labour-intensive crops to harvest, look at this:

    All that for three individual stigmas per flower!
    I expect saffron became the cultural point of reference for naming the colours because of how important it is; it has been used as a spice, dye, medicine, and religious ritual component for thousands of years from China to the Iberian Peninsula.

    I read an experiment once where a costume historian, Kass McGann, attempted to dye a leine made of linen using saffron alone, and used an entire ounce (saffron being more expensive than gold by weight, keep in mind). It was bright orange fresh out of the dye bath, but washed out to a bright yellow.




    Wool takes up dyes better than most other fabrics so dyeing it with saffron would likely produce a richer, deeper, and longer-lasting orange. I doubt actual saffron is used to dye wool these days, at least not for mass produced cloths, so saffron as a colour is approximated by other synthetic and vegetable dyes, leading to a wide range of products all referred to by the same name. The name has wandered a bit over the decades, I expect.

    If you want to get a saffron kilt, I'd recommend ordering fabric swatches from various places so you know exactly what you're getting and what you're looking for.

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  4. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Macdonde View Post
    So this thread has gotten me thinking about saffron kilts, and I've always wondered what color "saffron" really is. I've seen everything from a dark brown to a very bright orange called "saffron."

    Thoughts?
    I don't have any thoughts about it, but H. F. McClintock, author of Old Irish & Highland Dress, has the following information and opinions:

    I have never seen any discussion in print as to what the old Irish "saffron" was, but I have heard it loosely stated that it was made from heather-tops or from rock-lichen (crotal); and various shades of brownish yellow have been adopted for kilts of pipers in Irish regiments in the British army and officially dubbed "saffron". I do not know what authority there is for all this and very much doubt if it is correct.

    Saffron is a dye made from the dried stigmas of the autumn crocus (crocus sativa). The yield is naturally very small... and the saffron itself must always has been, as now, a rather costly article. The name "saffron" is from Arabic, but the dye was know to the Greeks as "krokos" whence the Latin "crocus" and the Irish "croch".

    Though little heard of nowadays it enjoyed a considerable reputation among the ancients and in the Middle Ages, primarily as a dye, but also as a drug, a spice, and a perfume. It was formerly much grown in England, its cultivators being called "crokers" (whence that surname)... In Ireland Castle Saffron is said to take its name from the quantity formerly grown there...

    ...when we find 16th century writers repeatedly calling the colour of the Irish shirts "saffron" in three languages (English, saffron; Latin, crocotus, Irish, croich) and never calling it anything else, we need very strong evidence to show that the dye was not saffron or, at any rate, a dye which produced the colour of saffron. Most of these writers indeed say explicitly that the shirts, both in Ireland and Scotland, were dyed with saffron.

    ...From experiments specially made by a competent dyer, it was found to give a pure yellow without any tinge of brown...

    ...I do not know what evidence there is in support of the brown shade now called "saffron"...


    Of course the whole notion of "saffron" kilts is based on the 19th century Celtic Revival in Ireland's misunderstanding of 16th century illustrations showing the ancient Irish costume of saffron shirt and short jacket. They saw the bottom of the saffron shirt hanging below the jacket and thought it was a kilt. It was not. (This shows the actual colour of saffron-dyed shirts, according to McClintock.)



    Here's the colour used by pipers in the Irish regiments of the British army which McClintock referred to, a mix between yellow, orange, and brown:

    Last edited by OC Richard; 12th November 17 at 06:27 AM.
    Proud Mountaineer from the Highlands of West Virginia; son of the Revolution and Civil War; first white settlers on the Guyandotte

  5. #14
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    Tweed appeals to me

    I have a solid green kilt that I keep just for piping customers that may want it, to match a theme. I don't wear it otherwise.
    However, I have a yearning for a solid tweed kilt. I think they are quite smart, and would make good daily wear, for anything from the office to hunting.
    I have seen a couple that are close to the "Hodden gray" that others have spoken of. I had some chances to acquire a London Scottish or Ontario Scottish kilt in the past but I waited too long and the supply dried up!!
    I wear surplus kilts in the black watch tartan for daily wear, and wont miss a chance to stock up when I find my size. They wear like iron, and tend to fit my frame well, as long as I can get one with my large (ish) waist measurement. My chest measurement is still larger than my waist, so I'm not stressing yet!

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  7. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Farmhand View Post
    I have a solid green kilt that I keep just for piping customers that may want it, to match a theme. I don't wear it otherwise.
    However, I have a yearning for a solid tweed kilt. I think they are quite smart, and would make good daily wear, for anything from the office to hunting.
    I have seen a couple that are close to the "Hodden gray" that others have spoken of. I had some chances to acquire a London Scottish or Ontario Scottish kilt in the past but I waited too long and the supply dried up!!
    I wear surplus kilts in the black watch tartan for daily wear, and wont miss a chance to stock up when I find my size. They wear like iron, and tend to fit my frame well, as long as I can get one with my large (ish) waist measurement. My chest measurement is still larger than my waist, so I'm not stressing yet!
    Surplus kilts?
    American by birth, human by coincidence and earthling by mistake.

  8. #16
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    Surplus kilts

    Yes,

    I can still find them fairly frequently on ebay, but only the current Black Watch tartan. I almost had an old 1950's Cameron Highlanders but got outbid at the last minute. I used to get all sorts of regiments, and had a direct contact in the 90's to an MOD purchaser and got them for next to nothing. I still like to pick them up for a bit over $100.00 max.

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  10. #17
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    If you want to get a saffron kilt, I'd recommend ordering fabric swatches from various places so you know exactly what you're getting and what you're looking for.[/QUOTE]

    Thanks for the advice and helpful content! I'm looking forward to ordering and receiving swatches and perhaps buying my first solid-colored kilt sometime in the future!
    "Per mare, per terras."

  11. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by tweedhead View Post
    Theravada Buddhists in southeast Asia are referred to as wearing saffron robes, and they show a spectrum of colours from a rich red to pumpkin orange to bright sunny yellow as well.
    Funny... just today I saw a row of monks on the river taxi, and there was a spectrum of colors across 6-8 of them. It does indeed range from an orange that is nearly neon/safety orange, to a more subdued pumpkin color, and several in between (not to mention the faded shades of robes that are well-washed). Now I wish I had taken a picture.

    I assume, though, that most people picture "saffron" as being near to the color Richard posted, though.
    Here's tae us - / Wha's like us - / Damn few - / And they're a' deid - /
    Mair's the pity!

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