Teated eestlaste pärandoskuste kohta baltisakslanna Martha Bielensteini raamatus „Die altlettischen Färbmethoden” ja eksperimentaalne etnograafia / Information on Estonian traditional dyeing skills in the book Die altlettischen Färbmethoden by Martha Biel


  • Anete Karlsone




The use of natural dyes is a traditional craft skill that has been passed down over many generations. Although dyeing with plants is still practiced, much of the ancient knowledge and skill has already been lost. Today, with the growth in interest in the use of natural dyes, ancient traditional skills must be rediscovered via written sources and experiments. It is a kind of indirect inheritance of a craft, where the apprentice learns not just from a master but from the finished product (Kelly-Buccellati 2012). This is in many ways in line with the research methods of experimental archaeology (Coles 1979, Andersson Strand 2009) now applied to ethnographic material. The adoption of dyeing methods from written or ‘inanimate’ sources makes it possible to improve and restore the craft quality of traditional skills, thus strengthening the tradition itself. This is important today in the context of nurturing cultural identity. One of the sources that provides valuable ethnographic information not only on the use of natural dyes in textile dyeing but also on other topics too is Martha Bielenstein’s book Die altelettische Färbmethoden. This article provides an overview of the book, introducing the author, and summarizing the information found in the book about Estonian dyeing techniques. The last part of the article describes some dyeing experiments based on the descriptions found in both Estonian and Latvian ethnographic material.

Keywords: natural dyes, traditional skills, Martha Bielenstein, experimental ethnography


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