Wool may be dyed either as yarn or as cloth. In Exeter the latter was more common and dyeing often represented the last stage in the production of woollen cloth before it was shipped for export.

The process took place in Exeter’s dye houses, and was overseen by Master Dyers. Theirs was a hot and smelly working environment. Woollen yarn and cloth were placed in large vats of boiling water along with the chosen dye.

Madder, woad and indigo were the most commonly used dyes. Madder comes from the roots of the madder plant and produces a red-brown cloth, the leaves of the woad plant give a vivid blue, while the purple of indigo comes from the shrub of the same name. The dyes were fixed into the cloth and given a more vibrant colour by adding a naturally occurring substance named ‘alum’.

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