Station: [5] Blueprint

Tell me something, Martha. You know little Jette, old Wilhelm’s daughter? The fisherman, I mean.

She's not that little anymore.

Hmm. Do you think she'd like a blue apron like that one?

Are you kidding? What woman wouldn't be delighted, it’s so pretty. What's the matter Hans? You're blushing! Don't tell me you’ve gone and fallen for Jette.

Never mind, I just thought – there’s the Behling dye works here in Steinhude, and they make things like that. At our house, we still have my gran’s entire dowry, and she wove it all herself. Nobody uses those things any more. So I thought I'd help myself to one of her nice, white linen aprons and have it printed up at Behling’s.  

They can do that? 

Of course, it's called blueprint. Makes an awful stink and actually comes from a long way away – East India. 

I’m impressed, Hans, How do you even know that?

I helped out at Behling’s last year, and I saw exactly how they do it. Do you see those little blocks? They’re called stamps, and they’re carved from pear wood. It's a real art. And then they dip them into this sticky, gooey stuff, called resist paste.

Resist paste?

Resist paste!

Like paste?

Paste, that’s its name. Because you paste it on to the material.  The paste is made according to a secret recipe, and it takes six months to prepare it. Then you dip the stamp into the resist paste, and press it on to the cloth. Wherever the paste touches the cloth, it stays white. Then the cloth is dipped into the blue indigo dye, again and again. It takes a lot of patience. 

Goodness me, Hans, the things you know! And then it comes out all blue? 

No – it comes out yellow.

Why yellow, Hans? Now you're just making fun of me again.

No it’s true, I was there and saw it happen. They haul the cloth out of the blue dye, and the cloth is yellow. And hey presto! when it’s exposed to the air, it suddenly turns blue, like a miracle! It has something to do with the indigo plant. That also comes from India and is highly prized. And the dye needs air to turn from yellow to blue.  

Wonderful! Anyway, if little Jette isn’t interested in the apron, well, I'd be happy to have it. We’re constantly scrimping and saving at home. We can’t aspire to the sophisticated lifestyle these people enjoy. Have you looked at the bedroom across the hall? The bedlinen they have on display there -- come along, I'll show you.

Photo: © Fischer- und Webermuseum