Purple Haze

by Stefani on 23-July-2008

My guys and I have been slowly working our way through the Story of the World. We’re not very far along in it, about half way through the first book I guess. Their interest kind of waxes and wanes and I’ve not pushed it. I mean really. They are 3, 6 and 7 years old, just how much ancient history do you suppose they will retain? 

Here lately though, they’ve asked about it again. They think it’s kind of interesting with all the funny names and wars and such.  So I got the book out, thinking that I’d be really organized and look ahead a bit… skim the pages for fun go-along activity ideas and make sure that I had the supplies on hand, should we get the itch to delve into the past. 

I read as far as “something something Phoenicians something something snails… something something purple dye something something wool.” And thought, “Tie Dye!” (read yesterday’s post to familiarize yourself with our other hippie tendencies.)

The book said that you could boil purple cabbage or blueberries to create a natural dye, and as I was not about to sacrifice my precious blueberries for the sake of higher learning, I added purple cabbage to the grocery list. 

The smarter ones among you know where this is headed. Don’t you? 

I didn’t.

Didn’t even think about it. 

In fact, I proceeded to tell my boys that it was officially purple day! We read Harold and the Purple Crayon and we made purple popsicles. We played games with purple baloons, we danced to the Purple People Eater! We had ourselves a rip roarin’ royal purple time! Then, I sat down to read them the bit about Phoenicians gathering multitudes of a certain little purple snot-making mollusk and boiling them to make garments so expensive that only kings could afford them, and that, children, is why purple is considered the color of royalty. 

So far so good. They found this riveting. I mean really, does it get any more fascinating than purple snot-making mollusks? I don’t see how it could. 

We read on, and learned that the smell of the simmering snot snails in the city of Tyre was so bad that it was a common insult, in ancient times, to say that someone “stank like a man from Tyre.” 

That, friends, is when it hit me. I’m going to boil cabbage for an hour and then soak clothing in it. 

Um, just why had I thought that would be a good idea? Why had I not actually READ the passage and considered the consequences? What’s that they say about those who don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it?

I went ahead with it. I had already told the guys that we were going to be purple cloth-making Phoenicians, so what could I do?

I want you to know that my house stinks.

It stinks really badly. It stinks like a man from Tyre.

When we go outside and then we come back in, having forgotten about the stench, all my fellas make the most horrendous, dramatic, gagging, throat-clutching scene that you can imagine.

 My husband left altogether, claiming he had some extremely urgent errands to run. I think he said something about checking the air pressure in the tires and getting a jump start on his Christmas shopping. 

Fine. Go. 

 But, when finally the rubberbands came off, and the shirts were hung, there were grins all around. Gagging, throat-clutching grins. 

Men From Tyre 

My Luke wanted to know if cabbage smells worse or better than the boiling shells in Phoenecia did.

“Worse,” I told him. It was so bad that you could smell it all over the city, and since it was their livelihood, and not something that they did just for fun on one day, it was a smell that they lived with, day in and day out. 

My guys stood, and stared up at their purple shirts in wonder. 

Something tells me that this multi-sensory lesson, albeit unintentional, will ensure that they never forget the Phoenicians and their purple cloth.  Of course, it may also have some unsavory Pavlov’s dog-ish side effects – I’m envisioning watering eyes, uncontrollable gagging noises and phantom puking gestures at the sight of purple. 

Oh well, a little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing. 
mountain mama July 23, 2008 at 8:32 pm

Too funny! But cool hippie shirts!

Relyn July 23, 2008 at 8:33 pm

This is a hilarious, informative, wonderful post. I love the idea of the Purple Day. I always tie dye shirts with my class at the start of the year. Then we wear the shirts for classbuilding activities all year. For fieldtrips, team sports, and our monthly celebrations. Very cool. Anyway, I plan to borrow this idea and do a riff on it. We’re going to have a rainbow day with rainbow music, (I’d better start looking.) rainbow science lesson, etc. Great ideas! The shirts look great too. I, however, am unwilling to stink like a man from Tyre and plan to buy my dye.

heather jane July 23, 2008 at 8:33 pm

You rock. I was going to suggest that you use kool-aid next time…but then I got to the end and realized why that would not have the same effect. Not one bit. So, yeah. You rock.

christi July 23, 2008 at 8:46 pm

wow! i cant believe how brightly the clothing came out! that purple is phenomenal! its a pity about the stench, but i would still give this a go…but maybe outside. 🙂

brit July 23, 2008 at 8:59 pm

oh dear. This is a great time for dying, I usually do it outside on the hotplate…because yeah….

Stephanie July 23, 2008 at 9:56 pm

Do you suppose they’ll be able to eat coleslaw again?

Too funny!

Corynne Escalante July 23, 2008 at 10:26 pm

this is so funny! hilarious. i was laughing out loud, sitting next to my huband on the couch (here we both sit with apple laptops on our laps, sad). so in way of explanation, i had to have him read it, too. we were both giggling. thanks for sharing!

Mary Smith July 23, 2008 at 11:12 pm

A purple day! How absolutely wonderful. What fantastic ideas you have and such a wonderful home environment for your boys.

Amber July 24, 2008 at 1:20 am

Oh this is great…and we are using Story of the World this year for history. Although I think I’ll go with the above suggestion and use Kool-aid. But I love the way you teach and take one piece and grow on that. I want to be more like that and not so rigid with our schedule.
Thanks for sharing and I’m sure your boys won’t ever forget the Phoenicians.

Diane July 24, 2008 at 3:20 am

Yesterday your arm pits, today the cabbage?! Oh my oh my oh my!!

; )

Natalie July 24, 2008 at 3:26 am

Good stuff this.
I am afraid of brown pits, but I don’t mind the smell of cabbage cooking, so I could totally go for a purple day!

sperlygirl July 24, 2008 at 3:37 am

this made me lol — what a great project and a lesson in aromatherapy don’t 😉 felt like i could smell the cabbage all the way over here! but the shirts sure turned out cool!!

kim July 24, 2008 at 3:52 am

I LOVED THIS POST-you’re get BIG points from this one.

elissa July 24, 2008 at 4:35 am

CRACKING MY CAN! remember my post about fearing i’ll forget things if i don’t write them down??? NO CHANCE ANY of you will forget this one. cabbage, girl! really? i am DYING here. (no pun intended)

Thimbleina July 24, 2008 at 5:04 am

Well done for going through with the cabbage and what a great result history and tie dying

Mama Urchin July 24, 2008 at 5:14 am

Oh yeah, I saw where you were headed with that. Burn a candle or something.

kristen July 24, 2008 at 5:17 am

That purple is so beautiful-it may be worth trying it anyways!

katharine July 24, 2008 at 6:06 am

Keep some of that cabbage water, it’s an excellent indicator for acids and bases. Any time we have purple cabbage I set the girls up with some cabbage water, vinegar, lemon juice, baking soda and baking powder and as many jars as I can find. Hours of indicator fun that inevitably ends in volcanoes.

melissa July 24, 2008 at 6:41 am

That is hilarious and awesome. I think if we tried this, we’d have to use the propane burner on the grill outside! Thanks for the warning! Hehe.

SpiderWomanKnits July 24, 2008 at 6:46 am

LOL!! Hilarious! I **love** it. The shirts look great despite the smells you had to endure to get there.

Cassandra July 24, 2008 at 7:03 am

I myself am still stuck on snot making mollusks…

Jade July 24, 2008 at 7:15 am

You are cracking me up! These last two posts should be titled ‘a comedy of errors!’ 🙂

melissa s. July 24, 2008 at 7:58 am

sadly, i’m not one of the smarter ones as i was thinking of boiling cabbage for playdough coloring. thanks for saving us from the stench!

MrsMK July 24, 2008 at 8:18 am

What a riot of fun at your *stinky* house!! Can I come live with you for a few weeks?

Maria July 24, 2008 at 8:18 am

Hmmmm…when I grow up I”m gonna be a homeschool mom like you. Purple Day. I would’ve got some RIT dye and said “Here, let’s attempt this..” and that would’ve been my SOTW project for the month.
You rock.
I aspire.
Great post.

Regina July 24, 2008 at 8:36 am

So glad my computer is not equipped with “smell-a-vision” – LOL! Now I will think of this every time I see purple shirts!!!

Katie July 24, 2008 at 9:16 am

OH! Yippee Hippy! We dyed wool yarn for this project. We made Tyrian blueberry yarn. The berries smell much better than cabbage, I assure you and we got them at..hello…the dollar store. whodathunkit?

Glad to find another Story of the World reader. 😛

aujah July 24, 2008 at 9:44 am


miss chris July 24, 2008 at 12:17 pm

Seriously, boiled cabbage? I might cook brussels sprouts too often to have fallen for that idea… oh my! I can imagine how awful and wonderful it was at the same time. Those stinky Phoenicians.

MadWomanMeg July 24, 2008 at 1:35 pm

I knew there was a reason I hated cabbage and I was having trouble remembering just what that reason was until just now when I had the same Pavlovian reaction that your boys will be having for years to come.

Cool shirts though! And I think I’m going to check out this book too. My kids are thoroughly enjoying Edward Tulane’s adventures.

Relyn July 24, 2008 at 4:17 pm

Hey, Stefani! When you get a chance, please stop by my blog. I left something there I hope you will enjoy.

Lisa Kirker July 24, 2008 at 4:55 pm

Oh that is funny – and so very educational. Thanks for sharing and making us smile. – Lisa


hanna July 27, 2008 at 9:38 pm

he he, hilarious! but the colour is just gorgeous!
I have just found your blog and really enjoying it. We could definately hang out and find things to talk about. I’m off to read some of your older posts.

Linn August 3, 2008 at 2:52 pm

I just found your blog today, and can I just say…Love it! Thank you for sharing your bits and pieces with the world. This cabbage dying bit was too funny. Your life gives me a glimpse into my future (I have two preschool boys of my own.)

JoVE August 5, 2008 at 6:08 am

Came by on Lissa’s recommendation. Great story. When we got our gas barbecue we got one with a burner on the side that you can put a pan on. I recommend it. You could have boiled the cabbage outdoors…

Interesting story about the purple mollusks, though. Red is actually a very complicated colour to dye well naturally and the best one they got was from beetles only found in Mexico. I read a book review of a book all about that a year or so ago. It looked really interesting.

Mrs. Happy Housewife August 5, 2008 at 6:52 am

Came by way of Melissa Wiley. This is so funny my eyes teared up. I think we’ll try your project.

Beck August 5, 2008 at 12:07 pm

That colour is WELL worth having your house stink like a man from Tyre, though. And “stinking like a man from Tyre” is now a phrase that MUST enter my vocabulary.

Hannah August 6, 2008 at 7:40 am

Wow! Those shirts are beautiful! I’m bursting with admiration over your creativity with the Day of Purple, since in our homeschooling that is an area (crafts/breakout activities) where I fall far short, since I get easily overwhelmed and don’t plan ahead adequately. Any time YOU feel that way, you should just take a look at your T-shirt picture and let the memory inspire you.
Besides, pictures don’t smell. 😉

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