Trades of Edinburgh – Incorporation of Bonnetmakers & Dyers
On 22nd September 1520, a number of individual bonnetmakers in Edinburgh, not having an incorporation of their own, applied to be allowed to join the Incorporation of Waulkers. This arrangement lasted for almost ten years, until the bonnetmakers presented a new petition to the Town Council asking to be allowed to form their own incorporation; they received a seal of cause on 31st March 1530. The Dyers joined the Incorporation in 1684, when the present joint name was adopted.
The arms shown here depict the Bonnetmakers on the left and the Dyers on the right. The recently matriculated version is slightly different and also shows the crest above the shield, being the Golden Fleece, and the incorporation’s punning motto “We dye to live”.
The craft of the Bonnetmaker consisted chiefly in the making of woollen or felt bonnets for men, not fancy headgear for women. The dyers, as one might expect, were experts in the dying of wool and cloth, using natural pigments derived mostly from plants but also from a number of earth minerals. All these were “fixed” in the fabric by the addition of alum to prevent the colours from running.
The Incorporation became dormant (but not extinct) in the 1980s, but was revived in 2007. In line with its aim of encouraging trade skills, the Incorporation set up an award at Edinburgh College of Art for the Best Use of Colour in Fashion Textiles. This is presented annually to a fourth-year student, in consultation with the tutors. Winners are also given guest membership of the Incorporation for one year and are expected to give a short talk about their work at the Annual Dinner.