Dyeing with madder

Yesterday I had to quit my madder experiment. The dyebath started to ferment and I wasn’t sure if it wouldn’t have a negative effect on the fibre. So after 4 days and 6 hours 🙂 I took the fibre out and rinsed it well. Now it is drying. The pictures in this post are from the previous batch, the first one. The second, dryeing batch is only slightly paler.

I had madder in a root form, bought from P & M Woolcraft. They seem to have better prices than Fibrecrafts and the delivery was smooth. They also have a good selection of natural dyes as well as books. Natural Dyes – Fast or Fugitive by Dalby on this page is particularly interesting, since with every plant and a recipe the wash and light fastness is stated. I haven’t found such precise information in any other book (and as usual I have bought quite a lot of them…:).

Most of the books recommend to put the wool and the root in one pot and dye it together, that’s how the most of the red is obtained. Only this one suggests to extract the most of the dye through simmering and straining off the dye liquid for several times and only then entering the wool. You guess why: little bits of root will entangle with the fibre and HOW am I going to get rid of it? So I put the soaked root in the muslin bag, at the bottom of the dye pot and merino on the top of the bag – and started simmering (bellow 60 degrees). When after two or so hours the wool was still rather pale I gave up, took a big breath, opened the bag and let all the root float in the pot (and count my loss :). However, as you see from the picture, the end was happy. Not much of the root stuck to the fibre and the one which did – I easily rinsed under the running water. And as the fibre was dryeing in the garden, the last bits fell off.

I was encouraged by this because I have noticed that the best colour is obtained when the fibre is in the pot with the dye plant. Since then I have dyed with gorse again, which have big thorns and even in this case I was able to clean the wool easily. However, I would like to try the other method: first extracting the colour as much as possible and than to dye, I wonder if I would achieve deeper colours this way.

Different fibres take up the dye in a different way. In a madder dyebath I had merino, alpaca fibre, mohair fibre and sliver. For pictures with higher resolution, please, go to my Flickr page.

On the left, merino, on the right originally white mohair sliver.

Some of the on-line information on natural dyeing: Natural Dyeing Information, Basic Natural Dyeing Information, Home made plant dyes, Madder, How to Dye Fabric, Natural Dyeing, Natural Dyes International, Easy Dyeing (that´s where my experiment with madder comes from), Wild Colours, Susane´s Madder dye recipe, Natural Dyeing at Flickr – and much much more, I am sure, just google “natural dyes”, “natural dyeing” or the name of the dyeplant you are interested in.

Books I am using (apart from those I have already mentioned in my posts):  The Art and Craft of Natural Dyeing by J. N. Liles, Natural Dyes by Linda Rudkin (poor photos), Natural Dyes for Spinners & Weavers by Hetty Wickens, Natural Dyes by Gwen Fereday (very interesting! She used only five natural dyes and combining them created 292! different colours and shades. All are shown in books together with recipes. High chemistry, though.)


4 thoughts on “Dyeing with madder

  1. Hi Monika-

    I love your experiments. I just got done reading an historical novel Called The World Without End by Ken Follet. It takes place during the 14th century and some of the characters are wool merchants & it talks about dyeing with madder root. They dry the root & then crush it into a powder before dyeing. Maybe that would be possible? Just thought I’d pass on the info.

    Keep up the good work.

  2. I am just catching up with all your work. I am not very keen on dying but I am starting to feel quite inspired by your experiments!

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