Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Mad about Madder

I've been playing with madder again! This time I used madder roots from the garden. I cleaned them off and poured water over them. After soaking for a few minutes, I noticed that the water was quite yellow. I poured that water off and put fresh water over it. After a day or two, I noticed that my pail of soaking madder was bubbling. As long as the pail had a bit of a fermenting happening, I was fine. After about two weeks though, it looked like something solid was forming. That was my cue to heat it slowly and buzz it through the blender a bit to make the larger roots into smaller bits. I kept the dye vat temps below 75C and mainly kept it at about 65C ( 150 F or so ). I also checked the PH and popped in a few pinches of baking soda to get the dye vat a tad more alkaline when it started looking brownish/orange. That dragged it back to the red side. The pic shows the carded batts to be a tad pinker than they really are. Still I'm happy with madder red. It is a pretty colour.

So far from madder I've gotten a range of colours including rusts, oranges, salmons, corals, reds, maroons, pinks and plums. Phew! That is a mighty versatile plant root!

Not only that but I've harvested a goodly number of madder seeds this fall that are almost dry and ready to share!


Louisa said...

I just harvested my madder a couple of days ago and I appreciate hearing your experiences. Do you have any idea how much madder to wool by weight you used? Did you mordant it ahead of time? Or together with the dye in the bath?

Nina said...

I didn't weigh it as it was fresh. I had two good size plant roots to use, so likely I used a little less wool than I should of. It looked to be just about the size of a 4 oz packet of dried madder that I had bought. I probably put in just under two ounces off roving pre-mordanted with alum. That is my default amount for testing. Then I tossed in about 50 -60 grams more in the 2nd bath. I always mordant ahead of time.. simmer with the alum for at least one hour and let it cool in the alum vat overnight if possible. Rinse really well before use.
Have fun and please tell me how your madder experiments worked.

Louisa said...

Thanks so much for your input, Nina! I have about a pound of roots fresh and soaking wet, chopped them up, hammered them a bit, added a couple of calcium supplement tablets and a pinch of soda ash (our water is very soft) and it's now soaking. The wool is in the alum mordant and is cooling. There's lots of colour in the madder bucket so I hope to try dyeing with it tomorrow. I'll have more details on my blog.