Monday, 11 August 2008


I had a lovely and relaxing holiday, camping at Pennsic. Our camp was on the other side of the lake, full of wonderful bards and with a pirate ship parked behind my tent. The only downside was having to say goodbye to one of my very best friends. I shall desperately miss running errands with her, sleepovers and sharing everything. She also had an awesome workshop, which while I will miss having access to, I'll not miss it nearly as much as I'll miss her.

I came home and between catching up on the laundry and making up t0 the beasties for being away, I started grinding madder roots. Lots and lots of madder roots - so far about 2 lbs of madder are soaking. There is dry madder root, some from last year's purchases and the rest I bought this year. I got to use my new coffee grinder to grind it up which is the best way I think to grind old madder roots.

There is fresh madder root that I dug up from the garden yesterday afternoon. I know why they suggest digging it up in the fall or spring. My arm is scratched to bits from the little thorny bits, trying to move away the greenery to find the actual plants. Three madder plants, all 3 years old, filled my 8kg kitty litter pail to at least the 3/4 mark.

I spent the afternoon and part of the evening grinding the dry roots, cleaning and chopping up the fresh roots. Each of the fresh root clusters seemed to have a clump near the top where the roots twisted around lots of dirt. It took a while to clean them all and my knife and cutting board were covered in orangey coloured madder juice. The combined dry and fresh roots filled my largest dye vat to at least the 1/3 mark, maybe more.

Now the madder is soaking, with a bit of heat once in a while as I've just read that the alarzin (dye pigment) in madder is more soluble in warm water. It is fermenting nicely - bubbling up and smelling very maddery. Good thing I like the smell and even better that nobody in my family complains about it. It smells like dyeing.

I've some finely ground madder yet to add, but this is all coarsely ground and I want to add the fine stuff later, after a few days of the coarse madder soaking. I think that the coarser stuff will take longer to soak, no evidence for it but mainly because I need to run out and get a new jelly strainer before I even think about adding the really finely ground madder powder, or I'll never get the madder powder out of the yarn.

I've almost 10,000 yards of 2/12 wool yarn mordanting in alum right now - 3 lbs of it. According to several different sources, the amount of madder should get me a rich colour - J.Liles says red, but not quite lacquer red. I'd be happy with something reddish and not rust or salmon coloured, and definitely not the bright madder orange. I'll be checking the ph regularly to keep the vat neutral or slightly alkaline as it is the acid side which gives orange.


Helen said...

Thank you so much for posting your madder experiments. The colour you eventually got is fabulous and I have relly enjoyed reading aboout it all. Great! I look forward to the finished woven piece too. Should be wonderful.

Nina said...

Thanks for the nice comments. I think that the weaving of the fabric will be fun as well.