Saturday, 3 November 2007

I meant to write this blog yesterday, but there was a lot happening , and on top of it my dh went down with the mother of all man colds and leaving me with reproachful dogs.
I have spent about six years trying all sorts of different ways to get a good red with madder. as i could not get anyhting but a reddish orange. I assumed the problem was that I have very soft wate. So I added chalk, lime water, washing soda, altered temperatures, pH, talked to people , listened to loads of advice such as grinding the roots , fermenting madder for 8 days and got beautiful colours terracottas, rusts, deep orangy reds and after leaving a bath on high overnight instead of switching it off, wonderful coppery reds with brown tones BUT NO RED!
DH and I and dogs went off for a weeks holiday in September. Just before I went I noticed a bowl of soaking madder chips I had forgotten about. I put them into a bin with a lid. When I returned I covered with water, added some mordanted wool, put the heat on very low and forgot about it. About four hours later I checked the bath and found the wool was a deep red.
I thought that it was probably the very long soak had bought out the red in the madder chips as the red dye has a lowere solubility than th eother colours , but now I wonder also whether fermentation did not have a role to play. Especially as the bath Iused yesterday was fermenting. Anyway on the 14th October I put 300g of madder chips into soak. Yesterday I put the bath onto heat and about four hours later this yarn appeared! It is good to know I can replicate the results.
yeay! One triumphant dyer!


  1. hi Helen,
    I just "found" your blog:)) the red you achieved looks pretty intense to me - unfortunately my madder roots have to wait another year before I can dig them up! I tried dyes with madder before and have the same problem with the rain water - so I went down to the well, which has very hard water - and the colour became better! I also read that it is a good idea to wash the roots for a long time - not to get the dirt off - but to wash out some of the yellow pigments that are supposed to sit in the outer part of the root. and of course fermentation or at least a long soak seems to be helpful as you discovered. I do remember a page about madder dyes where the main importance was put on the time the materials stay in the dye pot - it might be a good idea to keep the fibre in there for as long as possible? looking forward to more dye experiences:))

  2. Your blog is si interesting that I had to start from your very first post and read all the posts till now!
    Thank you very much for all the hints and tips you give.
    This red is very very beautiful indeed!