The madder harvest

This year I went wild and dug a lot of the madder patch.

There was the soaking, rinsing, weighing (TWO KILOGRAMS, just quietly) and picking over. There was potting up some plants in case others want some.

There was mordanting (with alum).

There was the grinding up.

Then the heating begins. I am proud to say that for once I did not boil my dye vat. Really, the list of my dyeing crimes is too extensive to list! So I rate this a bit of a triumph.

I must say, that despite the amount of root, and the amount of dyeing (and the difficulty of getting a picture that captures it properly)… there was not actually a lot of red. Grey yarn became terra cotta (not that you can tell in the image), there is a lot of lovely orange, there is fabric that is various orange shades. Red silk embroidery thread and some red fleece. It’s not terrible, but it isn’t quite what I hoped for, either. It may be that it is time for some more research! If more experienced folks have insight to offer, do feel free! This year I really tried for long, slow heating, and came closer to achieving it than previously. But still…


Filed under Natural dyeing

12 responses to “The madder harvest

  1. Jenai Hooke

    2 kg that’s awesome!….well done you. A trick that I learnt from Tarla was to dry the roots well before using, it takes a couple of months. When the roots are very hard I then bash them with a mallet or chop them finely with a cleaver. I guess the drying concentrates the colour. Not sure how old your roots were but I was told a minimum of 3 years for the roots to grow big enough and develop that inner layer of colour well. I managed to kill all mine a couple of years ago and had to start from scratch…..2 years to go.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Maureen

    I wonder if you had soaked the root if you would get more color from it. Maybe you did that? Also read for indigo fermentation using madder you need very fresh roots. You could use the spent madder for indigo reduction!
    Thanks for sharing. Hope to grow some myself

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Maureen, thank you! That is exactly what I did, and the indigo vat went well! I did soak the root, but I’m a bit unsure about the process there. It helps get them clean and perhaps releases some yellow pigments. So I did soak, but there is always more to learn even about something like soaking. Was 24 hours enough? Thanks for these thoughts!


  3. I am so impressed with the results and particularly that you didn’t let the pot boil.

    I know that @indigo_woad_to_this overon Instagram has been processing madder recently. There was one comment from @opusanglicanum that noted they got different colours from their madder depending on the source. This is Europe so she noted English, French and Turkish madder gave different colour results. So it may not be your dyeing at all.
    BTW I still haven’t managed not to boil my madder.πŸ˜‰

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Fiona

    You really did have a bumper harvest and I think your color range you got is beautiful but if you want more red tones try an alkaline modifier like ammonia or washing soda. Calcium carbonate (available from pet shops) is also good in the dye vat to make the water harder which helps extract more reds and leaving the fibers to soak for one or two days will give a deeper colour. Just a few ideas to play with and have fun.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Fiona! I did the long soak but not the alkaline modifier, and I’m looking forward to next time… I like the colours too, but given how readily I can get orange tones with eucalyptus, I’m always hoping for red with the madder!


  5. Jenny M

    Sorry, that the colours aren’t what you expected, but I must say I love the results.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Bettina

    Hi, I have landed on your blog and I am impressed by your Madder! I just started to grow my own little plant and wanted to know: Once you harvest, you have to dig out the whole plant, or is it possible to leave one part living and just harvest some roots? Thanks for sharing your knowledge! πŸ™‚


    • Hello Bettina, delighted to have impressed you! Your madder will not be little for long. It spreads underground much the way that mint does and will grow over time, especially if you feed it! I think it is a good idea to harvest part of the roots once they reach a suitable age, and then you will be able to harvest a different part of the plant the next year. That’s exactly what I’m doing. warmly, Mary


  7. Kim

    That terracotta is just gorgeous

    Liked by 1 person

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