I’ve been growing madder long enough to have a good big patch now, and so it came to pass before the weather warmed too much, that I dug out an entire kilogramme of fresh madder root (yes, I weighed it once washed clean).
I didn’t dig out the whole patch and I did propagate more plants for the Guild while I was at it… and then came the washing.
It’s pretty exciting to think I can grow red dye in my very own garden!
Next stage, breaking up by hand or with secateurs, and then–
Then the dye bath… my trusty muslin from the ever delivering op shop lets me strain out all that ground up root.
And then… in with some wonderful soft handspun Tasmanian Cormo from the wonderful Kylie Gusset’s Tonne of Wool project.
In the interests of honesty, I confess that I broke all the rules AGAIN and boiled the madder vat AGAIN. And yet, red. My experience suggests that madder is not as fussy as every single dye book suggests. That I am so bad at keeping a dye vat below boiling point that I cannot be trusted. And that with fresh root it is best to dye a small quantity if you want really really red red, and then many exhaust baths will give orange and then coral and then peach if that’s what you’d like to have.
My goal with this–is to knit a beautifully soft and red beanie for one of my special sweethearts. But as knitting is going slowly at present it might be a little while!
Having had success with a test dyebath, I made a point of returning to Botanic Park to collect more fruit on weekend, en route to celebrating World Wide Knit in Public Day. I dyed some grey corriedale locks in my test bath and they went from grey to a dull brownish shade, so I opted for superwash + alum and silk as the most likely candidates for success. I mordanted sock yarn of antiquity (picked up at a garage sale) and prepared another dyebath. I regard sock yarn as a no risk option. If I knit socks for a friend, I can make an open offer to re-dye at any point they fade to an unacceptable shade (and I can ask how they’re faring under normal wear and washing).
The dye bath looked fantastic.
I ran two baths with this fruit, because the first one produced purple on my alum mordanted skeins of sock yarn (wool-nylon). I pulled it out of the bath after dark and in artificial light it looked quite brown. So I dropped the skeins back in the bath for the night and put test samples into an iron bath and a vinegar bath. Next morning the sock yarn was purple! The exhaust dyebath was a lighter and browner shade of mauve. I apologise for these photos but it’s winter here and sunlight is in short supply.
My tiny skeins of silk thread came out various shades of rose pink through to magenta too… and I have embarked on an embroidery project, so that was exciting. The shades on the right are both using vinegar in the dyebath.
The modifiers were interesting: the wool+alum strand was noticeably more purple with vinegar and noticeably more brown/grey with iron, which is, I think, about what should be expected. So… a promising beginning to experiments with a new dye plant–but with no sense yet of how washfast or lightfast it might be.