Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Spring Cleaning: Find #1

By Leigh

I realize that since it isn't spring yet, then technically I can't be spring cleaning. But with our daughter moving out, moving everything from our rented storage unit in, and rearranging boxes and furniture, it seemed as good a time as any to give the place a little more than it's usual lick and a promise. Besides, if I get started now, then surely I'll finish by spring. Especially since I'd much rather weave/spin/knit/dye/read/blog/anything rather than do housework. I do love a clean house however.

There are rewards. I've re-found some things that I knew I had somewhere , I just wasn't sure where exactly. Things like this....

Find #1:

Madder rootsI know this may look like a pile of old sticks, and you may be wondering, "what in the world is she toting that around for." I'll tell you why, it's madder root! It was given to me by a spinning friend awhile back. A way while back.

Madder is used as a natural red dye. My own previous experiment with madder produced more of a coral color (pic here, madder obviously on the right, indigo on the left). How to get red is something I'll have the opportunity to learn during the Online Guild's April workshop: "Roots, Woods and Bugs: Working with the Red Dyes." (For more information on that, click on over to their Programme Calendar and scroll down to April.)

One thing I'm curious about is the shelf life of natural dye stuffs. These roots are at least four or five years old. I figure that at the very least I will learn something in the process. Hopefully of course, I'll also end up with some good color.

Posted 28 Jan. 2009 at

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Natural Dyeing?
Spring Cleaning: Find #2
Spring Cleaning: Find #3
Spring Cleaning: Find #4


Sharon said...

I plan to plant some this year and even have a bed for it. I hear it's really invasive. I dyed with it last year and got different shades by using different natural colored wools. I knew then that I needed my own source, just cuz I'm that way. I wonder what madder overdyed with indigo would get you, since rabbitbrush over indigo is green. Doesn't sound promising, does it.

Anonymous said...

I know exactly what you mean! I love a clean house, but the process of making it clean is such a nuisance, taking me away from all the things I'd rather be doing... Still, if I thought I had a horde of madder root stashed away somewhere, I might be motivated.

textillian said...

I'll be interested in seeing the results from the madder. The one time I did it (under close supervision,) I got a kind of orangey color.

I don't imagine the root would lose too much of its power. I would think the extracts and powders that you would buy from suppliers sit on the shelves for a while.

Woolly Bits said...

I wouldn't worry about the matter, Leigh - many dyers believe that madder has to "ripen" anyway and 2-3 years don't sound so bad. I've had older stuff and I still got nice colours out of that - anything from brick red to light pink. I started with hot dyebath and eventually I just chucked the whole stuff into a bucket in the garden, which I stuffed with mordanted yarns for a few days (without heat!) and even those dyed nice pastel colours... the one downside with those roots is - the chopping up:))

Sheepish Annie said...

I've often thought about natural dyeing, but never got around to it. I suppose I was concerned about my limited storage space and the amount of fibery stuff already crammed into it. :) I'll be curious to see more of your experiments. I've used acid dyes for just about forever, a little bit of procion and, of course, Kool Aid.

Maybe natural dyeing will be my summer vacation project. Hmmmm....

neki desu said...

don't worry about shelf life of natural keeps forever as long as it's dry.ask me how i know :)

neki desu

Sue said...

I have a lurking pile of birch you're not the only one with a stash of plant materials!!

Can I ask an unrelated question here? Back in September, you blogged about a cotton slub shawl in plain weave. I've been experimenting a bit with some similar cotton. Can you tell me how the fringe on that shawl has held up? (And I guess how much the shawl has been used, and how often it's been washed.)

Thanks!! Sorry to veer so far off topic! I'm still not quite sure how this whole communicating-via-blog thing works!

Leigh said...

Sharon I tried to grow madder in the past, but it didn't do well. Probably my soil.

Thank you to everyone for the encouraging words about the shelf life. I'll be interested to see if I can get something closer to red than salmon with it.

Sue, I'm happy to answer any questions, whether they are post related or not. But about the shawl, I have to be honest in saying that it hasn't been worn at all and so has never needed laundering. One trick I learned for washing fringe though, is to loosely baste it in netting. I get the cheap kind and fold it over the fringe, running a loose basting stitch to keep it attached. Then I wash and have had fairly good success preserving fringe.

That particular cotton flake yarn would probably fall apart with a rough wash and dry, so I wouldn't want to take a chance without protecting it.

Sue said...

Thanks Leigh!! I'll have to give that fringe technique a try!!

MiniKat said...

If I remember I will ask a friend who is a whiz with natural dyes about the age of the roots.

I love the colors from madder. They are too pretty!

Benita said...

I was able to get a very good red out of madder in an experiment I did a couple of summers ago. One of the tricks is to soak it over night and either disgard the first soaking's water or use it as a dye for oranges (I hate to waste good dye - no matter the color). This first soak gets out a LOT of the yellow pigment. If you want to see the final results of this experiment, I have a blog post up from last week showing a shawl I knitted from Shetland dyed with madder. I love what I got with the madder.

Leigh said...

Glad to be of help Sue!

MiniKat, I'll be interested in what your friend says.

Benita, I appreciate this information and will definitely give this a try! Your shawl is absolutely lovely BTW.

jackie said...

We have used madder at the school, but it comes in a pre-ground form and I didn't know that it was a root! My lack of research I guess.
Have fun experimenting!

Gwen said...

Wow - that's a beautiful red! I hope this older root still gives you some beautiful dye!