Dyeing with madder

Well, it took some time for everything to dry and then to find the time to photograph it, but here they are.... The madder dyed skeins! These are my first proper foray into natural dyeing and the dyestuff was dug up on the day from the garden at Oostbroek. I knew putting everything into the pot that there was only half of the dyestuff with regards to the yarn, so it was never going to dye a saturated red colour. But the resulting pastel pinks are, I think, gorgeous and very sweet and summery. These four will be going up on my Etsy shop on Friday the 22nd of June, hopefully with more plant dyed skeins to accompany them!

My sources of knowledge are my notes and printouts from a natural dyeing workshop I followed in February given by the amazing Marijke Bongers from EcoTextile Studio; and the book "Wild Colour" by Jenny Dean.

In preparation I mordanted 400 grams of Alpine, which is 100% merino superwash in fingering weight. I dissolved 15% of the dry yarn weight in alum (so 60 gram) in boiling water, then filled the pot up and put in the yarn. I brought the pot to around 70 degrees Celsius and kept the temperature constant for about an hour, then left the pot to cool overnight. The next day (the 30th of May), I dug up fresh madder root and washed and roughly chopped them. I had around 150 grams of (wet) madder root, which is less than the one to one ratio of dry dye stuff to dry yarn that is usually recommended, so I already expected the colours wouldn't be saturated. A tip in my book stated that one can rinse off the brown and yellow pigments by steeping the dyestuff in boiling water. On location, I didn't have the materials to let it steep, but I did rinse the roots in a sieve with boiling water. Then, I filled the dyepot with water, put in the roots and I also directly put in the mordanted yarn and stirred a little. After I brought it to 70 degrees Celsius, I kept it at that temperature for about an hour, stirring a little every now and then. After that, I let it sit in the dyebath for two days, then I removed the first two skeins. After one day I added the other two skeins, those I left for five days (because I didn't have time to remove them before leaving for the weekend...) before removing them. I rinsed them and soaked them in Eucalan before hanging them to dry. The mordanting and little remnants of roots have made the yarn slightly rougher but nothing another soak of the finished project won't fix.

The garden
This is madder
Putting everything in the pot

It's more common when dyeing with natural materials to simmer the dyestuff and then remove it, to then place it in a bag with the yarn in the dyebath. My book suggested madder gives off more colour when the roots are in together with the yarn. An added benefit, I think, is that the result is a semisolid colour, and even kind of variegated for the two skeins I used to exhaust the dyebath. I can say I absolutely love natural dyeing, especially being able to use the plants in the garden of Oostbroek. You need an understanding of what is going on in the dyepot, but there are so many variables that the end result will always be a surprise!

These are the primary skeins and were in the dyebath for two days.

These I used to exhaust the dyebath and were in for five days.

This is a quick post to show you the first results of my dyeing sessions in the garden of Oostbroek, I'll post a page with some tips and tricks, theory and where to find more information on natural dyeing in July!