Dyeing with Madder

Madder dyed, undyed, and Aster-Marigold dyed handspun wool. This photo was taken inside at night - hence the change in colour based on the light.

Madder dyed, undyed, and Aster-Marigold dyed wool

A while back a friend proposed a dyeing day at her house. She’d just finished an inspiring natural dyeing class, and wanted to keep playing with fun dyes!

I wanted to join in, so I brought up some of the wool fibre I still had left and hadn’t spun up yet (in this case it was Grade A USA Top, in natural white) and tried to spin it fairly fine. I then decided to ply it too… (because when tight for time… why NOT do twice the work, right?)

My…. thought… is that when I learn to tablet weave, it would be nice to use handspun, hand dyed yarn for a project. Though I still don’t know how to tablet weave, and I’ve heard it’s easier to learn with cotton… but that’s another story all together…

A little video from my Instagram feed plying the yarn on the spinning wheel borrowed from Black Sheep Handspvn.

After spinning plying, I put the yarns on my make-shift warping board (dowels pushed between books and DVDs on my bookshelf) and then scoured the wool in washing soda and dish detergent as per my friend’s instructions. The last time I dyed with indigo the colour faded a LOT when I washed the wool… so I figured whatever I could do to try to get any extra oils out of the wool before dyeing, the better!

(Oh yeah… and Superstore didn’t have Washing Soda.. so I had to make my own. Nothing like a 420F oven on one of the hottest days of summer… and nothing like making another step while in a hurry! LOL)


When I first arrived, I was a bit late (darn transit) so there were already items in the dye pot.. but that meant I got to throw one of the skeins of my two-ply wool (along with about 2 meters of white linen) into the alum mordant pot.


After the fibre had simmered in the mordant pot for about an hour, it was time for the madder bath.

Another friend also dyed some silk in the same madder pot, and it was interesting to see how all the different fibers took the colour differently.

Taking the fibre out…

After the madder dye pot had “cooked” with the wool yarn, silk fabric, and linen fabric for about an hour, our hostess took the fibre out of the pot to rinse. There was a small amount of dye material still on the fibre, so it took a fair amount of rinsing to get the fabric and yarn clean.

My friend’s lightweight silk dyed a fairly bright orange. It looks amazing next to the indigo-dyed silk too! (See below)

The wool took the colour to a medium coral – leaning to orange rather than red. (The photo at the top of the post.)

On the other hand, the linen went a pale blue-tinted pink which I didn’t really like at all for what I had in mind for the fabric. I opted to toss the fabric in the indigo dye pot instead of letting it dry.


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