Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Chasing Red, Madder Root Natural Dye

Madder Root has been used for centuries to produce red, orange, and orange brown natural colors of fibers and fabric. The color chemical is called alizarin.

The most common species known is Rubia tinctorium. It  is a perennial that can be grown in colder  climates. Normally the plants are planted in a deeply tilled bed of soil., The bed is tended for 2 years allowing the roots to spread and mature. At the end of the two years, half of the bed is dug up to harvest the roots, which are then dried. The other half of the bed is left to grow more roots for future harvests.The roots resemble bright reddish orange worms when dug.

 Ground Madder Root with wool yarn samples and fabric woven from different mordanted yarns.

Our Madder Plants

Freshly Dug madder Root

There is a North American wild native plant , Lady's Bedstraw, Galium verum, that supposedly also has the dye chemical in it's roots. It's physical appearance resembles Madder. The amount of the dye found in the roots is supposedly less than in Rubia tinctorium. However we yet to test the plant roots as a dye to verify these claims.

Another species of madder is Indian Madder , Rubia cordifolia. also know as Munjeet.
As with Rubia tinctorium, the colors that it yields vary from red, through orange, and orange brown.

 Ground Indian Madder Root with dyed wool yarn using different mordants

All colors produced by Madder Root, depends on the place where the plant was grown, species, temperature of the dye bath, ph of the dye bath water, and the mordant used to make the dye colors fast.

Both Madder Root and Indian Madder Root, plus Natural Dye Mordants, are available on our web site

                                             © 2013 Brush Creek Wool Works

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