Madder Root comes from the plant Rubia Tinctorium. The roots make a dye that gives a variety of shades of reds, oranges and rusty browns.
strong>Time Required:
12 hours

  • Use clean, premordanted wool or yarn.
  • Measure the Madder Root chips or sawdust (25% – 100% WOG) into a nylon stocking and into small dish.
  • Add water and allow to sit overnight.
  • Pour the stocking and the water into dyepot filled with hot water and simmer for 1 hour at no hotter than 50 degrees Celsius..
  • Add premordanted fibre or yarn into the dyepot and simmer for 1 hour.

    Boiling at higher temperatures +80 degrees Celsius gives browner colours.

  • Allow the dyepot to cool.
  • Remove the fibre or yarn from the dyepot, rinse and let dry.


  • Try alum or tin premordants.
  • Try overdyeing the madder with other colours such as indigo or logwood to get shades of blue. 

Madder Root Dye Study

Madder dyed yarn


Look for some of my hand spun yarns on Etsy.

More Organic Dye Recipes

Madder Root Natural Dye
How to Make an Alum Mordant
How to Make a Tin Mordant
How to Mordant Cotton and Linen
Osage Orange
Mushroom Dyes

Medieval Dyes: Madder

Madder and Medieval Dyes
Samples were taken of various textiles from medieval sites dating from 12th to 15th century around London and subjected to dye analysis. Chromatography was used to identify the presence of alizarin and purpurin, the main components of madder. Some samples had been overdyed with blue to give blacks or yellow for brown or orange stripes.

Madder Dye
Nancy McKenna tested dye samples of madder using different mordants, dye times and pH levels. The dye substance that madder produces is alizerin (dihydroscyanthraquinone). Many natural dyes are heat sensitive. Alizerine attaches itself to fiber at temperatures around 50 deg C. At higher temperatures > 80 deg C, purpurin (yellow) becomes the predominant dye color.

Eagles and Ravens Natural Dyeing
Woad (Isatis tinctoria), Weld (Reseda lutea) and Madder (Rubia tinctorum) were the 3 principal dye plants used in Europe.
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Natural Dye Books

Eco Colour: Botanical Dyes for Beautiful Textiles
Using dyes of the leaves, roots, and flowers to color your cloth and yarn can be an amazing journey into botanical alchemy. In Eco Colour, artistic dyer and colorist India Flint teaches you how to cull and use this gentle and ecologically sustainable alternative to synthetic dyes.
UK: Eco Colour

Natural Dyes
UK: Natural Dyes

Harvesting Color: How to Find Plants and Make Natural Dyes
Where to find these dye plants in the wild (and for those that can be grown in your backyard, how to nurture them) and the best time and way to harvest them.
UK: Harvesting Color

Organic Dyes


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