Madder Dye Study

During winter months, I tend to dye yarns mostly with acid based dyes because they are quick reacting and simple to work with. Now that it is spring and the sun is shining, I can again do some dye work outside so work more with natural plant dyes. Natural dye baths and mordants require much more time to prepare so I leave dye pots outside to steep and do their thing.

Today I am experimenting with madder root, trying out different temperatures and pH levels to see what happens. Alizarin and Purpurin are the main components of madder. Alizerine (reds)attaches itself to fiber at temperatures around 50 deg C. At higher temperatures > 80 deg C, purpurin (yellows) becomes the predominant dye color. For each dye bath I am dyeing approx 100 grams of fiber, using white Romney fleece and natural grey roving.

I have prepared an alum mordant, using 10 grams of alum and 5 grams of tartaric acid.
For subsequent mordants, I reuse the same mordant bath but add an additional 5 grams of alum. I check the pH level and if this increases above pH 4 I add a bit more tartaric acid.

Madder, like many other natural dye substances, is sensitive to heat and pH levels. At different temperatures or pH, you will get different colors.

In the first experiment, I used 15 grams of madder root powder, tied up in a nylon stocking.
I put the madder root into a dyebath and brought the temperature to around 40-50 deg C and let it cook for about an hour.
Then I added the scoured and mordanted wool. I let the dyebath simmer for a few hours, keeping the temperature below 50 deg C. I turned off the heat and let the dyebath cool and sit overnight.
I removed the dyed fleece from the dyebath the following day.
madder dye pot
PH 4
madder root dye

pH Test Meter

A tool that I find invaluable when working with natural dyes is a good quality pH test meter.
Oakton EcoTestr pH 2 Waterproof pH Tester, 0.0 to 14.0 pH Range
madder dyed yarn
Hand spun yarn dyed with madder

More Organic Dye Recipes

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

Natural Dye Books

Colour Cauldron

Wild Color, Revised and Updated Edition: The Complete Guide to Making and Using Natural Dyes

Where to Buy Madder

Madder root natural dye, dye extracts and mordants.

Dyeing Crafts
Wild Colours

Natural Dyes and Mordants


Ebay Finds

Jacquard Products Jacquard Alum, 1-Pound - Current price: $10.39

Soda Ash for Fiber Reactive Dyes - 1 Pound - Current price: $8.86

Jacquard Marbling Kit for Fabric and Paper - Current price: $20.68

Soda Ash for Fiber Reactive Dyes - 1 Pound - Current price: $8.79

Jacquard Products Jacquard Alum Powdered Presoak Aluminum Sulfate1 Pound NEW - Current price: $11.94

Soda Ash for Fiber Reactive Dyes - 1 Pound New - Current price: $8.39

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This page last edited on August 6, 2017


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