Natural dyeing with plant materials is not an exact science. One batch of madder contains different amounts of dyestuff than another batch. Madder is one of the most elusive dyestuffs I know of. I am dyeing with madder for some years now and have seen loads of shades of brown, orange, pink and red often from the same batch of madder root.
As I told in part 1 the modern plant dyers don’t seem to agree on which method gives the best red tones. The wonderful women of historical textiles in Sweden (check them out!) led me to the notion that the hardness of the water might be really important.
My latest experiment was with distilled water and the colour is a very bright red.
The recipe for this experiment was the following:
50 grams of chopped madder root
50 grams of rinsed wool
8 grams of alum
2,5L distilled water
Soak the chopped madder root for 2-3 days. A day before the actual dyeing add the alum to a pan with 2,5L of water (here I used tap-water) and let it boil. Add the wool for one hour and let it simmer. Stirring is needed, but very gentle! After that heat the pan with madder-root up to 70 degrees Celsius and let it simmer for two hours. Add the pre-mordanted wool and let it simmer at 70 degrees Celsius for 3 hours. Again, stir gently from time to time. Let it cool and stand for 1 or 2 days. Rinse the wool thoroughly and dry it.
The recipe is quite similar to many plant dyeing recipes. Extract the dyestuff, add the pre-mordanted wool, wait and rinse the wool. Naturally I still want to examine what difference in colour can be obtained when temperature and pH (strong base/weak base) are changed. In the past I also had some good results with the addition of NaOH-pellets.
Next to the above I will also look for some historical dye recipes with madder.
So the madder mystery is not solved yet, but I am a step closer.