Digging for madder…

madder roots

Madder roots 

It’s been a while since I posted something here. That’s because it’s winter and during winter I hibernate. Which means I don’t dye anything or harvest any plants, I just read and knit and read and knit and once in a while I write a bit too.

But basically, I’m waiting for the return of spring…

freshly dugged madder roots

freshly dug madder roots

But yesterday the weather was nice, the sun was shining and it felt like spring! So I decided it was a good day to harvest some madder roots.
It is said that the minimum age for harvesting madder is three years, but the best age should be five years. I have three madder plants, all of them three years old, so I dug one out, leaving some of the roots in the soil for new plants and I harvested about 300 grams of roots. I put them in a bucket full of water to loosen the soil and let it soak overnight.

Because madder root is hard to cut when dry I cut mine fresh in small pieces using a pair of secateurs after I have washed them thoroughly several times.

washed fresh madder roots

Now I will let them dry in a warm place before I use them, later in summer.
The colour of the roots is quite red as you can see. 300 grams of fresh washed roots should be around 45 grams of dried madder. That’s not much and to be honest I expected more, but I guess I will have to be patient and wait another two years to dig out the rest.

chopped fresh madder roots

chopped and ready to dry

Conclusion:  I will have to plant a LOT more plants if I want to dye with my own madder…

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a summer of madder…

Irish sheep farmers still feed their sheep Rose Madder plant to tint the wool. (It’s so much easier than dying it!) And Rose Madder naturally turns the teeth and bones of animals who eat the plant a reddish color, which became a gift to 19th century scientists for studying bone growth and development.

http://www.belltowndesign.com/red-pink-paint-color/

I expected to dye a lot with woad this year but for some strange reason my woad plants didn’t grow that well, so…


my summer was madder shades of lynx

My summer was kind of madder

shades of madder on alpaca-silk hanging to dry

Alpaca/silk mordanted with Symplocos – dyed with madder – using lemon juice and washing soda as modifiers

I’m going to knit a oversized sweater with this yarn  🙂