Rubia tinctorum Alizarin is the primary dye molecule found in the roots, it gives the famous warm Turkey red colour. Also present in this wonderful plant are munjistin, purpurin, and a multitude of yellows and browns. For clear reds of rubia tinctorum do not let the temperature go above 72ºC (160ºF). At higher temperatures the browns of this madder plant come out and dull the colour.
We present to you a dye you could spend your entire lifetime exploring – Madder. This queen of natural dyes has made a place for herself in histories all around the world from Egyptian mummies to Indian carpets.
With the most complex and varied compounds present in any dye plant, Madder can produce a range of colours. And while it is harder to control all the factors at work in the dyeing process, the resulting colour will look like its fresh out of a dyebath even years later!
the shades it holds
For centuries, wool, leather and cotton have been dyed shades of red, orange and yellow using madder. This colour depends on where the Madder roots are grown and how old they are, the mineral composition of the dyebath and its temperature, and the amount of madder used. When overdyed with other natural dyes, Madder can also produce purple, rust, brown and blacks.
The recipe for the deep turkey red that dyers love Dyer’s Madder for was closely guarded by Indians for centuries. Creating this sought-after shade involves almost 20 processes that use fat, oil, blood, animal dung and acids from animal stomachs!
For uninterrupted reds, keep the temperature below 72ºC or it will activate the browns, consequently dulling your final colour.
Any shade of Madder is colour and light-fast so grab your Madder extract and start experimenting today!
from one dyer to another
Dyeing with natural colours involves letting nature take its course. The shades you get will depend on the quantity of dye, water’s composition, dyebath’s pH, mordants, type of fabric, weather conditions and your own skill. This means it’ll take some time and a lot of practice before you can create the exact colours you were hoping for.
That’s why we urge you to enjoy the process of colouring using pieces from this Earth instead of worrying about the final product. Savour the moment you hold the fabric that you coloured and all the tiny imperfections it holds.