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Natural Dye Journal Entry 1: Madder Root

Natural Dye Journal Entry 1 - Madder Root

Natural Dye Journal Entries are my way of documenting parts of my natural dye journey! This post will reference more advanced dye topics/methods about the natural dye, madder root, without going into detail and explaining those parts for a new dyer. Do you have any questions? Please feel free to leave a comment or send me an email and I will answer it to the best of my abilities! If you are a dyer and have any suggestions or corrections for me, I would also love to hear from you! (And if you are looking for beginner guides/tutorials, please check this link here!)

Madder Root

Natural Dye: Madder Root

Madder is one of the oldest dyes around! It has been used throughout the European and Asian continents for centuries. In fact, there are preserved tapestries and textiles from the 16th and 17th center that still host beautiful and vibrant reds from madder dye. (Botanical Colors Blog)

Madder is considered the gold standard for obtaining red from natural dyes.

While madder is widely known and touted by the dyeing community, I have not had great luck with extracting a true red. In the past, I have at best achieved a coral or orange-red color. For this project, I was determined to get a beautiful and authentic red.

Madder Notes

Cutch Extract
Cochineal Whole Insects (Ground)
Soda Ash + Detergent @ 1% WOF each
Cutch: Botanical Colors
Cochineal: The Woolery
– Tannin (Tara Powder) @ 5% WOF
– Aluminum Acetate @ 10% WOF
– Calcium Carb (Post mordant bath) @ 5% WOF
200 grams of fiber
Cutch @ 5% WOF = 10 grams
Cochineal @ 2.5% = 5 grams
200 grams of cellulose velour (primary dye bath)
1 yard of quilting cotton (exhaust dye bath)

(Cutch Extraction)
The cutch was wetted out in warm water overnight.

(Cochineal Extraction)
The cochineal was ground in a mortar and pedstle and then wrapped in cheese cloth. It was extracted in boiling water for 10-15 min. This process was repeated 3-4x in fresh water to fully extract the color from the insects.

(Dye Process)
The cellulose velour was wetted out in room temperature water overnight. The dye extractions of cutch and cochineal were added to a large pot and topped off with enough tap water to allow the fabric to freely float.

The velour was added to the pot and the induction stove’s temperature was set to 200*F for 1 hour. The fabric was stirred often to promote even dye uptake. After one hour, the excess dye was wrung out in the drain/spin cycle of a washing machine and then the fabric was immediately rinsed/washed with detergent. I would usually wait longer to rinse/wash but the color was already darker than I had anticipated.

(Exhaust Bath)
Quilting Cotton was added to the exhaust bath after being bundled in a scrunch pattern. I did not keep record of this process; however, the color ended up much closer to the original avocado pit/skin dye color (see images below.)
(Extraction Methods)
Botanical Color’s Website



* While I measured out the WOF for 2 pairs of hemp socks, the truest red was obtained after my first dip/soak in the dye bath. This dip/soak dyed only about 1/2 of the sock’s cuff on 1 pair. (See photo for reference.) Because of this, my truest red would have an adjusted WOF of ~ 400%

While my initial results were a beautiful red, once rinsed/washed, the color faded to an orange red. I hope to continue to experiment with madder in the future to find a more sure fast way to obtain and retain a true red. I do wonder if the thickness of the hemp socks as well as the 11% spandex construction could have contributed to the final, muted colors.


The chestnut bark tannin is not a favorite of mine. Next time, I would like to use gallo tannin extract or even crushed gallnuts in my tannin bath to have a more neutral undertone.

I used whole madder roots in my dye bath without chopping or grinding them into smaller pieces. In the future, I will be sure to break them down to give the dye stuff a greater surface area from which to extract dye.

I would also like to experiment with madder extract at a future time.

One of my main goals for future madder experiments is to continue pursing a true red. I have been disappointed by the orange hues I have been achieving. It certainly seems that a very high WOF is necessary for the truest reds.

You can shop Naturally-Dyed Hemp Socks in my Behold by Borrowing Color Shop whenever they are in stock…

Natural Dye Journal Entry 1 - Madder Root

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