Saturday, 24 September 2016

Madder Red ...

I received an open invitation to contribute to the Ethel Mairet Dye Project  - 'Dyeing Now' . A research project aiming to create and catalogue every natural dye recipe from Ethel Mairet's 1916 "Vegetable Dyes" publication.

I've always wanted to have a go at Madder red. So I chose Ethel's recipe 'Red for Cotton and linen', pg 105, and just as quickly abandoned it when I noticed 2oz Arsenic(!) in the ingredients list. I used the safer '3 step Alum and Tanin' mordanting method and cobbled together the Madder dye based on my own experience. 

Now then, I do chuckle when people use the words "Natural" and "Eco" when describing dyeing with plants. Any dyeing with plants needs to be undertaken with care and an understanding of which ingredients can be toxic. ( I steer clear of the toxic/ lethal ones!). 

Madder Reds and Pinks

Madder linens and leather. Madder was traditionally used to dye cricket balls

Madder and Indigo Smocked books -2016

If you are interested in taking part in the project please do contact:


  1. Those are beautiful colors! I've never tried dyeing anything. Maybe someday. Meanwhile, I'll just admire all those who do and what they create.

  2. Gorgeous depths of colour. Thankfully without the deadly poisons!

    1. Thank you Alex! The alum/ tanin mordant process may have taken 3 days ... but wow it was worth it. I dread to think what the results would have been if I had followed Ethel Mairet's recipe(!)

  3. I am wondering what your source is for the round thread winders? I have looked all over and have not been able to find any.

    1. Me ... I'm the source, I make them out of waste grey board

    2. Oic… I love the pattern the yarn makes when it's wound like that.
      I'll have to experiment and make my own.