Dyeing with Madder Root

Madder Dyeing by Bind | Fold
L-R Linen, cotton / silk / silk in soak water / silk. all before adding lime to dye bath. orange sample from soak water

One of the personal projects I am working on at the moment is to make a Pojagi for my bedroom window. For the last year or so we’ve lived with the outside blind shut on our bedroom window, because street lights flood our room and it seems I can only sleep when lights are not shining in my face.

However, I am a lover of light during the day. And I’ve been living like a mole. So the blind is up and the light is coming in. Now a Pojagi does not really prevent much light from entering at all. Which is great! It’s going to be more of a privacy screen, and then at the window edges I’ll use some thicker linen to block the light that creeps around the edges of the indoor blind.

Anyway that is why I have recently been doing some dyeing with Madder roots. For my pojagi I wanted to do some nice subtle pale pinks with some pale greys…well clearly I underestimated my dye strength this time around. In the past I’ve always used a pre-ground powder, so 50g of dye basically dyed next to nothing. This time I went for the roots and chopped them myself.

Madder Dyeing by Bind | Fold
Lower left linen, above that is the cotton / silk, then 3 silk organza. The middle was left overnight in the soak water, then added to the dye bath after about 30 mins of heat. The other 2 silks were both alum mordant, with the upper only mordanting for a few hours in a cold bath.

The nitty gritty for my dye friends out there:

  • Soaked whole roots overnight and strained off water (saved*)
  • Chopped with scissors a few chunky roots, then chucked it all in a blender with a bit of water. Keep it runny or you blender wont love you.
  • Put the resulting madder root milkshake into a big stainless steel cooking pot with some hot tap water and gave it a stir. Immersed my pre-mordanted fabrics and left overnight. (I went and turned my fabric about 3 times before i went to bed)
  • On the second day I slowly brought the temp to about 55 degrees. I’m notoriously bad at measuring anything, so it may have been hotter or cooler. I could comfortably hold my hand in there for about 10 seconds.
  • Turned off the heat and left overnight, turning the fabric whenever I remembered.
  • The third day I checked my colour, and amazingly my PH with my new PH meter. It was sitting somewhere around 7 (it’s been a few days and I never write stuff down!!). I thought it was a bit too orange, so I added about a teaspoon of lime, turned on the heat for about 20 minutes (it didnt get as hot as on day 2), stirred. then left it for a few hours.
  • I checked my PH after I took out my cloth and it was sitting at 7.6. So i feel like even with the addition of lime, I didn’t shift the colour too far past what it should be at neutral.
Madder Dyeing by Bind | Fold
Just the silks.

The PH is actually quite interesting to me. I’ve checked my tap water and our regular PH is about 8. It makes me wonder if the madder root itself lowers the PH of the water, or if my water was just a bit off the day I tested it, and normally it does sit closer to neutral. I’m sure I’ll get around to testing it again at some point.


  • Linen and silk / cotton were premordanted with soy.
  • Silk organza mordanted with none / alum for a few hours (cold immersion) and alum overnight (cold immersion) alum not measured (few teaspoons?)

*Pre root chopping water – This water is said to be quite orange, which is why it gets tipped off and not used for dyeing. I decided to test this theory, and yep! It is orange. Very orange. If you want to dye orange, use your madder root soak water. I put my unmordanted silk in this, and left it in the sun in a metal pot for a day and night. It was pretty orange. I then added this piece to the main dye pot because I wasn’t a fan, but i cut a sample off first.

I’m planning on doing the grey with logwood, or maybe cutch. Crossing my fingers for not purple.

Exhaust Dyes are below. Left overnight and then brought up to 60 for 20 mins.

Madder Dyeing by Bind | Fold
Linen with iron afterbath, silk organza cold dyed in rinse water, silk with iron afterbath.
Madder Dyeing by Bind | Fold
Organza up close

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