Tag Archives: Madder root

Madder Root Harvest 2020

26 Mar

It’s been 5 years since I dug my madder root bed. It is time. With the self isolation in the world today one has time to dig. This is day 3 of my digging. Since my back surgury I have learned to pace myself. I thought I would record the dig/clean steps for others.

Equipment is pitch fork, shovel, buckets(lots of buckets), wheelbarrow and screens for washing and drying. Below you see my equipment and this morning’s harvest before cleaning.

After the fun of digging and wrestling with the irrigation equipment you deal with dirt before it becomes mud. I move the roots from my wheelbarrow to a bucket, shaking out the dirt and trimming the green tips away. Shaking out the dirt means less mud to deal with later down the line.

I have some garden frames and screens I repurpose every couple of years when I harvest. Below is my frame set up by my water source. I set the sun screen fabric on my garden frames and use it to keep my madder in place as I rinse more dirt off. The madder is moved to another bucket for a 2nd rinse. Of course, these rinse waters are put on meadow plants and other areas outside the irrigation system.

After getting rid of the muck I rinse a final time and start sorting and final trimming. I end up with 3 buckets of goods. The greens get dumped back into the madder garden. As I trim, I separate out the large roots from the younger, more immature roots. My plan is to run comparison baths to show the depth of shade in the young versus the older roots.

Finally, I put the sorted roots out to dry. It is important to dry the roots with good circulation so mold does not set in. I do cover this screen and the harvest with another screen to protect it from winds and nibblers.

Finally, I post this older photo to remind me and you why I grow & dig this root.

Take care & wash your hands! Deb Mc

Winter Garden Chores

12 Jan

Temps here in Texas are just weird this season. Japanese Indigo seeds are sprouting early. Never have they sprouted in January.

Madder root are poking new shoots out rather than going dormant. Mid-January is just not the time for this dye plant behavior.

Being the weather opportunist I had Emerald Landscape local folks out to pull a large perennial flower bed which was past its prime, weed & layout a pad for an indigo pot work area. More to come on this pot install journey later.

After 10 years here our rosemary had gotten old and overgrown and needed to be pulled. Since John & I have also gotten older as well the day of garden muscle help was most welcome.

Since I did not have to wrestle rosemary bushes out of the ground I used this wet day to trim back madder root away from acanthus bushes and save the roots for dyeing. I hate to toss red roots. The gardeners think I am nuts.

Here are the roots after cleaning. I will let them dry for a couple of days and then cut them smaller for further drying.

The garden bed is now prepped for the 3 year root harvest. It has been 4 years since the last harvest. More to come on this harvest later. Where’s my pitchfork?

Sharing a Texas Winter Dye Garden

25 Feb

Today I hosted 3 UT Art Graduate students and showed them the winter dye garden. Even though all outside was frozen or dormant there was plenty of color in the studio to show them. It was a fun 3 hours of give and take and seeing the art world thru their eyes.

The indigo suffruticosa is cut back and dormant but the seed pods were beautiful.

The madder root bed was frozen back but we weeded and looked at the roots gleaming with color.

The Japanese Indigo beds lay fallow waiting for their early spring turning of the soil. Some frozen indigo leaves showed their true colors.

Madder Solar Run #1 Recap

21 May

For a first run at madder solar color things were not bad….I got the orange and reddish oranges but no deep red.  But the good news is there is more madder to experiment with.  Let me be clear, I am very happy with the range I got from my skeins in the first round.  There was a disappointment.  Although I had flame tested a fiber, it tricked me into thinking it was silk.  I used this yarn in the first pull of color expecting glorious deep color, the wet skeins promised it.  The earlier madder harvest & prep journey is posted here.

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But after rinsing and drying the color was much paler than expected.  Both the 3 year and 6 year first solar dye pull yielded exactly the same pale color.  Beautiful, but not what the pot promised.

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I think the substrate I thought was silk was really rayon.  Why?  Remember that I had set aside the first soak/rinse water that had the tannins from the bark in it?  Frugal dyer that I am, I had the same substrate skein set aside that was a Hopi Sunflower color fail.  In other words, the seeds were so old, my dye skein appeared a faint beige.  So it begged to be over dyed.  What better candidate for over dyeing?  Below left is what tannin yielded.  It is the left hand skein in the photo below….deeper and more vibrant color.  The rayon (cellulose fiber) used the tannin in the roots and the seeds as a mordant that allowed it to grab more color.  Sigh, I am going to set aside all the prepped skeins that I MORDANTED with alum sulfate and redo them with alum acetate in order to get the color to strike the rayon.  OR alternatively, I can just hold on to these skeins and use them for indigo and persimmon dips, those substative dyes know no substrate boundaries.

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Well, the dye pot still had exhaust in it and I still had the roots at hand.  So I combined the roots and simmered them again on a heat source (skipping the solar part) and put in some KNOWN wool to see what color would yield.  The wool gave hope that color was still available for use and that future pots promised a better future.  The tiny skein below the wool was a sample skein that I mordanted again to check I had not perhaps forgotten to mordant the skeins.  It rode alongside the wool in the depot.  Nope, color still would not strike.  Rayon, Deb, accept it!

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Since I had two healthy exhaust pots left after this run I looked around for some likely candidates for over dyeing since my prepped silk skeins were impostors.  I had some small silk skeins of different dyestuff that begged to be over dyed.

If I were a perfect dyer photographer the labels would read clearly.  But in summary I over dyed a series of tannin based beiges.  Sorry,  in no particular order these skeins were Lichen pulled with DNA, Water soaked oak gall, Lichen pulled with soda ash, green persimmon, lichen extracted with ammonia, Oak bark in water soak, and acorn exhaust.  All of these combined will make a great drall scarf.  I have plenty of color choices to combine.

So, in summary, the color extracted beautifully from the roots in the solar dye.  The next round will be a heat pull to compare the 3 and 6 year roots.  At this point the colors I got between the 3 year and 6 year madder root were not that different but because of the substrate snafu, I am holding judgement until I complete another color run.

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Prepping  indigo seeds while madder silk soaks

8 Apr

While the silk sun soaks in the 6 year madder root I am prepping my indigo seedings.  

One fends off crickets and raccoons early on in the season with seedlings so I am trying a safe start on Harley’s sun porch. We’ll see how that works out. 

I am prepping indigofera suffruticosa seeds, second generation from Donna Hardy’s South Carolina seeds. 

http://www.seaislandindigo.net/about/

Some of the plants left out in the terrace garden to overwinter are even putting out new growth. I have hopes that if they are protected from the north winter winds I can get them do their perennial thing.

http://www.cabi.org/isc/mobile/datasheet/28611

  

In addition, I am prepping Japanese Indigo or polygonum tinctorium seeds. These come from John Marshall and I am grateful to have them. I had total crop failure last year due to an irrigation dripline failing me mid-season in May. Due to family illness & death I could not save the plants so I’ll start a new seedbank this year. Not to mention a blue color source. John had written a nice indigo overview about the different indigo sprcies here:

http://johnmarshall.to/blog/2015/01/23/just-what-is-indigo/

And for guilds, he has written a nice guild to dyeing with Japanese Indigo, info here….

http://johnmarshall.to/blog/2015/02/05/dyeing-with-fresh-leaf-indigo-limited-edition-2/

I’ll finish with a intriguing yucca madder test piece. As I “walk” my cat here in the Texas Hill Country I’ve been scraping yucca to see if it can be separated for thread.  I had a piece handy and tossed it into a madder exhaust bath and it picked up the color beautifully….

 

Not sure what direction this will go but it is percolating…. 

3 year madder showing its colors!

31 Mar

About a week ago I put aside 2 batches of 3 year madder root (small & large) to “cold” soak in our 80 degree spring weather here in the Texas Hill Country. Actually the water heats to about 100 degrees Fahrenheit. I checked it not trusting stone/sun overheating potential! If you overheat madder root the red  breaks to a brown. Not desirable if one is trying for a red tone.

Yesterday I put 100 grms (3.5 oz) of silk in my batches.  Below is the result after 24 hours in the “cold” soak. 

  The one on the left below is the first & second wash water of the roots before pulverizing the root for the final soak.  As expected it pushes more to a muddy yellow orange.  This is my Hopi fail silk that needed another color. This will do!

 The next two below are the large & small roots which soaked in the sun for a week before I added the silk. There is no discernable difference at this point in color between the large or small root. I expect I won’t see any difference until they are rinsed and dried.

 These skeins go back into the dyepot and will hang out in the sun for a couple more days to see what depth of color I can achieve.  When fiber is wet it is usually a couple shades lighter when dried.  I won’t leave them too long as I don’t want to weaken the silk.

I expect the madder root to shake out easily as the skeins dry. This is one of the beauties of silk. I am curious if I will get any spotting, literature says no, but I am dubious.  Time will tell!

Prepping madder for cold dye

24 Mar

Well, prepping madder root for cold soak is sorta a misnomer in 80 degree Texas spring weather. But I’ll stick with a Tx cold soak.

I took 100 grams (3.5oz) each of my 3 year large root & 3 year small root madder vintages and soaked them in 4 cups of water in the sun yesterday and overnight. Result was softened roots with the dirt and skin loosened.

I strained off the first 4 cups of water, set it aside and cut the larger roots with scissors so they would not jam my blender.  Then into the blender with 4 more cups of water.

The first blend water was poured off again and reserved with the overnight soak water. You could see the dirt and skin that had loosened.

Into the blender one more time on high and the roots were pulverized for more soaking. Pouring off the soak water and the first blend water will, I hope, keep the brown accents out of my red.

The madder slurry was poured back into the holding jar with its water and set out to sun simmer again for a couple of sun days until I am ready to add my silk.

Now, you can bet after this effort that I cringed when I lost some of my dye stock on the floor by pouring too fast. Grrr, breath and go slow, the madder has already taken 6 years to grow. What is my hurry?

I repeated the process with another batch of my 3 year small root vintage and reserved the wash water again.

So now, the 3 &year small and large roots are solar heating for age color comparisons.  The wash pull is waiting for me to do something with it. Hmmmm, pull pigment or dye silk, choices exist.

note: edited 3/20 to reflect batches processed were 3 year large root and small root…100 Grams each!

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