Saturday, July 25, 2015

Be Still My Beating Heart! I've Gone "Madder"

Be Still My Beating Heart! I've Gone "Madder"

washed madder roots from Seabury Court, Ohio
No, that's not a heart! It's just a bunch of red roots. This follows a slow churning quest to make my own natural paints (starting ~2011, see other links below),  In 2012, Heidi and I planted some madder, which required 3+ years to grow. 

Out patches' roots have grown quite thick, and the thicker the more red you can make them.  Our alkaline soil helps the color too.  In any event, it's 2015 already, so it was time to harvest some roots.  Doing so kills a portion of an invasive patch, so that's good for maintenance anyway.

What's next? 

Most folks use madder roots to dye fabric....and my mom may convince me to dye some of her alpaca wool, and Heidi will push me to dye some scarf.... but I planned to make red pigments.  To make pigments, I'll use a similar approach to dying: i.e. use the mordant called alum (Potassium Sulfate) as a base ... i.e. I'll dye the powder usually used to bind the dye to fabric (to make a lacca, or lake-pigment, which differs from pigments that have dispersed particles with their own natural color); alternatively, I can mince the roots into a fine powder, then disperse that into a liquid carrier.  

Luckily madder roots is not toxic (some dyes are) and can be dried for later use. There are plenty of fine resource/recipes available, as per my 2011 posts (though I have since become a fan of Jenny Dean too).