Madder Dye Kit | Red Shades

Madder Dye Kit | Red Shades

How to Dye with Madder Root Powder?

100g cotton fabric (Any of them from our store)

20g sodium carbonate (soda ash) - for the scouring stage

10g oak gall powder

15g potassium aluminium sulphate (PAS, also known as alum)

2g sodium carbonate (soda ash) - for the mordanting stage

100g madder powder.

You will need

  • Contents of the kit
  • A well ventilated space with a controllable heat source for 'cooking' the dye and the fabric
  • A thermometer that can be put in liquid and measures up to 100 degrees Celsius (212F)
  • A large non-reactive pan with a lid that you will never use for cooking food again. You might be able to find one second hand. 
  • A plastic bucket
  • Two glass jars with lids
  • Tongs or a wooden spoon
  • Protective gloves, eg plastic 
  • Face mask (optional)

Introduction - important reading

You will first prepare your fabric by ‘scouring’ it to clean it of any residual materials from its manufacture.  This is important for even uptake of the dye.  Then you will treat your fabric with oak gall tannin and then mordant your fabric piece so that the dye will be permanent.  Mordanting prepares the fibres so that the dye can fix properly to them.  The mordant you will make from alum and sodium carbonate (soda ash) from the kit.  Next you will prepare a madder dyebath, and dye your fabric.

Just because the dyes and other substances you will be using are 'natural' does not mean they are safe, so please follow safety instructions carefully. 

Wash all equipment thoroughly between stages to avoid contamination.

Read all the instructions before proceeding.  The process takes several days to complete, so you need to plan your time.

  1. Scouring

Simmer the fabric for 90 minutes in the large non-reactive pan with 20g sodium carbonate (soda ash) and rinse well.  Alternatively, put the fabric through the hottest cycle in your washing machine (at least 90 degrees C, 190F) with the 20g sodium carbonate (soda ash) in the drum.  You can now dry the fabric (pin a paper label on it saying ‘scoured’ if you are not going to use it immediately), or you can wring out the fabric and proceed to the next step straight away.  Wear gloves for wringing out.

  1. Tannin preparation of the fabric

Put the oak gall powder into a plastic bucket, and pour over boiling water.  Stir to release the tannin from the powder.   Add enough hot water (hot from the tap/faucet is sufficiently hot) so that the fiber/fabric can be completely covered with room to stir easily.  Wet the fiber/fabric and add it to the tannin bath. Cover and leave to stand overnight, stirring occasionally.  To keep the tannin bath warm for as long as possible, you can cover with a lid and wrap with a towel.  Wring the fabric out well ready for mordanting.  You can use this solution again after mordanting your fabric, so reserve it and keep it in a cool place if you wish to do this.  A second tannin soak can further assist with good dye uptake. 

  1. Mordanting

Next you will need 15g alum (potassium aluminium sulphate, PAS) and 2g sodium carbonate (soda ash).  Wear gloves.  Take the alum and 2g sodium carbonate and dissolve each powder separately with boiling water, for example in glass jars with lids.  In a container big enough to accommodate your fiber/fabric easily, add some hot water which will be sufficient to cover the fabric easily - from the tap/faucet is hot enough.  Then add each of the alum and sodium carbonate solutions carefully - the mixture will fizz when the two are mixed.  Stir and add the damp tannin-prepared fiber/fabric, and leave for several hours or overnight, stirring occasionally.  Wearing gloves, wring it out well.

The fiber/fabric can be treated a second time with the tannin mixture from the first step if you wish.  You can now dye straight away, or leave it to dry, and dampen again when you are ready to dye. 

  1. Making the dyebath

Place the madder powder into a pan and cover with plenty of hot water from the tap/faucet.  Bring the dyebath to 60-70 degrees celsius (140-160F) and maintain at this temperature for an hour.  It’s important not to allow the temperature to get higher, or you will get browner/duller colours.

  1. Dyeing

Add the fabric to the dye bath and keep it at 60-70 degrees celsius (140-160F) for a further hour. With the fabric left in, allow the dye bath to cool for several hours or overnight, stirring occasionally.  Wring your fabric out well and hang out of direct sunlight to dry. Once dry you can brush or rub the fabric gently with your hands to remove loose madder powder.  Allow two to three days before washing.

  1. Washing

Hand wash the dyed fabric with a pH neutral detergent and rinse well.  You will see some colour coming out of the fabric into the wash and rinse water, that’s normal.  Press with a hot iron.


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