The urge to re-start blogging has been nagging away in the back of my mind for some time.  I really enjoyed blogging when I lived in Paris, (keirybeesparis) it made me look at Parisian life with thoughtful eyes and even more importantly was the best way to keep me in touch with friends and family at home and stave off the pangs of homesickness. The knitting community here was really developing, Wei Siew @Kiwiyarns was blogging about so many interesting people and yarns and I was itching to return and immerse myself in the local yarn-and-craft community. It is a hugely important part of my life, the connections and friendships fill my heart and I’m thrilled at how this community continues to flourish. (BTW, @kiwiyarns is writing on her blog again too, hooray.)


Now, with rāhui we’re ensconced in our bubbles and the need for community is feeling strong. img_6438I’m missing my little mokopuna; for the last year, 3 days every week, my toddler granddaughter has been a chirpy (and all-consuming) “helper” from early morning until evening while Mama and Papa went out to work. But our bubbles are separate and I have time to indulge that urge to start writing and fill the void.


I think I want to write about natural dyeing, my garden, wool, knitting and crochet projects, maybe some sewing too if I keep up my newly developing skills, pretty much all the mahi that is keeping me occupied, helping me feel that I’m still being useful somehow and in control of my day. Do let me know if you have a thought about something I could write about.


I’ll start with something I’m literally tickled salmon-pink with. I’ve dyed up some sock yarn (80:20 Merino/Nylon) with madder root grown in my own garden. I was given a root cutting a couple of years ago, I don’t actually know which variety of madder it is; Rubia tinctoriaor Rubia cordifolia. About 18 months ago I split up the expanded root into several pots. img_6583At the time I saved a few spindly threads of root, washed and dried them. Last week I shifted the pots during my garden tidy up and gathered up a few more spindly roots that had escaped, as madder is wont to do. The plant itself is a fairly undesirable sticky leafed thing above ground, and it’s root system spreads like a wicked weed – it will take over a garden. Which is great if you have a paddock, but in a garden where other desirable vege plants need a fair chance too, growing madder in biggish pots is a way to contain it, keep your garden safe, and end up with a useful yield of root.



The latest addition of madder root to my stock

I decided I probably had enough dried root, to have a play.  I’ve dyed with commercial dried madder root already; it gives great red/orange/coral colours and is one of the regular offerings at the natural dye workshops I run at Palliser Ridge Farm woolshed. But dyeing with my own home grown madder is something I’ve been impatient to do. I’ve read that I really need to wait 3 years to get a proper harvest!


I snipped the cleaned dried root threads that had been safely stored in the hot water cupboard into small bits and stewed them at ~600C. Not too hot, madder goes brown at high temperature. The colour emerged beautifully during the heating.

I knew I wouldn’t have enough root to get a very deep colour but the dye bath looked promising. The colour resulting from Madder root dye is usually described as Turkey red. I’ve hardly ever got true red on the wool I use, mostly I get a good orangey/red through to intense salmon-pink, coral and rock-melon orange. There are several reasons for these colour deviations, some of which I know about and can predict, and others that come as a surprise! That’s all part of the learning by doing process.


And the final result from this pot……2 skeins of home-grown madder dyed sock yarn and 3 lambs tails (mini 20g skeins) of Palliser DK. I played with shifting the pH slightly so one sock skein and one mini are slightly more pink than orange.  It’s ridiculously satisfying to see these drying in the breeze, I walk past and admire them from every angle, and even the usually tedious part of winding them into tidy skeins is giving me a thrill. I can’t wait until I have a more substantial amount of homegrown madder root to dye with, but you know what the cheese makers say….good things take time.


Even though these are not Turkey red, I love them. I think there are some lovely combinations here with other dyes from my garden.


PS: I’m really getting the pink vibe going; made Quince jelly this morning from our first quince harvest.  This reminds me so much of Paris – we regularly bought Bonne Maman Quince Jelly (Gelée de Coing) to have with fresh croissants. I even brought my saved Bonne Maman jars home to NZ so I could make my own!



3 thoughts on “Madder

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