Dye wool with madder (cold method)
2 x 60 gr skeins Elena yarn
15 gr dried madder roots (cut in small pieces)
6 gr alum
some kind of detergent
Glass jar large enough to fit the yarn in it
a piece of muslin
Step 1: Prepare the skeins for dyeing: secure the skeins and washing the wool.
Skeins should be secured with several tie points. I usually use 4 tie points. This will prevent tangling (you really do not want that to happen!). Also, do not tie the yarn too tightly - the yarn will not absorb the dye around the ties!
Washing the wool is needed in order to eliminate the lanolin and any other impurities on the wool. It also helps the fiber to open up and ensures an even color. I use a very basic laundry soap with a neutral pH or dish-washing liquid.
I like to start by wetting the skeins in tepid water for around 30 minutes. Then the yarn goes into the washing bath - I use hot water (I can still keep my hand in it) and the washing agent. Because our wool was not treated with any chemical substances I leave the wool to scour only for a short period – 30 minutes is enough. Next, the fibers are rinsed in tepid water.
Step 2: mordant the yarn.
I use only alum as mordant and I calculate max 10% alum for the quantity of dry yarn. But for madder I use less (the pigment in madder is very strong - you could dye the yarn without using any kind of mordant. However, by using alum the shade of red / coral that you obtain will be different). So I only used around 6 gr of alum.
How I prepared the cold mordanting bath: I brought to boiling point a bit of water and I dissolved the alum in it. I added the dissolved alum and extra water in the glass jar, then added the yarn (make sure that the jar is big enough for the yarn to move around freely). This needs to stay like this for minimum 12 hours. Afterwards, get the yarn out, rinse and add it to the cold dyeing bath.
Step 3: dye the wool
While the yarn is in the mordanting bath, let the madder soak into a bit of water. When the yarn is ready for dyeing, filter the soaked madder into a piece of muslin. Add the red liquid, the contained madder and more water into the jar you use for dying. Add the yarn and again, make sure that there is enough room for the yarn to swim around. Let it outside in the sun.
How long do you have to wait? I took out a skein after around 20 hours and the second one after 3 more days. The shade of the second skein was only marginally deeper.
A word on safety: I use only ceramic, wood or glass utensils when dyeing and I keep them exclusively for this purpose!
Dispose of the mordanting bath in a safe place, do not leave it accessible for animals and kids.