Collecting Madder Roots


For the past three years I have been growing a few plants of Rubia tinctorum, commonly known as the Madder plant. Madder is one of the most permanent pigment producing plants. Its use goes back a thousand years in Europe and much further in the East. In the West (until the rise of Indigo, another pigment plant), the Mother of God’s robes were planted with this reddish colour because it was the richest dyed material available.

I planted the Madder back in 2003 and mostly left it alone; heading out today to dig it up was very exciting. The roots went further down than I thought they would and it was interesting to see the mass that had been produced over the years. In the end I had a bucket full.

If used to dye, it can be applied directly to fabric, but to make a pigment it must be applied to a neutral base (thus forming what is known as a lake-pigment). Watch for an entry as I work through this process.

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