That was yesterday. Note sunshine. Thom had already cleared the tops for me. I know you can use them for dye too but the colours you get are subtle, mostly rosy beige, and that wasn't what I was excited about. We spent a backbreaking day digging up the bed and separating out the juicy madder roots from the rest of the ones that also had the last three years to get comfortable in there. Mostly from the laurel bushes nearby plus a few weeds. The madder is easy to separate. It's brittle and reddish and if you really aren't sure just break the root and it will show bright yellow-orange.
I separated out the crowns as we went though I knew we had more than I needed to replant the bed. In the end I used 16 of the best ones and increased the madder bed a few feet longer. Here they are all tucked back in:
A little lime, a little bonemeal for the roots and everybody's happy. Especially me! I got a huge bucketful of these lovelies:
Three and one-third kilos of them to be more precise! The most ever. It's going to take ages to chop them up and dry them without hurting my hands or getting blisters. As it was, I began by washing them thoroughly under the outside tap this morning. It was cold, wet work but I got most of the dirt and fugitive dyestuff off. Then I weighed the results and began chopping up about 500g for my first dye pot:
I poured the first extraction off through a cheesecloth-lined sieve and popped in 2 skeins of alum-mordanted superwash wool/nylon sock yarn (Plymouth Yarn Happy Feet). The dye struck immediately! So fast that the first skein is slightly darker than the second when it took me a few seconds longer to put it in the pot. The only colour left in the bath was a slight yellow tinge to the water. Yikes! Here's the results after an hour of heat (below a simmer) and cooling and rinsing:
So pretty! A little uneven but that's exactly what I wanted. It's still damp so it will be a tad lighter when it dries. I'm calling it "Autumn Bonfire". I've done a second extraction too which is currently sitting cooling until tomorrow. Then I'll dye the Corriedale roving that I also mordanted the other day. I plan to use 3 modifiers: acid, alkaline and iron plus unmodified for 4 different shades. So. Much. Fun.
One more colour to show off:
This is a half-skein of alpaca/tencel/bamboo fingering (also from Plymouth Yarns) and it was dyed at my Spectrum meeting the other day in a mushroom dye - dyers polypore, Phaeolus schweinitzii.
I actually have another half-skein of this yarn that we also dyed but it's still with my friend Kirsten at her house. Another whole skein is probably going into a pale afterbath of madder tomorrow when I finish dyeing the roving. More on my mad experiments soon. And no, I haven't had a chance to do any more sewing. A bit of spinning though. And of course some knitting. Moving right along.