In 1994 Jenny Dean’s The Craft of Natural Dyeing was published by Search Press, perfect timing for someone wanting to start producing handspun naturally dyed embroidery silks for their new life as a 17th Century Embroideress!
My sons were 8 and 6 when we joined the Sealed Knot, too young for me to just leave and go on the battlefield so I needed to give myself a character and chose to be an embroideress. The eldest enjoyed the re-enactment events and became a fifer and drummer for the regiment, the younger hated them and started calling in favours from friends as he got older, just so he wouldn’t have to go with us! In fact he would get home from school and complain bitterly about the revolting smells coming from the back kitchen too …
The first recipe will be from this book – my very first method used to produce a madder dyebath!
I should at this point say that I have permission from Jenny Dean to show this recipe – although she no longer dyes with madder in this way. For any information on her current dyeing methods please take a look at Jenny Dean’s Wild Colour or refer to her later books, the most popular being Wild Colour. And I’ll just add – THANK YOU JENNY for making the start of my dyeing so enjoyable.
Yarns were scoured and then premordanted for this dyebath, the wool and silk in alum with cream of tartar and the cotton and linen in tannin then alum with washing soda.
Making the dyebath
The instructions ask you to soak the madder overnight along with the fibres and then heat up the next day not allowing them to boil. Maintain the temperature for an hour and then allow to cool. Finally rinse and wash the fibres and dry.
Just for fun – here you can see the first ever skein of silk (tussah) I dyed with madder, impressive isn’t it!
There is a set of results for today’s dyebath at the top of the page, so now there is also a standard to compare all the future recipes to.