Unlike the other materials I tried dyeing with, madder doesn’t grow wild around my parents’ house and isn’t used in the kitchen. You can purchase the root whole from dye suppliers, but as long as I was buying the material, that seemed like unnecessary work. Instead I bought powdered madder root from A Verb for Keeping Warm, mixed it up with warm water, and started dyeing.
Madder produces some of my favorite fabric colors. It’s also relatively lightfast, and working with the powder was as easy as using synthetic dyes. But unlike synthetic dye, I didn’t have to mix in other dyes to get a color I like. Every shade it makes is just lovely. I don’t think I’ll buy synthetic red again.
Madder is pH sensitive, ranging from yellow in acidic conditions to purple in a base. I used cream of tartar to move towards yellow and baking soda to move towards purple. I found my favorite shades were between the orangey red of neutral tap water and the wine red of a more alkaline solution.