Isabella Whitworth

probably more than natural and synthetic dyes, wax, resists, and history

Post-madder, madder post and a blue gorilla


I’m back home after Summer School. As one of few students on my course who took a car to Carmarthen, I brought back gallons of exhaust madder in containers, as well as a heap of bulgy muslin bags containing chopped and ground root we had used on various projects. I’m glad I wasn’t apprehended by South Wales Police trailing my gory drips: the gooey, oozing bags would have looked at home at an Aztec sacrifice. Maybe police were too busy chasing the rotter who stole tutor Jason Collingwood’s laptop and irreplaceable woven samples, some his late father’s, from his train home from Summer School.  The samples have, thankfully, been recovered: they had been chucked over a garden hedge in Neath. Through the kindness of strangers, they will be returned to Jason. The computer is still missing.

Deb Bamford suggested that if I were to empty the bags of chopped madder and dry out the dyestuff I could regrind and re-use it. It will have lost some of its colour in previous dye sessions, but I like the yellow / orange / peach  tones that exhaust madder produces on silk and wool.  As to the liquid exhausts, I shall be blending them and using them on silk and wool for scarves. I need to get on with this as the liquid is beginning to ferment and there is a noticeable implosion when I open the containers.

I looked at the vast array of madder-dyed samples we had done on the course and arranged them to photograph, then wondered how many people-hours they represented. I calculated it would have taken one person 66 days to complete the equivalent work over an eight hour day. That’s without the labour put into the Turkey Red preparation by Deb, our tutor.

Why the gorilla? I’ve been going on about red rather a lot, he is a blue gorilla and he is loose in Exeter.

Other blogs on Summer School: please let me know if you know of more

Cally Booker: A Week at the Coleg

Pat Foster here and onward posts

6 thoughts on “Post-madder, madder post and a blue gorilla

  1. Prefer the madder and turkey red to the blue gorilla – what is that all about? Like the cows and horses all over Europe several years ago maybe. The madder colours are so rich, even the paler ones but nothing beats that turkey red in my book. It is such a beautiful colour and cannot be beaten by any modern red dye.
    Thanks for sharing your loot.
    I am looking forward to seeing the wool museum this September when we have planned to re-visit the Lampeter museum.

    • Hi Marianne – thanks for the comments. I agree about the beauty of Turkey Red. It has a real depth that makes a synthetic-dyed similar colour look flat and lifeless.
      The wool museum is very much worth a visit. If you want to see weaving in progress I think it’s best to check with them first as the weaver isn’t always there or actually weaving. On our visit a piece had been cut from one loom and another was being warped up.
      The shop had some good woven blankets, plus yarns, some spun at the mill, and a variety of books. They also sell offcuts which were snapped up by many of our number for various projects.

  2. Not sure the Blue Gorrilla works for me although I did appreciate the blue sky and waters in Cardiff Bay post SS. The samples look amazing laid out like that – so much work in really a very short time. I’ve started putting mine into The Book and even labelling them properly!

    • I thought the samples looked amazing, too. But the camera hasn’t captured the subtle changes of tone and colour in my picture. I had to keep fiddling with the light and the camera settings to get anything remotely near what I was seeing. I hope you’ve been able to put your feet up with a generous vat of Domaine de la Garance while you are putting the samples in your book. You must have been exhausted, like the madder….

  3. You can use dried used crumblings of madder in Eco bundles.

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