FEEDBACK FRIDAY: This Week in Natural Dye Questions

This week: All things related to Aquarelle Madder Root

Every week, we are emailed with questions from our natural dye community asking simple and complex questions that we thought might be worth sharing. Of course, all of your burning questions are answered by natural dyer in chief, Kathy Hattori, Founder of Botanical Colors.

I so enjoy working with your wonderful dyes and organic printing gum for the custom client work that I offer. Thank you for your high quality products! I am currently looking to get close to a terra-cotta / paprika hued color on an all natural heavier weight cotton, linen, or hemp for a custom pillow order. Please see attached image for color reference. (This is a piece from my textile collection that a client purchased and they want pillows to match it..) It seems as though your Madder Root Aquarelle product will get me in the right color range, but I haven’t used the Aquarelle products before.

I will be using a secondary darker ink as well (maybe a Eucalyptus or logwood or oak gall + iron) to apply a surface pattern design so the madder will probably be a full coverage background color (painted onto the fabric or dip dyed).

A few questions:
1. Do you think Madder Root Aquarelle is indeed the best natural dye to use to get close to the attached terra-cotta color?
2. How much of the Madder Root Aquarelle would I need per 1 yard of 14 oz cloth? By my calculations, the 16oz madder aquarelle would be enough for 6 yards.. is this correct?
3. Which mordant is best to use with Madder Root Aquarelle?
4. Any input on whether I need to use a modifier to help me get the color right?
Many thanks in advance for your time and input!

I think Madder extract powder will give you the color you are looking for – it’s a stronger preparation than the Liquid Madder, which tends toward pink/coral on the light side and a clearer, more cherry red on the more saturated side.
If you use madder extract, you can get a more orange shade, which is closer to brick, terra cotta and paprika shades. I would use about 5% on the weight of fabric, so multiply your fabric weight by 5% to determine how much extract you will need. If you need a darker and more saturated color, use up to 8%.
You should mordant your fabric first. Tannin and aluminum sulfate will give you a more earthy look and aluminum acetate with wheat bran will give you a clearer, brighter shade, but it will still be more orange than the Liquid Madder. Avoid any calcium carbonate or chalk, as that will create a very deep red color and shift the color closer to a burgundy or wine.

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