If you’re new to natural dyeing, be sure to check out our basic how-to here.
Think of the red grounds in antique Oriental carpets: These are Madder colors on wool. On silk the colors tend to be more coral or orange; on cotton the colors are to the more rosy coral. The true “Turkey Red” which is the bright clear red of antique cotton quilts, was achieved on cotton through a multi step dye process.
Brick Red with alum, bright Orange with tin; Burgundy with chrome; off-Black with iron. Very fast to both washing and light as wells as acids, sweat, baby drool, etc. This is a softer red than Cochineal, Lac or Brazilwood, but is superior in fastness to all other Reds, since it is both light and wash fast.
“On wool, expect to use 100% by weight for a rich red on an alum mordant. For extra dark red I dye twice, using 100% each time. Lighter shades need much less dye. I especially like the bright clear orange gotten by re-boiling the roots a second and even third time, then dyeing on a tin mordant. Rich tones edging into violet can be had by after-mordants of iron, copper or chrome.” – Cheryl
For best reds, when dyeing cotton, Calcium in the form of chalk or Calcium Carbonate can be added to the dye bath. This binds with the Madder and enriches the color. For wool or silk, add some ammonia (clear, non-sudzing) to your dye bath. until the color of the solution is reddish rather than orangey.