I decided to let the twice-mordanted bleached 10/2 cotton skeins air out until the vinegar smell was extremely faint, but not the full 4 to 7 days that Liles recommends. They dried from Thursday morning until Saturday morning, then I used a fixing solution. I used half an ounce of calcium carbonate, which suspends in the water more than dissolves, really. I didn’t use dung. I stirred it up with very hot water, added the dry skeins, put the pot on the stove, and heated up to about 150 degrees, stirring periodically, for 30 minutes.
Here are the extremely white skeins in the milky white fixing solution:
It almost looks like I’ve dyed the skeins white. After 30 minutes, I pulled out the skeins and rinsed them twice, then I had to go to work so I left them to soak in plain water. In the evening I rinsed them twice again.
As it turned out, the fine, moldy-looking film which had been growing on the surface of the madder dyebath got displaced by increasingly large bubbles from fermentation (I assume–not sure about the microbiology here). The dyebath was a bit slimy but none the worse for wear, and it didn’t even smell too bad.
I know I said that I wasn’t going to try anything new this time around except for the scouring and mordanting steps, but I did try two other things. Liles suggests soaking the goods in the dyebath for at least half an hour before applying any heat, and then heating for at least 2 hours. He writes that alizarin, the main red-producing dyestuff in madder roots, is not very soluble in cold water, and just a little more so in hot water. Starting out cold, raising the temperature slowly, and heating for a prolonged period of time (Liles recommends up to 3 hours for cotton) allows the fiber to take up the alizarin as it slowly dissolves. I did soak the bleached cotton skeins before heating. I soaked the first two for 30 minutes, and the third for about 6 hours. Each has soaked overnight in the dyebath before drying and then rinsing. I will post a photo when they are all done.