How to Dye with Turmeric

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Dyeing with turmeric is a basic process that has been used for centuries across the world. Turmeric produces a bright yellow/orange color that can be combined with indigo or safflower to make a wide spectrum of colors. Adding acids and alkaloids at different stages of the dye process also changes the hue of the final color. At the end of the 19th century natural dyes became less common with the onset of textile factories and synthetic dyes. Turmeric works best on natural linens made of cotton, wool or silk.

Things You'll Need

  • Rubber gloves
  • 1/4 cup turmeric root
  • 1/2 gallon water
  • Large stainless steel pot
  • Stainless steel kitchen tongs
  • Item to dye
  • Clothesline
  • Wash the outside of your turmeric root. Wear gloves to prevent the turmeric from staining your fingers. Slice the turmeric root into 1/4 inch slivers and place them in the large stainless steel pot. An equal amount of turmeric powder can be substituted for the root.

  • Pour the water into the pot with the roots and bring to a low boil. Let this simmer for 45 minutes to an hour while the water extracts the color. As it simmers the turmeric emits a strong smell and the water will turn a dark orange color.

  • Rinse your piece of cloth in tap water to remove any debris and pre-treatment chemicals that may prevent it from absorbing the turmeric dye. Wring out the excess water.

  • Remove the simmering dye from its heat source.

  • Place the wet, clean cloth in the pot of turmeric dye. Let the cloth sit completely submerged in the pot for half an hour. Occasionally rotate the cloth with the tongs to ensure an even color.

  • Remove the cloth and rinse it thoroughly with cold water. Wring out the cloth and hang it to dry on the clothesline.

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