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A Yellow to Dye For: Turmeric

The right yellow for a given project can be difficult to find, so I played with turmeric to see what I could come up with.

Turmeric is yellow, and it'll color your whole kitchen if you're not careful. I've overdyed prints to get yellow light spaces; used it on muslin, white-on-white, beige-on-beige, and it is simple. Although I have used a variety of means to try to set the color, it seems to fade over time and multiple washings. I am not certain whether this is oxidizing due to light or washing out. More experiments are needed, but in the meantime, here's a way to start:

Boil about 1 tsp turmeric in 1 cups water (adjust quantities for fabric to be dyed) for two or three minutes. Put the fabric cloth into this mixture and keep it there until it's more yellow than you want. I then added more water and salt, because I guess I needed something else to do. The solution turned a deep red-orange, which scared me a bit. After boiling in the salt water for about five minutes more, I removed the fabric from the solution and rinsed until the water rans clean. Finally, I rinsed with white vinegar.

Although heat setting may not be necessary, I took no chances and hit the fabric with a hot iron after wringing it out. Finally, I put the fabric into the washer with any unscented, uncolored detergent (such as Cheer-Free or store brands).

It's probably a good idea to dry the fabric in the dryer on hot setting, and you'll be ready to rock'n roll! I got a very interesting result with a piece of fabric that began as beige-on-beige. The background (no ink/print) beige turned a rich yellow; the beige print on the fabric went a bit orange.

Have a good time experimenting with this method, and if you find a way to keep the color from fading, please e-mail me, and I'll add a note to this article (giving credit to whomever reported the way to retain color!).

(c) Copyright 1996 by Addy Harkavy. All rights reserved.


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