I’ve had the pleasure of learning about and working with natural dyes with the wonderful Deepa Preeti Natarajan on several occasions (our posts on naturally dyeing eggs and fabrics seen here and here). One of my favorites – and happily, one of the easiest to work with – is turmeric. A great dye for beginners, it works especially well on animal or plant-based fibers such as silk, wool and cotton, and easily fixes itself to the material with or without a mordant, ranging from bright yellow with no mordant to dark green with an iron modifier. Another plus: it’s a dye that does not require heat – cold water works well for turmeric, and for darker and more orange shades, heat can be applied.
As Deepa shared, like cooking, the best recipes come through trial and error, experience and practice. The basic recipe for creating a dye is collecting fresh or dried plant material and boiling it for some time. For turmeric, you can purchase the ground root in powdered form or grind/puree freshly grown turmeric root yourself for an even stronger dye color.
If you choose to use a mordant, begin with this step, using a metallic compound such as Alum or a naturally occurring mordant such as tannin. Then, simply put 1-2 cups of turmeric in 2-3 gallons of water and submerge your fiber into the dye pot. If using heat, let the color and fiber simmer until you reach your desired hue. And lastly, always treat your natural dyed fabrics like delicates and wash with a pH neutral soap in cold water, then hang dry in the shade. XXJKE