How to: Dye with Turmeric
Updated: Jul 26, 2020
Anybody that knows me knows that mustard yellow is my favorite color. I have always wanted to experiment with natural dyes and turmeric was the most accessible. Check out how I did it!
1 yard of unbleached cotton. I used 60" wide cotton twill, but you can scale up or down the recipe depending on your yardage.
5 Tbsp Turmeric
5 cups of white vinegar
2 Large stockpots that you do not care about. The turmeric does its job really well and will stain your cookware.
Stirring tool. Paint sticks work great
Gloves to prevent stains on hands (optional)
Step 1: Wash your fabric
Before you begin dyeing, wash your fabric. Some say that if you are placing it in a vinegar bath that this step is unnecessary. However, I love this step because it softens the fabric and washes away any factory finishes.Wash on warm with a little bit of detergent. No need to dry because it is going straight to a vinegar bath.
Step 2: Vinegar Bath
The general rule with the vinegar bath is a 4:1 water to vinegar ratio. I use 20 cups of water and 5 cups of vinegar. Mix the solution in the pot and place on medium heat. Add your fabric. It is important that it is fully submerged. If your fabric isn't submerged, adjust your solution. Continue to heat on medium for about an hour. You want the mixture to boil, but be sure to keep any eye on it so it doesn't boil over. Mix occasionally.
It is important that your fabric stays in that bath for at least an hour. The vinegar is what helps the turmeric bind to the fabric.
Step 3: Dye Bath
While your fabric is the the vinegar bath, prepare the dye bath. This part is up to your discretion. I used 5 Tbsp of turmeric to 20 cups of water. I found that 5 Tbsp of turmeric created a fully saturated color. Mix the solution in a pot (remember to use a pot that you do not care about. This stuff stains cookware). Place on medium heat. It doesn't need to boil, but you want this solution hot when you add your fabric.
Stir this mixture often. The turmeric likes to settle on top, and you want a well mixed dye bath to promote even dyeing.
Are you looking for a softer yellow? Use less turmeric.
Step 4: Transfer and Dye
Once your fabric has been in the vinegar bath for at least an hour, drain the solution. Your fabric is going to be super hot, so be careful when transferring to the dye bath. Give your dye bath one good stir before placing your fabric in the dye pot.
This part of the process is the most hands on. You want to ensure even dyeing, which means stirring your fabric constantly. My fabric loved to puff up (seen below), so I really had to work to keep it submerged in the bath. The amount of time you leave your fabric in the bath is entirely up to you. Because I wanted a deeply saturated color, I left my fabric in the bath for an hour. Looking for less saturation? Leave in for 30 minutes.
I recommend testing swatches. You can do this by clipping a corner from your fabric in the dye bath. Rinse with water and towel dry.
Step 5: Rinse and Wash
Once your fabric is to the desired saturation, rinse in cold water. I recommend using either a stainless steel or slop sink if you can. I cannot stress enough how much this bath stains everything it touches (great for the fabric, not so great for your surfaces). This step takes some time and a lot of rinsing. Really work the cold water in all the nooks and crannies. You want the water to run clear.
When your water runs clear, place it back in the washing machine on warm. This will help buff out any imperfections from the dye bath. Dry as you normally would.
There you have it! Freshly dyed fabric.
This is a great method for dyeing fabric at home. The color saturation has held up to multiple washes, and I love how rich the gold color is. I made a pair of 1780's stays with it, and have some fabric left over for future projects. This recipe is really more of an outline. Feel free to experiment with the amount of turmeric you use and the duration of your bath. Have you dyed with turmeric? Feel free to share in the comments.