Colouring white fabrics is one of my passions, or obsessions, depending on how you look at it. I think it stems from the days when I had young children and any white piece of clothing did not remain so crispy clean for long… or the odd stain would cry out to me: “it’s time to dye me”.
Recently in lockdown, I had to look nearby for my sources for colouring a white fabric project. The beautiful golden coloured turmeric powder jumped out at me from the spice rack. I also had some turmeric roots from my garden that had been dug up and waiting to be used.
What you will need:
- A large saucepan. A cheap one from the second hand shop will suffice
- 1.5L Water
- 2 Tablespoons of Turmeric Powder or a handful of Turmeric roots cut into thin slices
- Any white cotton fabric
- Alum (or aluminium sulphates). This can be sourced from Ebay,
Here’s the plan:
- Chop up a handful of turmeric roots into thin slices, or measure 20 gm (about 2 tablespoons) of turmeric powder and dissolve in a little hot water (using an egg whisk). Add to 1 ½ litres of water in a saucepan and bring to the boil over a medium heat. This is enough quantity for a child’s T-shirt, size 4-5 years.
- Turn off heat and allow to cool.
- Add 4 teaspoons of burnt alum (or aluminium sulphates), this is the “mordant” that fixes the dye to the fabric. (leave the lid on the saucepan once this is added and try not to get it onto your skin as some people are irritated by the fumes or direct contact with the mordant). The other option is to use the camp cooker with gas bottle outside to be extra cautious.
- Then wet down your white fabric in regular water, squeeze out and then add to the dye mix. Bring to the boil over a medium heat. Then turn down the heat and simmer for 10 mins. Leave to cool, stirring occasionally (to prevent streaks).
- The longer you leave your fabric in soaking, the more intense the colour will be. If you want a deeper colour yellow, just add more turmeric powder and/or turmeric roots to your dye bath and re-simmer for 10 more minutes.
- Allow dye bath to cool down again, keeping your fabric in the solution as it cools. Remove fabric from dye bath, rinse with cold water until the water runs clear. Ring out excess water and hang out to dry in the shade or put in the clothes dryer. Do not hang your fabric in direct sun to dry as it can bleach out some of the lovely colour you have just created.
This is so fun to do with some older children to help… like my lovely grandson you see in some of my photos. Next time I will talk to you about berries and how to shift the dye colours to more blue or to more reddish… fascinating shift utilising Ph levels.
Tumeric Roots pictured above
From the ever - experimenting textiles teacher, Donna Jones, from the shores of the Central Coast, NSW