The rhizome of the turmeric plant has been valued for thousands of years for culinary, medicinal and ceremonial purposes, as well as imbuing textiles with a brilliant golden hue. Whilst the dye colour itself is fugitive - it will fade over time, especially if exposed to sunlight - it can always be re-dyed and unlike many natural pigments, it does not require a mordant.


The root can be chopped/grated or even blended with water to create a gloriously orange solution - or you can use the dried powder form instead. I used 20% WOF of the fresh root. Less is more with turmeric, but it is down to personal preference - just bear in mind you can always add more but you can’t take it away! Add the pre-wetted fibre and enough water to cover it then very gently simmer in your dye pan [stainless steel or aluminium work best], stirring regularly for 45 minutes or longer to achieve desired shade. This stage of the process is always a pleasure for me - I love the earthy, peppery, ginger-like aroma. Once I take my pan off the heat I often leave it to sit overnight to extract all that I can from the dyestuff.

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This piece of antique silk I had to hand was pre-treated with alum, and the small piece of cotton with soy, but as I mentioned pre-mordanting is not a necessary step with turmeric. I adore this shade of gold, less fluorescent than the shades I have always achieved using the jarred ground variety of this spice.

Turmeric can be darkened with iron extract to create a deep mustard yellow and also works alongside many other natural dyes - layering over indigo results in the most beautiful turquoise. There are endless possibilities and in spite of its transience it remains one of my absolute favourite plant dyes.