Dyeing fabric with turmeric

IMG_0168Really? Yes! You can make a fabric yellow — or yellower — with a turmeric bath. Crazy, huh?

Backstory: I made this quilt in a workshop at a local quilt shop several years ago. You know it was several years ago because the piecing is imperfect — lots of my points don’t match. Oh well. It still looks pretty and Christmassy in red and green and gold.

For a while, I had the idea that I would add an appliqued border, but I never got around to it — it took a few years before I finally put on any borders at all, and another year or so before I got around to getting it quilted. It was quilted with a holly leaf pattern, which is quite pretty.

But. Hmm, I now needed binding. And it’s been so long since I bought that fabric that I could no longer find the fabric (a dark yellow-green in the Robert Kaufman Fusions line) in any stores. I could potentially try to find and purchase it online — but there are many shades in the Fusions fabrics, and it can be difficult to colour-match a green online. I didn’t want to order the wrong thing!

IMG_0168So last week, I asked my friend Elizabeth King — who I know has a multitude of fabric — if she might have any of that fabric, or similar, in her stash. The next day, Elizabeth kindly dropped off two fat quarters of a dark green Fusion fabric. At first I thought it was a perfect match! But in the sunlight the next day, I realized her fabric was actually a blue-green, and didn’t quite match the yellow-greens of my quilt. I thought I would have to return the fat quarters to her and keep trying… when a thought flitted through my brain: “Could I tea-dye the fabric to make it work?”

IMG_0170Tea-dye makes a new fabric look vintage, adding a brownish cast. You can use it to turn white to ivory. (Apparently, you get better results with a redder tea, just FYI). But, I wondered, was it possible to make a fabric yellower, instead of browner? I googled my question and found a link to a post by a young woman who dyed white fabric to a deep yellow, using turmeric.

IMG_0166I didn’t want to test it with the fabric from Elizabeth, in case it didn’t work. So I found another, solid fabric of a similar colour to the one I wanted to dye, and tried the technique on it. As you can see from the pic, wow, yes, it did turn the blue-green fabric to a yellow-green.

Encouraged, I decided to take the plunge, and I filled a pot with fresh water, using about 1 tsp of turmeric per cup of water. I immersed the fabric in the boiling water and boiled it for about 4 minutes. By that time, it definitely had a yellowy cast — in fact, I worried it might have been too long! But after rinsing the fabric until the water ran clear, then tossing it through the dryer, I discovered — to my delight — that the fabric from Elizabeth was now almost indistinguishable from the fabric in the quilt.IMG_1022

Awesome! I’m so excited that it worked! Now I can bind the quilt and it will look great!

As a precaution, I decided to run the dyed fabric through the rinse and spin cycle in the washing machine (no soap) before using it on the quilt. I wanted to be sure that I’d gotten all the loose yellow colour out of it, so there’d be no chance of yellow staining on the quilt at any point. I’m confident that the new colour is now permanent.

I’m impressed by how simple it was to do, as well as effective. I might try doing some more fabric dyeing with natural substances (foods and plants) some time. This page has a list of possible substances to try!




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