How to dye a cotton bag with turmeric
Dyeing with natural ingredients is prime for experimentation. Even using well water rather than distilled water will change color permanence and shade. Different mordants—substances used to set the dye in fabric—also produce different results.
Turmeric is a great natural dye for beginners. It yields a warm gold color on undyed natural cotton fabrics, silk and wool. A note of caution: The color will fade quickly if washed very often. Try dyeing cotton bags, silk scarves or other items that don’t need to be washed frequently.
This process is simple and fun to try with kids.
- 2 large stockpots (one can be a slow cooker)
- Undyed 100% cotton bag for produce or groceries
- 3 gallons water (distilled is preferable)
- 3 tablespoons alum (or substitute vinegar)
- 3 tablespoons ground turmeric
- Protective gloves so you don’t stain your hands
- Strainer or cheesecloth
Prepare the bag for dyeing
Bring a large stockpot of water to boil. Turn off the heat. Using tongs, submerge the bag in the hot water and swish around for a minute. Remove and set in a bowl.
Stir alum into the water until dissolved. Using the tongs, submerge the bag again and swish around several times. You can either remove the bag and dry it, then dye the fabric another day, or you can proceed to the dyeing process right away.
Choose one method below
On the stove top:
Create a dye bath by filling a large pot with 2 gallons of water. Bring to a boil and stir in 3 tablespoons of turmeric. Turn off the heat. Use the tongs to submerge the bag and stir. Allow this to cool for several hours or up to a day. You can reheat multiple times to extract more color from the dyebath. Put on the gloves and pour the dyebath and bag over a strainer or cheesecloth into another pot or bowl, reserving the liquid if you want to dye something else. Rinse the bag under running water until the water runs clear. Dry in a clothes dryer to set the dye.
In a slow cooker:
Add 1 to 2 gallons of water and stir in 3 tablespoons of turmeric. Using tongs, submerge the bag in the dyebath. Leave the slow cooker on high heat for 3 or 4 hours or on low heat for 7 or 8 hours. Turn off the heat and let the dyebath and bag cool to room temperature. Put on the gloves and pour the dyebath and bag over a strainer or cheesecloth into another pot or bowl, reserving the liquid if you want to dye something else. Rinse the bag under running water until the water runs clear. Dry in a clothes dryer to set the dye.