Introduction: Solar Dyeing With Turmeric

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Several months ago I participated in FibreShare.org, a fiber sharing/gifting match-up thing. Kind of like RedditGifts, but more fun. The person who received me as a match sent me a bunch of a great stuff in addition to fiber/yarn, like local coffee and fresh turmeric root, both grown by her family. I had NO idea what to do with turmeric and was really surprised to realize we had a jar of powdered turmeric since I can't ever remember using it. Anyway, with no idea how to use turmeric, I did some research and learned that it's a fantastic natural dye.

It's a good idea to do this kind of stuff outside if you can, for safety and ventilation, but if you can't, take precautions to protect yourself and those around you (like pets and whatnot).

This Instructable shows you how to dye animal fiber (fleece/yarn from sheep/fiber animals as opposed to plant fibers) using just water, turmeric root, and the sun.

Step 1: BoM

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Boiling water

Glass jars w/lids

Gloves

Dye material/color (I'm using turmeric that was given to me)

Item to dye (I'm using yarn that I spun myself)

Citric acid, white vinegar, or alum/cream of tartar (mordant, not required with turmeric)

Super sunny windowsill

Fibre Rinse(or other fiber-friendly soap for finishing/setting yarn)

Step 2: Prep

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The first thing to do is to soak your yarn/fiber in cool water for at least 30 minutes. Soaking your fiber makes it easier for the dye to get into it.

While your fiber is soaking, prep your dyestuff (turmeric). I chopped a couple pieces of root into smaller sized chunks. You can go a bit further and grind/puree the root, but I hate grinding up small amounts in our Vitamix. I could have smashed it up with my mortar and pestle, but I'm not 100% confident that the turmeric wouldn't have stained.

Next, boil water, just enough to fill your dye jars.

Step 3: Inside the Jars

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Add the dyestuff (in my case, turmeric) you want to use to your jars. The citric acid/vinegar acts as a mordant and will make your colors stronger and lightfast. However, if you mix this stuff in with your dye, you can't use the jars or utensils for food again later. Even natural stuff can become toxic with the right additives, so I decided against a mordant (even though I have all the right stuff and have a lot of fiber dyeing plans in the future).

Step 4: Putting It All Together

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Once the fiber has soaked long enough, transfer it to your jar. I added more turmeric on top of the yarn and then filled it with boiling water. Pretty much immediately I could see the color being leeched from the turmeric root and mixing with the water.

Step 5: Solar Power

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From the couple of minutes it took me to put the lid on, get the jar to my sunniest windowsill and then take a couple photos, the water was already a light shade of mustard yellow.

You can leave the fiber in the dye jar for hours, days, weeks, even months. I let the fiber sit for about 3 days, the fourth picture is right before I decided to rinse.

You can also put the jars outside if you have a good sunny spot. Some people will put the jars on (or inside) black trash bags for more solar attraction.

Step 6: Final Steps

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You can let the jar sit anywhere from a few hours to a few months. When your fiber is ready, remove it from the jar and rinse with cool water until the water runs clear. Wear gloves, just to be safe and prevent staining your skin.

Step 7: Finishing

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Set the dyed fiber aside and allow to dry before use. You'll notice some of the yarn isn't solid yellow or isn't as bright as other areas, this could be because of a variety of things, such as the yarn needed to soak longer or I didn't mix up the turmeric enough.

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Bio: I am a teacher outside of Boston and I love making cool stuff! Any prizes I'm lucky enough to win will go directly to ... More »
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