Dyeing with Turmeric Shibori Style

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Hello Sunshine! I have been wanting to try turmeric dyeing for a while now. Some of the examples that I have seen online are really beautiful. Much like the spice itself, the yellow is super saturated and gorgeous like bright golden sunshine! I love saturated colors so this is right up my alley. I figured that a pillow case would be a good starting point. To add a design element I will be doing a stitch resist shibori technique.

Materials:

  • silk pillow case – animal or protein fibers such as silk and wool will dye brighter than plant based fibers such as cotton or hemp, but any natural fiber will work
  • something round – I’m using a ceramic plate
  • washable marker or a vanishing fabric marker
  • artificial sinew, embroidery floss, or dental floss
  • large pot – a dedicated dye pot is recommended
  • 8 cups of water
  • 4 heaping tablespoons of turmeric – I bought a jar at Trader Joes for $1.99
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of alum – this is a mordant or fixative, I buy mine here 

 Tutorial

Step 1: Create a simple design on your fabric. I traced around a plate with a washable marker

Step 2: Stitch around your circle as shown below. I’m using artificial sinew because it is waterproof and I’m hoping it will give me nice clean lines. Make certain that your sinew (or whatever) is long enough to go around your circle and that you are left with a long tail (this will make more sense in a minute). In order to accommodate the sinew, I’m using a largish embroidery needle. If you do the same, you will notice that the needle will make small holes in your fabric. Don’t freak out, it will be fine as long as you’re okay with the holes. 🙂 If you are not okay with them then use a smaller needle and dental floss or embroidery floss. I’m going through both layers of the pillow case at once but you could certainly limit your stitching to the top layer if you want the back of your pillow to be a solid color. I’m also weaving the needle through multiple times with each pass (which makes this process go so much faster!).

Step 3: Now pull your sinew tightly making sure to pull the fabric in the center of your circle straight up.

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Step 4: Take your tail (the one you left earlier) and bind the center of your circle with your sinew. I want a lot of white so I’m binding quite a bit of the fabric. I would also like a solid colored circle in the center so I’m leaving a bit of fabric at the top.

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Step 5: Put four cups of water into your pot with one heaping tablespoon of alum and four heaping tablespoons of turmeric. Turn your heat to high and give your powders a few minutes to dissolve.

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Step 6: Wet your fabric (wet fabric accepts dye more evenly) and put it in your pot. Bring to a simmer and turn your heat down. For a nice medium yellow set your timer for one hour.

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Step 7: Once you are happy with the color of your fabric take it out, give it a rinse, untie your sinew, rinse again until your water runs clear and let it air dry. Iron to get out any wrinkles and to increase the colorfastness of your fabric.

I wanted my color to be really saturated so after one hour was up, I turned off the heat and let it sit for about four hours.

Please note that turmeric can be a fugitive dye meaning that it may fade over time and/or with exposure to the sun. The alum and the heat setting will help to prevent this from happening. Additionally, protein fibers like silk and wool accept the dye more readily and are more colorfast than plant based fibers.

Here’s the finished product. The yellow is SO gorgeous and happy! The dye pot is calling me to throw something else in…perhaps a scarf this time?

If you would rather buy than DIY go here.

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Reverse Shibori Tutorial

Okay, so this post will get you going with some basic shibori techniques. If you want a detailed explanation of shibori go here. But, and this is a big but, you don’t have to know what shibori is or how to do it in order to make this scarf!

I primarily utilize itajime shibori in my work. This particular type of shibori focuses on using resists to create designs. Resists can be rubber bands, string, or shapes (wood or acrylic) to name a few. Generally, the fabric is folded first which is a “resist” in and of itself and then a “physical” resist of some sort is applied before the fabric enters the dye bath. Reverse shibori differs from traditional shibori in that color is removed rather than added.

*Please note, since this is a reverse process you will need to start off with a dark colored scarf. The color that your scarf discharges to will vary depending upon the original color and the dye used. Synthetic fabrics will NOT discharge (ask me how I know), so please use a natural fiber like cotton or linen. Also, you cannot discharge silk using this particular technique (again, ask me how I know). 🙂 Obviously you can purchase a dark colored scarf, or better yet, use one that you already own or dye one yourself!

Materials:

  • dark colored natural fabric (cotton, linen, wool)
  • 2 acrylic or wood shapes (same shape)
  • rubber bands
  • bleach
  • hydrogen peroxide or bleach stop

Tutorial

Step 1: Fold your fabric in half end to end. In this case I’m using a black linen scarf with fringe, so the fringe ends will be together. This will ensure that the pattern on the ends of the scarf matches. Then follow the diagram below (just ignore the “sleeves” as the tutorial that this image came from is for a dress).

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This diagram is from Paula Birth’s site – which is an awesome resource for dyers!

Step 2: Apply your resist(s). I applied oval acrylic shapes to both sides of my triangular stack and then I secured it with rubber bands.

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Step 3: There are several options for discharging the color in your fabric and different fabric will accept the discharging agent in various ways. This is were trial and error come into play. This fabric discharged extremely fast! So much so that my first effort resulted in a scarf that was almost completely discharged. 😦 The lovely thing is that you can generally fix a dyeing error. In this case, I refolded my scarf, applied my resists and dyed in it in an indigo vat. And I’m happy to report that it came out beautifully.

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But I digress..I’m using 100% bleach to discharge this scarf. This is mostly because I’m impatient and bleach is one of the strongest discharging agents. I used a very small amount of bleach (given my prior error) and then I placed each side of my triangle in the solution until I liked the color. For this fabric, it was literally a matter of a few minutes. But there have been instances where I have left a scarf in bleach for hours before I achieved the color that I wanted.

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Step 4:  Take your fabric out of the solution and give it a good rinse in cold water. Then you will need to stop the chemical reaction of the bleach by soaking the fabric in hydrogen peroxide or bleach stop (available at Dharma Trading – my “go to” site for supplies). Soak for 5 to 10 minutes.

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Step 5:  Undo your bundle and soak the fabric in the hydrogen peroxide solution for another 15-30 minutes. Then rinse, rinse, rinse until your water runs clear. I always give my garment a wash in Synthrapol at this point (which is a professional textile detergent available through Dharma), but any mild detergent is fine!

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Step 6:  Voila! This is the finished piece. It reminds me of African Kuba cloth. So pretty!

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