The Dye in Your Spice Cabinet

Turmeric Colored Robe

If you’ve ever cooked East Indian food, you’re probably familiar with the spice turmeric. The bright yellow powder comes from the rhizomes of the turmeric plant, which have been boiled, dried in ovens, and then ground.


Along with its uses in cooking, turmeric can also be used to dye just about any fabric. While it is not totally fast, turmeric is unique in that it is a direct dye (this means no mordant is needed) and works on both natural and synthetic fibers.


It should then come as no surprise that people have been dyeing with turmeric for quite some time. Traditionally, the robes worn by Buddhist monks were dyed with turmeric to give them their yellow-orange appearance as seen in the painting at left. 


If you’d like to try dyeing with turmeric, you can find instructions at this site. Just remember that it’s not exceptionally light fast or wash fast, so the bright yellow won’t last forever, and you should plan to re-dye your fabric in a year. Of course, the same website gives instruction for dyeing eggshells, which we think would be perfect for this craft

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