Turmeric Dye with Different Mordants

I have a rich, earthy, almost orangey yellow in the colour palette of my most recent project. I didn't think I had any yellow-producing dyestuffs to hand, but then I encountered the page on Turmeric in Wild Color and saw the range of yellows that could be produced. I had a large quantity in the cupboard, so I decided to use the four skeins from my earlier mordant trials.

Dyeing with turmeric is REALLY MESSY! First you have to simmer the powder in the dye bath for an hour, then drain the liquid through a muslin to avoid turmeric powder getting stuck to the yarn. I didn't have any muslin, so I improvised with a coffee filter and a funnel, which was really slow, so I used a tea towel and squeezed the liquid through. It stained everything it touched and I didn't have any rubber gloves, so I had lovely yellow hands for a couple of days!

Despite the hassle and mess, dyeing the skeins was easy. All four could go into the same dyebath, as they had been rinsed of excess mordant earlier on. They were simmered for 45 minutes, then left to cool overnight.

In the morning, I drained the liquid and thoroughly rinsed the skeins before washing with PH neutral soap, before drying. The end results were great, with a clear distinction between the different mordants. From top to bottom in the above photos are: alum, iron, rhubarb, copper.

Unfortunately, "yellow from turmeric is likely to be less fast than most other yellow dyes, even when used with a mordant" (Dean, 2010), so this is perhaps not the best option for a commercial product. Weld is a commonly used British dye plant that produces vivid yellows and is colourfast - I will order some powdered extract from Wild Colours!



  • Burns, R. (2017) Turmeric Dye 1-2. (Own collection)
  • Dean, J. (2010) Wild Color. Octopus Publishing Group: London, p87.