Dyeing Dilemas

Oh collective knowledge of the internet, you are a useful yet fickle thing.

Long Suffering Husband chose the tumeric option for his hoodie, and after checking that I could just squeeze all the pieces out of my left over fabric (yay, happy dance), I consulted the Wibbly Wob for help on dyeing with tumeric properly.  Cos you know, preparation and that.

So, to summarise what I gleaned from the collective wisdom of the internut:

Tumeric isn’t a dye its a stain. It is a dye but it’s not substantive. It can be substantive. You should only use it in cold water. You should use it in hot water. Use cold water but hot gives a deeper colour. You don’t need to use a mordant. Use salt as a mordant. Use vinegar as a mordant. You can also use alum (no idea what that is or where to get it) but that gives a different colour. The results will fade. Or they won’t. Wash as usual. Only cold wash. Only dry in the shade. Only dry indoors.

Whats a person to do?  Well, first I cut the pieces. Which in retrospect was not a good idea. (And later on, with even more hindsight, I decided it was an even worse idea. Seriously, don’t do this). Straight after I cut them I panicked that I hadn’t pre washed the fabric (uh oh, should’ve done that first (especially as I’ve just made myself something from this same fabric so maybe that’s not prewashed either)), but even if I had definitely pre washed it the whole dyeing process ends with washing and could potential stretch the pieces out of shape so I don’t recommend this. In my case I just crossed my fingers that the fleece back process had somehow “set” the fabric and resolved to treat it gently (what else could I do now I’d cut it).

Anyways, first up I put them in the bath with warm water with washing liquid in it for a couple of hours with some minimal gentle swishing. Then I drained the bath and let them soak overnight in cold water to rinse. My theory is that after all that any sizing in the fabric was now washed out (hopefully) and it would take the dye better. Oh, and I discovered that the plug had helpfully drained the water overnight all by itself. Thanks plug, I think.

Next up I soaked them overnight in vinegar and water to premordant the fabric. (Get me with my technical use of the term premordant, it’s almost like I know what I’m talking about). I have no idea if this is necessary or helpful but I figured it couldn’t hurt and I still had a big bottle of elderflower vinegar knocking about (from a failed elderflower wine attempt a couple of years back) that I only usually use for unblocking drains (with a little help from some bicarb) so it was basically a free process. By this point I had abandoned the bath for a big plastic tub that normally houses my scrap knit fabric as it needed less water and wouldn’t leak. Plus I figured that I don’t care if the inside of a scrap fabric tub ends up yellow but the rest of the family might be a bit miffed if I dye the bottom half of the bath! (Spoiler, I have still managed to dye the bottom of the bath yellow in the rinsing process.)


So, a day and a half or so after cutting my fabric out I started the dyeing process. I did not use good practice, I  hadn’t weighed or measured the tumeric in my test piece, or my fabric before wetting and I had no idea how to calculate how much to use. Instead I bought a 400g pack of tumeric because it seemed a sensible amount (the smaller pack looked way too small, the next size up was 1kg which was frankly a ridiculous amount). I mixed all of it (why not) into a paste as best I could in my biggest pyrex jug before filling the tub to about half full with the paste and warm water from the shower. After a quick mix, I submerged my fabric, holding it down for a bit at the bottom to get rid of the air. Once it all stayed underwater of its own accord (rather than random bits floating up to the top), I left it for several hours, stirring and resubmerging a couple of times to try and ensure evenness. (Oh, this whole process was just so scientific it was untrue).


I think I probably used too much turmeric as when I came to drain and rinse my fabric there was powdery turmeric suspended in the liquid and on the fabric which I’m guessing means that the water was holding all the powder it could (if that makes sense, I’m wishing I could remember more chemistry now). I think that might be what dyed the bottom of the bath yellow.

It took a lot of rinsing. An awful lot of rinsing. I also left the fabric soaking in washing liquid and water to help try and get some more of the turmeric out. Then I rinsed some more, soaked in cold water, rinsed again. Dyeing, it would seem, is not an environmentally sound process water wise, at least mine wasn’t. In the end, I settled for the water being mainly clear and figured I could wash the thing again once it was done.


So, what to do with my wet yellow fabric? That’s precut and I don’t want to stretch. Well, after some thought I laid the pieces flat on old towels and rolled them up, which is how my mum used to dry delicate knitwear. That was yesterday.


Today I unrolled the hood pieces, which were still damp, and decided to iron them dry. I thought I’d just check they were the same size as the pattern piece. The first really wasn’t and I stretched it back into shape, pinning it to the ironing board using the pattern as a template and then ironing carefully. I cursed myself for my stupidity, this could be a very long and unsuccessful process. Happily the next two pieces were pretty much the right size, so maybe there is hope for my sanity and this hoody yet.

So, now we have a slightly damp still, slightly turmeric smelling, hood. But the LSH seems pleased.





One thought on “Dyeing Dilemas

  1. Pingback: Hobbit Hoodie | Prolific Project Starter

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