DIY: Natural Turmeric-Dyed Tablecloth – Remodelista

Native to southern India and identifiable by its bright yellow, turmeric has been a staple of cooking and medicine for thousands of years. A member of the ginger family, it is a key ingredient in curry and has countless health benefits. Turmeric is also a natural alternative to chemical colors: add a pinch or two to tint the frosting to the buttercream cake, or combine it with red annatto to give the cheese an orange color. I experienced turmeric as a tissue dyeing technique, and here is what I found. Follow this simple tutorial to create your own tablecloth tinted with turmeric in a tie-dye shibori pattern.

Photographs of Dalilah Arja.

Materials

  • Natural fabric (cotton, linen, silk or wool), not hemmed or hemmed and sized to cover your table (my fabric is 4.5 feet by 3 feet; if you use something much larger, increase the quantities of ingredients or expect more subtle results.) NB: The pillowcases also work well for this project.
  • 1/4 cup turmeric
  • 4 cups of vinegar
  • Elastics or string to fix the folded fabric
  • Water

Instructions

Start by folding your fabric (or, if you want a solid color, go to step 4 and color the unfolded fabric). Your folding pattern can be as random or as methodical as you want. I chose to make a loose interpretation of a shibori fold, which is mainly used in the death process of Japanese indigo. See our article on the Shibori Dyed Indigo Field for some examples. I chose this method because I like the resulting square pattern.

Step 1: Fold the fabric in half lengthwise, then in half again.

Step 2: To create the square pattern, fold the fabric accordion, alternating the sides of each fold.

Continue folding accordion style until you run out of fabric.

Step 3: Place rubber bands horizontally and vertically to secure the fold. I used five rubber bands, but you can use as many as you want depending on the folding model you have chosen.

Step 4: In a pot, add 4 cups of vinegar to 16 cups of water and immerse the folded fabric; heat over medium heat. This will allow the fabric to take on the dye.

Step 5: While the pot is heating, make the tincture in a second pan by adding 1/4 cup of turmeric to 12 cups of water; heat over medium heat. Once the two pans start to boil, lower the heat and simmer for about an hour.

Step 6: Drain the vinegar mixture and pour the turmeric dye on the fabric; heat over medium-low heat. The longer the fabric stays in the turmeric dye, the darker the color. I dyed my fabric for an hour, but you can color it for as little as 15 minutes to get a light, washed look.

Step 7: Once you have finished dyeing the fabric, drain the turmeric dye from the jar and rinse the fabric under a tap to remove any excess dye. Warning: the dye can stain porcelain or ceramic surfaces, so it is important to rinse in a stainless steel sink or an outdoor faucet. And the first time the tablecloth enters the washing machine, make sure it is the same color or alone.

Step 8: Let the fabric dry overnight. Here is the finished fabric that brightens up my kitchen table. Ready to create your own? Show us photos of your results in the comments section.

Do you want to know more about creating chemical-free dyes? A New York textile designer reuses the exhausted flowers in Shopper’s Diary: Natural Floral Dyes and Silk Scarves, by Cara Marie Piazza, and the colorist Deepa Natarjan creates elegant pigments from organic materials in DIY: Seasonal Vegetable Dye: Holiday Edition.

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