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Posts Tagged ‘turmeric’

The first item on Dorian Gray’s list is: “the great crocus-coloured robe, on which the gods fought against the giants, that had been worked by brown girls for the pleasure of Athena.” So my first job was to do some research and produce some crocus-coloured fabric. It seems that wool and linen were the most common fabrics, with silk and cotton available later in the ancient period, so I sourced some matka silk, wool and linen as my primary fabrics.

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Although crocuses are more often purple, I suspect crocus-coloured in this instance means saffron-coloured and certainly in Ancient Greece saffron robes are associated with women and ritual clothing, so my first choice of a dye stuff was saffron. Turmeric is also an ancient dye and gives a similar colour, so that was my second choice and my third was ‘false’ saffron, or dyer’s safflower.

This would give me nine different fabric and dye combinations to choose from, so I cut swatches of my fabrics and started dyeing. One of the really nice things about this is that all three dyes are food stuffs and none need mordants, so I was able to dye in the kitchen using my own pans.

First, the saffron. The extra piece on the left is the cotton muslin I put the strands into. Then, from left to right, wool, silk and linen. Lovely soft, sunshiny, golden shades.

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Next, the turmeric. From left to right, wool, silk and linen. Fantastic deep rich golds.

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And lastly, the dyer’s safflower. Disappointed with these shades, especially on the linen, but it was probably my dyeing technique that wasn’t right. From left to right, wool, silk and linen.

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I love the way the wool took up the dyes but it feels a little heavy and ordinary for a ceremonial robe. From left to right, dyer’s safflower, saffron and turmeric.

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The silk is lovely but the matka which I’ve chosen has a very nubbly texture, which would make embroidery a little more challenging. From left to right, dyer’s safflower, saffron and turmeric.

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So I’m leaning more towards the linen, which was very widely used in classical times.  From left to right, dyer’s safflower, saffron and turmeric.

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As undyed linen isn’t white, it didn’t appear to take up the dyer’s safflower much and made the saffron look a bit muddy, but the turmeric has worked well and looks very similar to the colour of the saffron on silk, so at the moment, that is my choice for the fabric. Another bonus is that I have plenty of cheap and easily obtained from the supermarket turmeric left!

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The dyeing is the easy bit – researching the background information on my three dyes to add to the book and putting it into a short piece in my own words takes a lot longer, but I had forgotten how much I enjoy reading, researching, referencing and cross-referencing.

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