Onion Skins & Turmeric

For a recent pillow commission, I needed to achieve a mustard yellow. After doing a little research, I decided that either onion skins or turmeric would give me the  bright, saturated color that I need. After scouring unbleached cotton muslin to remove any waxes or oils, I mordanted the fabric. Mordanting creates a bond between the dye and the fabric, so that the color doesn't wash out or fade as much over time. I also used two different mordanting processes, to achieve a range of colors. The first is a multi step process using tannin and alum, which you can read about here. The second process uses aluminum acetate, with directions here.

Both dye vats resulted in really beautiful golden hues. Those mordanted with the tannin/alum process achieved the deepest hues, while those mordanted with alum acetate gave much mellower shades. In the end, I decided to use the onion skin dyed fabric. Turmeric is known as a "fugitive dye", meaning the color will fade much more extremely as it is exposed to sun and washing. I want these pillows to look great for the customer for many years to come, so I went with the more reliable results.

Here are the final products; indigo and muslin with just a pop of bright mustard yellow. They've headed off to New York for a birthday surprise and I hope the recipient loves them as much as I loved making them. 

Dyeing these golden, happy yellows was a lot of fun, and seemed to align perfectly with the arrival of the spring sunshine here in Alabama. Spring blooms have shown up on the wisteria and dogwood trees all over town. For weeks our giant azalea bush has been sprouting little magenta buds, and then all of a sudden it burst into beautiful, flashy bloom. I know the stifling heat of Alabama summer is coming, but for now it's pretty much perfect here.