ⓘ Turkey red is a color that was widely used to dye cotton in the 18th and 19th century. It was made using the root of the rubia plant, through a long and laborio ..

Turkey red

ⓘ Turkey red

Turkey red is a color that was widely used to dye cotton in the 18th and 19th century. It was made using the root of the rubia plant, through a long and laborious process. It originated in India or Turkey, and was brought to Europe in the 1740s. In France it was known as rouge dAndrinople.


1. History

As the Industrial Revolution spread across Europe, chemists and manufacturers sought new red dyes that could be used for large-scale manufacture of textiles. One popular color imported into Europe from Turkey and India in the 18th and early 19th century was Turkey red, known in France as rouge dAndrinople. Beginning in the 1740s, this bright red color was used to dye or print cotton textiles in England, the Netherlands and France. Turkey red used the root of the rubia plant as the colorant, but the process was long and complicated, involving multiple soaking of the fabrics in lye, olive oil, sheeps dung, and other ingredients. The fabric was more expensive but resulted in a fine bright and lasting red, similar to carmine, perfectly suited to cotton. The fabric was widely exported from Europe to Africa, the Middle East and America. In 19th-century America, it was widely used in making the traditional patchwork quilt.


2. The Process

The process of dyeing cotton Turkey red, as it was practiced in Turkey in the 18th century, was described in a text by a Manchester dyer in 1786:

  • 5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 three times.
  • 10. Wash and dry
  • 2. Wash and dry
  • 16. Boil in a lye made of soda ash or the dung liquor
  • 1. Boil cotton in lye of Barilla or wood ash
  • 3. Steep in a liquor of Barilla ash or soda plus sheeps dung and olive oil
  • 15. Wash
  • 9. Treat with gall nut solution
  • 14. Madder once or twice with Turkey madder to which a little sheeps blood is added.
  • 6. Steep in a fresh liquor of Barilla ash or soda, sheeps dung, olive oil and white argol potassium tartrate.
  • 17. Wash and dry.
  • 8. Repeat steps 6 and 7 three times.
  • 12. Treat with a solution of alum, or alum mixed with ashes and Saccharum Saturni lead acetate.
  • 11. Repeat steps 9 and 10 once.
  • 13. Dry, wash, dry.
  • 4. Rinse, let stand 12 hours, dry
  • 7. Rinse and dry
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