Iranian handicrafts: traditional dyeing

September 20, 2021 - 21:1

TEHRAN – Dyeing has been practiced in Iran for hundreds of years in which textile products such as fibers, yarns, fabrics, or clothes are soaked in a calculated mixture of pigments and other components.  

The famed Pazyryk rug, found in 1949 in the grave of a Scythian nobleman in the Bolshoy Ulagan dry valley of the Altai Mountains in Kazakhstan, originally belongs to the Achaemenid-era Persia (c. 550 – 330 BC). It bears colors yellow, red, blue, and green proving the long history of dyeing in Iran.

Safavid era (1501–1736) is known to have witnessed the development of dyeing and carpet handicrafts. Some of the colors that were used at that time are crimson red, blue, green, pale yellow, and orange, and what is interesting is that the Safavid colors were very similar to the pigments that are used today, according to Visit Iran.

Using their own creativity, the dyers have mixed the pigments, making hues that are slightly different from each other. For example, two colors of violet and red are mixed to make a very bright magenta.  Then by adding rich yellow pigments, it turns into persimmon orange.

The dyeing process is done in multiple steps. Firstly, the wool or silk is soaked in warm water for about two hours to be prepared for absorption. Then they are washed in 30-35 centigrade water and detergents, and later rinsed and dried. The next step is to add different types of alum known as green, white, and black to nearly boiling water.

Alum is a chemical sulfate that raises the absorption of pigments and the stability of color. The amount of alum and duration of this step depends mainly on the intended color.

For the next step, the dyeing pot is raised to about 100 centigrade. The yarns and the intended pigments are then mixed and boiled together for about an hour.

Every five minutes the mixture is stirred using a wooden spatula. Later the dyeing pot is left so that its temperature decreases gradually. Finally, the yarns are dried in sunlight.


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