Manju Cover

Colouring The Nation
Stana Nenadie and Sally Tucket

Publisher: National Museums of Scotland
Subtitle: The Turkey Red Printed Cotton Industry in Scotland c.1840-1940
Category: textiles/fiber arts
US Price: $32.00
ISBN 978-1-905267-80-4
Pages: 146
color illustrations: 46
sepia photos: 25

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This is one of the season's 'hot' new books. Craftspeople involved with fabrics, those involved in the history of textiles, laypeople, collectors and the fashion cognoscenti all share an interest in Turkey Red. It was the hot fashion color from the mid-19th to the mid-20th century. (Dyeing actually began in Neolithic times.) Scotland was the major center for the production of these gorgeous fabrics. With the root of the rubia plant as the colorant, a long, complicated process involved multiple soaking of the fabrics in lye, olive oil, sheep's dung, and other ingredients. The result was a fine bright and lasting red, similar to carmine, perfectly suited to cotton. Turkey Red was used in saris, shawls and in furnishings -- and exported to the Middle East, to Africa and to America, where it was popular for making patchwork quilts. The industry ended with the introduction of synthetic dyes. The fabrics are beautifully illustrated in this collaborative effort between the National Museums Scotland and the School of History, Classics and Archaeology, University of Edinburgh.

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:

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