The economic and ecologic principles of dyeing the wool fibers

Category: General

by Ashyr Tekayevich Tekayev, dyeing expert Turkmenhaly State Corporation and Seyitguly Batyrov, owner Turkmen Carpets Online – February 26th 2003

Independence Era

After Turkmenistan gained its independence in 1991, great opportunities were created in early years of independence by great efforts of our President Saparmyrat Turkmenbashy, for the further prosperous development of the Turkmen people’s ancient traditions such as carpet-weaving, the Akhal-teke horses and the several other forms of the handicraft art that were almost disappearing.

Great prospects were extended to the profound study, research, development and revival of the spiritual and material values of the Turkmen people. A favorable environment was created for directing the endless resources given by the Almighty to the bright future, happy life and the well being of our people.

Contemporary Yomut ensi, natural dyed
Contemporary Yomut ensi, natural dyed

The Independence Era has become the era of the revival of the wealth heritage of our ancestors; their way of carpet weaving, carpet’s rich colors and hues, beautiful patterns, embroideries, and the ancient models.

The plants rich in natural dyes have remained practically same for thousands of years and have been introduced into the carpet production as of several years ago and hence made the Turkmen carpets more fabulous in terms of colors and designs creating the favorable opportunities for the carpet-weaving art.

In the Soviet period the local raw materials of great value remained out of attention and have been considered to “have lost their significance”.  Nowadays, natural dyes have seen wide use among our people and at various levels of the economy.

Profitable use of natural dyes

We would like to talk on one of these profitable and useful levels, i.e. regarding some vitally important issues such as how profitable it would be for our population to dye wool and silk fibers with natural dyeing plants to weave by them carpets and sell them.

Contemporary Akhal-Tekke, natural dyed
Contemporary Akhal-Tekke, natural dyed

In recent years the new methods on dyeing the wool and silk fibers with the natural plants have been worked out. As a result of their implementation into the carpet industry, they have been compared with the previous artificial, chemical dyeing methods, thus revealing the positive and negative effects of the latter.

Consequently, the advantage of dyeing with the natural products compared to the artificial and chemical ones have been proved safe with the exact facts.

The Almighty provided us with natural wealth of plants, especially the dyeing ones, within the boundaries of the mountains and steppes, deserts and forest lands of our beloved land. So our responsibility is to take care of those resources and use them carefully. We have to use these plants in the carpet production and make profits for ourselves and also assist to the next generation in earning a living. For this reason we should avoid some of our old habits and should not allow any kind of carelessness.

Let’s have a look at the exact data. Even a few years ago we used to throw the rind of the fruits like nut and pomegranate trees, peels of the grapes and onions shells to the dust-bins, the contents of which are full of the valuable dyeing resources.

We cannot afford that any more. We should dry them in the shade, thresh them and be able to use them accurately in working out of the sheepskin and in dyeing wool fibers. We worked out the specific methods of dyeing wool and silk fibers.

The so-called “Japanese sophora” is the tree that gives good results in dyeing wool and silk fibers. In Turkmenistan this tree is planted as a decorative tree in the populated areas, cities, parks and by the roads. Its flowers and fruits serve as a dye, especially its flowers give beautiful and flamboyant color shades.  The residents of Ashgabat are quite familiar with this tree as it blooms in the middle of June and blooming continues till the end of June.

Before there was probably no one who would see the bright and yellow flower lying under the feet in the streets and parks in different light.

The city cleaning staff used to throw them into the dust places full of many litter bins. We found the ways of picking them carefully onto the clean fabrics and dyeing the silk fibers with them. The fiber dyed by this flower is the inexpensive one, costs almost nothing but the picking and dyeing expenses are there to consider.  Besides, the flowers of this tree increase the dyeing characteristics of the other plants as well, if combined.

Contemporary Gyzyl-Ayak, natural dyed
Contemporary Gyzyl-Ayak, natural dyed

We should also mention that its flower serves as a raw material in preparing the expensive medicines. Similar to it, the flowers of sandal tree give good colors too.

In autumn, the leaves of the mulberry tree, grape, hazelnuts, nuts, apple, wild rose and the other dyeing plants begin to rot after they fall down.

In their time our ancestors could take the high quality, stable dyes from them and dye the fibers for the carpet and weave the world famous Turkmen rugs.

Our research has completely proved it. If the work on picking the leaves of those trees was carried out before the autumn, they would become fully developed. After drying them in the shade, threshing and dyeing wool with them and silk fibers are done properly, the beautiful and stable color shades can be obtained.

To the number of the expensive dyeing plants, the desert plants like “chogan”, “sozen”, “yshgyn”, “saxaul”, “cherkez”, and other plants can be added as well. Beautiful, stable, long lasting color shades can be produced from them for the use in the carpet weaving.

There are many similar examples to mention. The city cleaning staff used to cut out the roots of the so called burr plants which disturb to the communication and electric cables along the road, even the old roots of the plant have been cut out this way. In the villages the roots of the mulberry trees are also cut out. They are used to make fire or for the other purposes. Now we worked out the ways of getting the most beautiful colors from the trunks of the burr and mulberry trees. Even the modern artificial chemical colors cannot give the beautiful colors that they make. With these dyeing means (facilities) to dye the fiber is easy and cheap.

As mentioned above, new ways of dyeing the wool and silk with the natural dyes are fairly cheap compared to the artificial, chemical dyes. We can prove it by the specially conducted research. While working with the natural dyes, let’s say when dyeing 1 kg of fiber, directly spent expenses include the preparation of the dyeing products, expenses on drying and threshing them, the expenses on washing and dyeing, and the expenses on the very process of dyeing. The total sum of the expenses compared to the total sum of the expenses on working with the artificial and chemical dyes, i.e. buying the artificial, chemical, color changing chemical elements and the process of dyeing with those substances, is much less expensive.

Ecological consequences

Yomut women with her camel
Yomut women with her camel

Moreover, while working with the artificial and chemical dyes the another perspective of this problem should be also taken into consideration, and that is the additional expenses for buying the cleaning equipment and making it work constantly in order to provide the safety and protection measures. Building the cleaning stuff and making it constantly working require a lot of big investments. This increases the cost of the fiber dyed with the artificial and chemical dyes. The third aspect of the issue is that the frequently used artificial and chemical dyes from the ecological point of view are harmful for people and the environment. Because within the chemical dyes the elements like “ant” acid, sulphuric acid and the various combinations of manganese with the iron, aluminum, copper, chromium and of others are used.

Even if all these elements are used in small amounts, to a certain extent they are harmful for the people working there, for the environment, for flora and soil. Because some parts of these elements together with the steam of dyeing products go to the air of dyeing places when the workers are breathing they go to inside their body, some parts of them melt in the water of the substance, along with the polluted waters are absorbed by the underground waters, soil and to the surrounding area. As a result, those substances according to the elements’ cycle which goes like soil-plants-animal-human mingle with this cycling chain and when used regularly these substances are accumulated in the underground waters, air and soil and make a negative effect on the workers health and the ecology of the surrounding area.

From the above mentioned elements sulphuric acid and the combination of chrome are the most dangerous. Their gradual accumulation in the human body badly effects to the mucous membrane of the upper breathing organs and ruins their normal functioning, consequently the functions of the lung, the blood and lymph bundles. As a result, having effected negatively to the functions of the main organs of the human body like lung, –liver gradually it causes the disorders in their normal functioning.

Especially the triple combination of the chrome (which is used in the dyeing process) is considered the most dangerous. This combination of the chrome brings to the poisoning of the lung and stomach, when working for a long time, the symptoms of poisoning appear in the body of dyers.

Furthermore, while working with the artificial and chemical dyes, the combinations of ammonia, sodium are often used as supplementary elements. The underground waters absorb some parts of these substances going through the waters, soil causes the pollution of the ecology of the surrounding area. When there are some disorders in the functioning of the cleaning and protective equipment or when they are not working, these substances go to the elements’ cycle soil-plant-animal-human chain and become more dangerous.

Comparing dyeing methods

Contemporary Ersary Yaprak, natural dyed
Contemporary Ersary Yaprak, natural dyed

As it can seen from the arguments brought above, the artificial and chemical dyes are expensive and harmful compared to the natural dyes. The other advantage of the natural dyes compared to the chemical ones, i.e. the fourth aspect of this problem is that the rugs or carpets woven by the fibers dyed with the natural dyes compared with the rugs woven by the fibers dyed with the artificial colors are at least two times expensive in home market as well as in the world market, besides the demand for the first ones are great.  This is important for the producers.  The fifth aspect of the issue is that if you want to buy the artificial dyes you should purchase from abroad and at costly prices, whereas the natural dyes are available, to say idiomatically, wherever our arms can stretch out and our feet can step on. The only thing that you should work a little more; you should prepare them, dry and thresh them. There is no other work. The natural plant dyes come from the nature so to use them is not dangerous. Instead all the natural dyes have the healing characters. In the past our ancestors used the natural dyes widely not only for dyeing purposes but for healing the sick people as well. Even nowadays some of them such as liquorice serve as valuable raw materials in the preparation of medicines.

The old Turkmen proverb says it is better to turn back even on half way to the wrong road.  So it is better late than never.  Now we have all the conditions for the full implementation of the natural dyes into the carpet industry. The rest depends on us.  This is the time of living and working in a new way.

It is the time when we should be guided by the main principles of the market economy like thriftiness and profit making and to use our natural resources carefully avoiding frugality. It is the time when we should take care of our green plants, trees of our beloved land. This is the sacred responsibility of each citizen of Turkmenistan.  Guided by the saying of our ancestors “out of many drops there comes a lake”, we should increase raising of the plants rich in natural dyes.


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