Nature provides its own store of colours. Trees, flowers, plants and even certain types of soil (particularly those containing iron-oxide) supply incredibly beautiful natural colours. Certain archaelogical findings indicate that such plant dyes have been used for a very long time.
During Seljuk and Ottoman periods , natural dyes became an important sphere of commercial and artistic activity. For instance, 15th century sources indicate that, in addition to the production of root dyes and the development of methods to obtain different colours, kermes insect (cochineal), indigo and plants containing similar pigments were shipped from Anatolia for export to Europe. The same sources also reveal that during the Ottoman period such dye-plants were grown with great care under state subsidy and control, and that in the 116th century caravans used to arrive in Bursa from various countries, loaded with silk thread to be dyed there. Buckthorn, known as golden tree, was particularly a very popular and prized source of natural dye. Discovery of the composition of the dye, called Turkish red (Cramoisi), which was very famous in Europe, as a result of the analytical studies by C. Grabere and C. Liebermann in 1868 later resulted in its chemical production in Europe, dealing a serious blow to the production and export of root dyes in Anatolia. Chemical dyes were introducet in Turkey in 1882 and from then on productionof root dyes in Anatolia began to decline as a result of aniline dyes imported from Europe. However, this pratice was saved from complete extinction by nomadic-Turkmen communities who carried on with their habit of using natural dyes by means of traditional methods.
In deed, the craft of using natural dyes involves a rather percise and complicated process. Degree of maturity of the plant to be used, boiling, temperature, dosage of pigment and composition of the water ( with or without lime) largely affect the shade of colour to be obtained. At present, pear leaf, alchemilla, vine leaf, quince fruit and leaf, dyer’s daisy, buckthorn, walnut shell and leaf, indigo plant, planetree leaf, agnus-castus, linden leaf, acacia flower, pomegranate, snapdragon, wild mint, peach leaf, saffron, wild rose and many other plants are used to produce natural dyes, resulting in extremely beautiful shades of colour.
Reflcting its weaver’s skill, carpet froms one of the most important items in the dowry of the young Anatolian girl preparing for her marriage. Dowry carpets are usually kept for life and laid only to honour important guests. These carpets are only sold in times of difficulty, when hr family is in a economic crisis.
The term “nomad” has been used hildherto in its most general sense. However, former nomads who have become settled also produce carpet in the same way. Carpet weaving is an additional means of income for thousand of peasants today. The woman does not stop weaving carpet after marriage. Expecting the Turkish woman to stop weaving carpet would amount to tearing her apart from her highest source of pride. At present carpet looms at villages have stubbornly resisted modern developments and resolutely carried on this traditional craft and historical custom. These carpets which once decorated the palacas of sultans have also become an important means of investment today.