Natural Dyeing: Onion skins

I think onion skinss are amazing. It’s incredible how much colour they have in them. I used about 115 grams of onion skins to dye these yarns. I got the skins for free from my local supermarket. I might have gotten couple of strange looks while I was going through the onion box, collecting loose onion shells but it was definitely worth it.

I let the onion shells soak in water for one day before boiling them (in the same water) for two hours. For dyeing I used a variation of old wool yarns that I had mordanted earlier with alum. After shifting the dye bath I boiled the wool yarn in the dye bath for one hour (I kept the temperature at about 80 °C). After that I rinsed the yarn. Onion tends to release a lot of excess colour so it’s good to add some vinegar to the last rinsing water. I used wool yarns that I had previously mordanted with alum.





The first yarns on the left are from the first dyeing batch (88 g). I saved the dyeing liquid and dyed another batch of yarn in it(100 g). This batch is the yellow one in the middle. After that I used the colour liquid for the third time but added one teaspoon of madder powder and half a teaspoon of cream of tartar. These are the yarns on the right(77 g).

I think this is a good example of how different yarn qualities effect the dyeing result. I used both white and grey coloured yarns. With white yarn I got lighter oranges and yellows and with grey yarn stronger oranges and greens. I used ordinary onion shells but I also want to try red onion shells. I hear you can get a beautiful green from them. Has anybody tried red onion skins?



11 thoughts on “Natural Dyeing: Onion skins

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  5. Question. I am new to the dyeing of wool. I have my own sheep so I am going to try and dye their raw wool. So I am wondering with natural dyeing does it wash out of the wool when washed.

    • Hi Candace! I have never died raw wool but I think it should work. If you first mordant the wool with alumn here is my post about it And I should think pre washing might be important, raw wool is quite greasy. Wool is a very grateful material to take in natural dyes, especially if you prepare it. There are some natural dyes that are fugitive (like red cabbage) that don’t last so well. And sunlight tends to fade most, but for example onion skins are very lasting. Do try! I would be interested to know how it went. 😊

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