Natural dyeing: red onion skins on cotton

Dyeing with red onion skins blows my mind every time. How do these red skins turn in to yellow/green colours1? I have dyed wool yarn before with red onion skins and got an amazing strong colour. This time the colour was a bit lighter, but I think that really depends on the material. The lace I dyed turned out much stronger and this old sheet fabric that I have always gives lighter colours.

I mordanted my fabrics before hand with taro root powder and alum. You can read about it here. The dyeing process doesn’t differ from dyeing wool yarn or from dyeing with normal onion skins. I have written a good blog post about that here.

Natural Dyeing: Red Onion Skins

January has been a very busy month for me and I haven’t had time to do anything creative. I’m hoping that things will change in February. I did have time for one experiment though. I did dye with normal onion skins last summer (read about it here) but I didn’t try red onion skins until now. I heard that the colour you get from them is green. I think mine turned out more brownish with a hint of yellow.

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You need a quite a lot of onion skins if you want to dye yarn with them. I don’t eat that much onions so I headed to a big supermarket. I know that they have these boxes underneath the onions where all the onion skins will drop. I asked from the saleswomen if I could get them for myself as they are going to the trash anyway. She was very helpful and I got three plastic bags full of normal onion skins and one with red onion skins. The cashier did give me a very curious look when I turned up with my treasures, I think I’m in danger of getting a bit of a crazy reputation.

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In the end I had 65 g of red onion skins that I put into a pot, added some water and let them soak for a day. Then I boiled the skins in the same water for two hours and forgot the skins for another day. Then I shifted the skins away and added some yarn.

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I used 50 g of 100% wool yarn that I had previously mordanted with alum and the cream of tartar. I kept the temperature under 80 °C. I think the colour is a bit olive. It’s weird because the yarn looks greenish in daylight, but brown in electric light, that’s natural dye for you.

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Into the same pot I threw in a tiny bit of unmordanted wool to see the difference. And that yarn is definitely more reddish brown colour.

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I forgot the dye bath for couple of days and though that I try to dye some more yarn in it. This yarn was also premordanted with alum and the cream of tartar. I accidentally let the temperature get higher then with the previous one. Wool doesn’t really like temperatures that are too hot but the colour turned out stronger and browner then the first one. I think I could have tried to dye more but I ran out of yarn.

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