An onion skin dye can be your simplest entry point into the world of natural dyeing!
This is because you can create lovely rich dyes from onion skins with no mordant as the skin already produces it’s own tannins. These tannins will do the mordanting for you!
Onions are obviously readily available inyour local supermarket, or you can grow your own!
The onion skin dye itself is easily created and long lasting.
Creating An Onion Dye
Place the onion skins into a saucepan or pot and cover with water generously. Bring to the boil and simmer for approximately 30-45 minutes. Once you have a lovely color in your dye pot, strain the skins off and discard them. Keep the onion dye and leave to cool for use later (remember, never add wool to a boiling pot of water as it will felt with the dramatic temperature change).
As with most natural dyes, the ratio of dye stuff to yarn – or your choice of textile – will yield differing results.
For example, if you have collected a really large number of onion skins and manage to boil these into a really richly colored onion dye, then if you use this dye bath to dye just a small amount of textile then you will get a really richly colored result. However, if you added more textile to the same dye bath, the resultant color would reduce in richness accordingly.
A good start is to have approximately 30 grams of skins to approximately 100 grams of yarn. Superwash wool will give different results to a pure wool that has not been treated with a superwash process.
Although no mordant is required to fix the onion dye to the textile, using different mordants will give you a wider range of colors (as you can see it the photo above).
Red Onion Dye
Whether you refer to these worthy vegetables as red onions or purple onions depends on which part of the world you come from! But wherever you are from, a red onion dye is a wonderful thing and a great place to start your dyeing adventures.
Dyeing with purple onions will give varied results depending on numerous factors such as the variety of onion used, the soil conditions and climate that the onions are grown in. The water used in your dye bath also has an effect, as always. All these factors can add different minerals to the dye bath and therefore change the results.
Although the colors in these two photos look very similar, the dye created with the red onions has wonderful subtle pink undertones that don’t show well in the photograph.
Red onions can yield some lovely shades of green, though this is again dependent on the yarn or fibre base that is used.
The top image is using superwash 100% wool, whereas the image below is from 100% wool, but no superwash treatment has been used.
So, hopefully you now see that onion skin dye truly is the best entry point into natural dyeing! Whether you are dyeing with red onions or making a brown onion dye, a mordant is not required in either case. This means the whole onion dyeing process takes half as much time as dyeing with raw materials that require mordants or fixatives!