Friday, June 28, 2013

Dyeing with Onion Skins

Onion Skin Dye
I've been saving (so has my family) the skins of yellow onions to use for dyeing wool fabric.  The first step was to place the skins in a pot, cover with water, and simmer the skins for 1 hour.  The "soup" sat unheated for about 5 hours, only because I ran off to do other things. 
At the same time, I soaked the wool (12.8 ounces) in water with a little Dawn dishwasher soap and alum (the mordant).  I used 6 teaspoons of alum (this is what I had in the cupboard). The recipes I've read for dyeing with onion skins are varied. Some say you do not need a mordant, some use alum (amounts vary), some recipes say to use alum and cream of tartar, some use an aluminum pot to dye in and no mordant, some recommend white vinegar as your mordant, and some recipes say to use uniodized salt. So, my theory is, if you want to try it now, use what you've got and keep good records.
When I returned to the experiment, I drained the skins from the water with a colander and placed the liquid (now the color of very dark tea) in my dye pot.  I added the mordanted wool (1/2 Dorr white and 1/2 Dorr natural), heated the mix, and simmered the wool for 30 minutes.  I frequently moved the wool about to be sure the color would be more even. I left the wool to cool for 1 1/2 hours and rinsed it by hand.  It was then placed in the washer to rinse and spin, and then into the drier.  I have a front load washer, so I'm not too worried about felting the wool. Here's the result:
The natural wool is at the top, and the white wool is on the bottom of the photo. 
The colors (hard to make accurate in the uploaded photo)  are between orange-yellow and golden yellow on the Ives color scale. save skins again and try a different formula!

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