Sunday, November 03, 2013

onion skins in the dye pot

I've been saving up my red onion skins and finally had enough to add them to the dye pot.  I've been wanting to dye another scarf like the one I made last year, but was hoping this time for the khaki green that red onion skins can give.

And yay! I got it.
I haven't yet laundered and pressed them here in the photo, so they're deeper in color and much more wrinkly than they'll be later, but you can get the idea.

If you want to try getting these shades on fabric from your red onion skins, here's what I recommend.  Simmer your onion skins in your non-reactive pot for about an hour or until the color has drained from the skins.  Strain the skins out and add your pre-mordanted fiber.  I use an alum mordant on the cotton fabric, simmer in the dye liquid for an hour then turn off the heat and let it sit overnight.  The next day I pull the fabric out and let it dry before dipping it in an iron solution.  You'll see the color start to change right away.  I let it change for about a minute and then I rinse the iron solution off so it doesn't weaken the fibers.  You can make the iron solution by soaking a steel wool pad in vinegar overnight, then removing the wool pad.  The resulting liquid is your iron after-dip.
I dyed the floss with a slight modification.  Instead of using alum as a mordant, I simmered the floss in a tannin solution then let it sit in soy milk overnight before rinsing it and adding it to the dyepot.  I found that the floss took color up better than normal in this way.  The orange is the color given just from the onion skins and the greens have been modified with iron.

Red onions are one of those dye stuffs that seems to be a bit fickle.  Sometimes I get great color out of them and sometimes they're a bit lackluster.  On the upside, they're generally easy to find and inexpensive.  Worth a try.  If you want to see some of the colors I've pulled from them before you can also have a look at this post.

Have you tried onion skin dye?  What were your results?


Whatzitknitz said...

I love yellow onion skins. I save them all and then in the middle of winter when I am cooped up inside and missing pottering about in my garden and dyeing outside I will simmer a pot on the stove. it yields such a lovely yellow so spring like and cheery when it is grey outside.

Anne said...

I haven't dyed with onion skins.
I would like to try :)

How long dose the colour last in the fabric dose it wash out after a few washes?

Lisa at lil fish studios said...

Whatzit - I know what you mean. Last winter I made a scarf out of yellow onion skins and it was just as you describe. A perfect shot of happy spring with a backdrop of snow.

Anne- that's a good question. I haven't used onion skins on something that I would launder regularly. I have dyed wool with them and then wet-felted them which would subject it to vigorous washing and scrubbing, but only once. The alum mordant helps to set the color so I think you'll have longer-lasting results using it vs. just the onion skins (though they give color on their own too). The scarf I made last winter has been hand-washed twice with minimal fading but I'm not sure how something like a t-shirt that gets washed often would hold up.

Maybe someone reading knows and can chime in?

Brittan said...

I LOVE the colors you got with the red onion skins. I have a bag of yellow skins waiting to be used, but I'll have to start a new bag for the reds! I am playing around with tumeric and indigo right now, so far I am really liking the result, I hope it will not fade too much!

Can't wait to see your next dye adventure!

Lisa at lil fish studios said...

Brittan- I'd love to hear how the combo of turmeric and indigo works for you. A few years ago I tried turmeric but it faded out completely while it dried on the line. I wonder if the indigo would help stabilize it.


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