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Thursday, 3 March 2016

Onion Dyeing

I've been saving onion skins for dyeing for at least a couple of years.  I had a very large carrier bag full of yellow onion skins and a smaller one of red.  One rainy day in February I got them all out and had a dye session.  First though, I separated out some merino fleece for washing and mordanting with alum and cream of tartar.

Here it is all wrapped up in a piece of fine mesh curtaining :-

I don't like the lock structure of fleece to be messed about with whilst I'm dyeing, hence the bag.  Hopefully this was going to keep the fleece in the same state as before washing (apart from the dirt!).

The onion skins don't look too promising colour-wise, but I've dyed with yellow onion skins before and knew that that was deceiving.  They didn't fail me this time, giving a beautiful sunshiny yellow/orange:-

I separated out some of the locks and carded a rolag just to see how the final colour would change, if at all.  You can see in the photo (left) that the tips of the locks took the colour far better than the rest of the fleece, but the colour was still quite vibrant after carding.

You can't see in this photo, but the rolag above is actually full of little bright orange nepps.  Normally I would pick these out, but I think I'm going to leave them and spin them into the yarn where, hopefully, they'll give bright little pinpoints of colour.

The most surprising thing was the way the mesh curtain took the dye.  I was pretty sure this was totally synthetic and I really didn't think it would take much of the dye.  I was obviously wrong!  I'm saving this to use in some future project or other - everything has a use.

Next came the red onion skins.  Look how bright these are, I had high hopes for these, especially as I'd heard  they might give green.

Oh dear, what a disappointment!  The dye bath was a really dark colour, but after saving these onion skins for what feels like forever, I've decided not to bother in the future.  Still a useful colour, and I will card and spin it as is, but the skins just didn't perform for me.


  1. how much fibre how much weight in onion skins

    1. Hi Ann, I can't remember the weights I used, but the ratio was twice as many onion skins as fibre.