This weekend I decided to continue playing around with natural dyes. This time I decided to give red onion skins a try. I have to admit that I am fascinated by natural dyeing techniques. I wonder about the person who thought of trying onion skins to dye stuff. Was he/she weird? or brilliant?… was this an idea generated from careful thought and experimentation? or just a happy accident? What did they dye?
Geek fact…. evidence of textile dyeing has been found all the way back to the Neolithic period (stone age)
I am a red onion dyeing virgin. (That is quite the confession). I have read up on this and have seen pictures. All of which has created this urgent need and excitement. Red onions are magic… and can produce a very surprising color. I was anxious to see if I could get that color (you will have to read or scroll down to see what I was chasing after.)
I bought 5 very large red onions. I only need their skins and you can see that I put the skins in a gallon of water. I have a “non-reactive” pot (at least I think it is) and I threw all caution to the wind (danger is my middle name) and used tap water this time. (Every other time I have bought distilled water to know exactly what I was starting with… no minerals or other stuff that may change the outcome)
I put on the heat and simmered these skins for about and hour. You can see the color is a red brown.
I soaked both single ply wool and regular washed wool in an alum mordant.
Mordant Recipe and Instruction:
- 1 gallon of water
- 6 grams of alum
- 6 grams of tartaric acid
- Bring mixture up to a simmer then add wool. (DON’T stir the wool unless you want felt.)
- Let this soak for at least one hour.
- Rinse wool… again being careful not to turn it into felt. (always add the wool to the water never poor water onto it and keep extreme temperature changes to a minimum)
This mordant process is suppose to help with both the intensity of the color as well as helping to set the color.
I added just the yarn (wet) to the dye and being lazy didn’t remove the onion skins. Ben came by and asked what I was cooking. I had him convinced that I was making cow brains for dinner. (Ben was disgusted and said that he was probably allergic to brains) Doesn’t this look like brains?
I could see it turning a beautiful rosy brown… but that is not the color I wanted. (Rosy brown would be too obvious.)
I decided to play with the pH and see if I could get the color I wanted. I tried baking soda first. Water has a pH of about 7 and baking soda moved it up to around 9. (I have litmus paper). This did the TRICK!!! I don’t have a picture of the solution since I was too excited to remember I was documenting this. (Remember this is my first time) I let the wool simmer for about 40 minutes in the dye bath until I got the intensity I wanted. I then hung the yarn to dry.
HERE IS THE COLOR…
My kids say this color is “diarrhea green” but I think it is more of an avocado green. There is a bit of irony to this.. using red onion skins to get avocado green and in a past experiment I used avocado pits to get a pink (See photo below)
I plied the yarn and then decided to add it to a scarf I am knitting. Actually a scarf is the only thing I know how to knit… and well my knitting needs practice before I try something new. Here are some pictures and you will note that the “avocado” green goes very well with brown…. (No diarrhea scarf for me)
I love this green color and will probably be doing this again. I am lucky that Isabelle is very patient…. that is as long as I figure out something to do with all of the “skinless” onions. (had the same problem with the avocados)
hmmm… maybe a tarte aux oignons?
Do you have an idea for these onions?…