Weekend Dyeing with Red Onions

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.)

Onion Dye 08

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)

Onion Dye 05

I put on the heat and simmered these skins for about and hour.   You can see the color is a red brown.

Onion Dye 06

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
  1. Bring mixture up to a simmer then add wool.   (DON’T stir the wool unless you want felt.)  
  2. Let this soak for at least one hour.
  3. 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.

Onion Dye 04

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.)

Red Cabbage and Bean Dye 04

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.

Onion Dye 03
Green color from red onion skins


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)

Pink color from avocado pits

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)

Onion Dye 02

Onion Dye 01

Onion Dye 00

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?…

Last Minute Christmas Preparation

Leaving for India so close to Christmas time has left me to do all of my Christmas preparation at the last minute.  (… of course I would probably be in the same situation had I not left since I always put it off to the last minute… it is just nice to have the India trip as an excuse)

One thing that I wanted to get done is finish another “natural dyed yarn” for my mother.  The first one I did (here is that post) doesn’t seem like really enough yarn to make it feel like a present worthy of a mother.  I wanted to give her at least two skeins of yarn…so I decided to try to make another skein and   I thought I could share this in a very short post. (Sorry I am in such a hurry I will not go into to much detail on how it was done…)


I started spinning last night till very late in the night… almost all night (I wasn’t bad since I am still 12 and 1/2 hours off of my normal schedule).   I spun two sets of wool top that I had dyed.  The darker “mustard” color was dyed  with annatto (same annatto I use when making mimolette cheese).  The second tan color is dyed with some weed in the field next to my home. (was hoping it would be a green… but it turned a yellow/tan).


Here is the yarn (two ply).   I am not sure if I like it or not but… my mother will say she likes it even if she doesn’t.


Here is the final yarn… curious to what everyone thinks…   might be good for a scarf (if you don’t mind ugly scarfs)


Weekend with Niddy Noddy

What the heck is a niddy noddy… I didn’t have a clue until Madgeface (feel like I am mocking her when I call her that)  told me that I was missing a step in my wool spinning for my weaving project.   This week not only did I make a niddy noddy, I tried for the first time to ply some wool yarn (hmmm….niddy noddy…sounds like made up words….  similar to saying I made a thingamabob).  If you are looking for expert advice… this is probably not the place… but if you are curious or if you just want to “mock” a novice…  keep reading.


I had some left over natural brown/black wool… from my  Human Hair – Wool yarn (whair) project… So I spun it on a bottom whorl drop spindle (that is a mouth full) which you can see from the picture above.


I wanted to ply two colors so for the second color I had some left over black bean dyed wool.  This was an earlier experiment and I loved the cool gray/blue color that was created from the beans.   I will not go into detail on the process but it is very simple… in fact here is picture from that experiment.

Here are the beans that have been soaking over night.   I removed them and added the wool (that had been soaked in a mordant) to the beanwater and let it sit over night.   That is practically all there was to it…

The next step is to ply the two yarns… (and hope the two colors don’t look horrible together).   I fortunately always spin my singles clockwise… This means that when I ply I should spin in the opposite direction… counter clockwise.   Wished I could say I am incredibly coordinated and this was simple… but it took a bit of time to get use to spinning in the “wrong” direction and having two threads.

plying yarn.jpg

Sam (my 12 year old son) took this photo while I was plying the two threads together.  (thank goodness… I don’t look uncoordinated in the picture…and I know you are wonder about the duck… I got it at a yard sell…).  When I ran out of one of the threads (the brown one) I stopped and started winding the thread around my niddy noddy (that almost sounds dirty).


I made the niddy noddy out of a copper tube and two copper tees.   I was going to cut dowels for the ends where the yarn wraps around… but I got lazy.  I will do this in the future (if it seems necessary… not sure if it is or not).   The niddy noddy height is  only 10 inches… I didn’t think about making it a standard size so it would be easy to determine how many yards of yarn I had.


Here is all of the yarn wrapped and washed waiting to dry.   I am not sure about the color but it seems to be “ok” and for my first two ply yarn I do not feel horrible.

first two ply yarn.jpg

Here is the yarn off of the niddy noddy and after measuring the length and counting the threads I calculated about 50 yards… hmmm what can you make with 50 yards…  I guess it could be a stripe in some sweater… (of course I would have to learn how to knit).

By the way… if you are an expert in this and see any mistakes or things I could do better or should have done please leave a comment.  I would love to get some advice.




Weekend with the Loom

This weekend I spent my time with the Loom… (not to be mistaken with fruit of the loom…   fruit and a loom is a strange combination if you really think about it).   I still feel very novice and I am going to update you on my weaving…   add some more “ah ha” moments and hopefully get some advice from some of my “expert weaver” readers.


This is where I left off from the last time I had a weaving post.   I had one shed bar, a homemade paper clip heddle bar and a large dowel.  I have since added another weaving blade… that has made things much easier.  I have also changed my design.  I wanted to make sure I “highlighted” some of the wool that I had dyed.

I will be using both the cochineal and the woad dyed wool…   along with the various natural gray and white wool.  I deviated from the original simple design… now I am not sure about the new design… would love feed back in the comments after you see where it is now.  (Be gentle… you don’t want to make my cry by saying … boy that new design is hideous…)

I am going to try to finish it off with Damascus edging… (advice from mosaicthinking)… not sure that I have enough warp at the bottom…   but will try anyway… next time I will add cardboard spacers… another bit of great advice from mosaic… (so awesome to get advice… if you have any please feel welcome to offer it.)


The paper clip heddle has saved me so much time.  You can see how easy it is to put in the shed bar while I pull out on the dowel with the paper clips..(Ben took this picture… I think he did a great job) .  This is a big time saver since before this I was weaving the shed back and forth and would often miss a thread…  Now spinning the wool yarn is the thing that takes the majority of the time.   I am wondering how much faster a spinning wheel is compared to a drop whorl…  spinning wheels are so expensive… trying to justify the cost.


Speaking of hand spun yarn… Do you see how much kinetic energy is in the yarn… It is twisting up on itself and is not very manageable.(this yarn acts a lot like my children)  I think I am missing a step.   I have been simply spinning a single ply and than weaving.  Is there something I should be doing to the newly spun thread before I weave with it?… should I be plying it?…   (sorry I am asking more questions that offering useful information… hopefully someone will answer this in the comments and other can benefit…).

Loom Weaving 3.jpg

One thing that I know that has been working very well is “scalloping” the weft to make sure that it isn’t too tight which will cause the work to “weave in” like my first attempt.   I have also learned that if you scallop the yarn when the shed bar is out or turned flat it will help keep the weft from twisting around (my work around for my highly “kinetic” yarn)


You will note that my second attempt is not weaving in like the first… (yeah!!)… BUT I still have some ugly edges.  In my fear of pulling too tight I have been leaving extra yarn at the edge and it doesn’t look great… (yes…fear can be ugly)  I have been trying to be more careful and you can see the edge improve about half way up.   Does anyone have advice for this?


Here is the design so far…   I will continue the red white up for about 10 more inches this will be the half way point… than I will mirror the bottom as I do the top half so it is symmetrical.   Any thoughts on the design?    (my wife hates the blue…)   Look forward to your comments and suggestions… thanks in advance.



Weekend Wexit

This weekend we will be preparing for our vacation to France… (OFF FOR THREE WEEKS… and I am Excited).  The Poppies in the featured image have nothing to do with this preparing… I took this picture at my bunker…thought they were beautiful… and  wanted to share them.

SO…. While packing and finishing up last minute errands…  and in addition to finishing the Cyanotype chemicals (boy that sounds a bit nefarious) posted previously (here)  I thought I would  sneak in a post of some random “Crap”… before we leave….  Hopefully this won’t be too boring.

Random Thing One:

I have to start over on my rug because it started weaving in… (over two inches… and I don’t know what to do… I am a bit sad…well not sad but frustrated. ).  Before leaving I decided to cut it off the loom at just over 1/3 done then I washed and dried it.   It looks “ok”… or maybe not…not sure …curious about what other’s think… When I get back I am going to restart a new rug (lick the spatula) and research more on “what not to do”.


Random Thing Two:

My mother gave me a “natural dye” thingy… not sure what to call it… but I think I want to make my own… when I get back…   I have dyed wool with annatto,  cabbage, black beans, cochineal and woad… I want try Nettle…   I think with those six colors I could make something really nice… (below is the one that my mother gave me… and I just noticed this is turning into a what I want to do… not what I have done…)


Random Thing Three:


Friday I received another “gift of Hair”… and before I leave I wanted to do something with the hair that was offered me earlier this week (click here if you missed this).   So I decided to make a Hair Bracelet…  I spun it like wool… but with no wool added… (tamed it a bit with hair gel once it was spun… )  I then tied a “hair friendship bracelet”.



Last Random Thing:

I had to vacuum pack all of the cheese (including the raclette I introduced here)in my cheese cave..  ( I haven’t made any for over a month… because I knew I was leaving).   I have to vacuum pack them because I wont be there to wash the rind…   I will begin making more cheese when I get back… and will share another recipe when I get back.


THAT is all I have time for… Keep nearby… I will be sharing some awesome pictures of France over the next three weeks…









Weekend with Woad

Hey… I am back to wool (no hair this weekend) and I am going to play with “woad”.   Why woad?… Here are my reasons!

  • Saying weekend with woad sounds awesome
  • I am a “woad virgin”… (no scoffing or mocking….  I don’t know what will happen… could be exciting or disappointing.. but I will find it interesting in any case.)
  • I like dying (and or staining) things and I love blue
  • Woad is a natural dye and has a very rich history
  • During the french revolution France was not able to get indigo.  Napoleon revitalized woad dying in france with a contest… the army uniform was blue and Napoleon wanted it to stay blue… the french dyers using woad were able to get a blue similar to the indigo dye… and thus the blue army uniform was saved by woad….(actually this isn’t a real reason… just wrote this for my  french wife)woad

I almost bought woad seeds to grow in my yard… but was informed that locally woad is considered a  “noxious weed“.. if you read the (link) you will note in a county near where I live… they refer to this plant as an “evader” and “infestation”.  I have friends… that told me when they were kids they were paid per garbage bag for removing this plant.   With this in mind I made the decision not to grow this plant… and  did the next best thing….bought woad powder on etsy from DragonDyeworks.. (who were awesome… fast… and really helpful)

The rest of this blog will be a step by step guide of how to (or possibly how not to) dye wool using woad.  For those that don’t care (wow that hurts a little… ) or don’t want to read all the steps I am giving you below the “cliff notes” version.



AFTER (just a bit uneven…)


(remember no mocking… first time… I am a novice… I still love the color and spun this might look fantastic)

I guess I wouldn’t have won Napoleon’s contest… unless he wanted camouflaged uniforms… (“sky camouflaged“….  his solders could blend in with the sky and clouds…)

For those interested in how to do this … or those of you who aren’t woad virgins and want to help me fix my uneven dye…click on continue reading (… kind of like the way “woad  virgin” sounds)

Continue reading “Weekend with Woad”

Weekend with Warp and Weft

You may have read an earlier post of mine when I spoke about my “urges”… Not the cheese urges but spending a Weekend with the Cochineals and the urge to dye something red.  If you remember I dyed (not died) some wool red and then I spun it into yarn.   Then I said I need to do fun things with it..  well   that is what this weekend is about.   It so happens that I finally got my loom after a long wait!!!  I will be weaving (or starting to weave) my first blanket/rug (depending on how it turns out).    Unlike cheese this is my first attempt and I am doing this with my daughter… (she has been awesome… only complaint she has made is why is it so big?…. and she didn’t get.. “go big or go home” since we were already home…” ) .  Before I go into our experience/experiment I want to share some back story.  My urges went beyond just red dye… I have been boiling or soaking all kinds of different plants and other thing to create natural dyes.    Have a woad dying weekend coming and will get more into this but I wanted to share some pictures and let you know why I was so excited Friday afternoon… (just before leaving for our bunker) when …. the loom arrived.

Here is one of my experiments… I dyed and spun wool and made a hat (crochet… which I hate doing… when I die and by some horrible mistake land in hell… the devil will be waiting for me with a crochet hook asking me to crochet him an afghan).  The hat my daughter is wearing is wool dyed from red cabbage (light blue/green), black bean (blue gray), and some weeds she brought me from the field next door(yellow/biege).   This is also some of the first wool I spun (learning how to do this… that is why the yarn is uneven… stop judging)

I love natural dye and love the idea of our ancestors experimenting with plants, bugs, sea snails, etc. … to make colorful things.  I mention all of this because I have been anxiously awaiting a loom so I can use all of the wool I have been spinning and dyeing to create something beautiful.. (or at least homemade).  That hat just frustrated me… It was suppose to be a mans hat for myself… but I suck at crocheting and wasted cool wool on a girly hat… (at least my daughter liked it… so I lied and told her I made it for her.)

SO…if this hasn’t made you already leave… ( continue reading and you will see what I did with a loom… wool and… a weekend)…if you don’t want to read click like anyway… it helps my ego… and I won’t know

Continue reading “Weekend with Warp and Weft”