Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Yellow Onion (Allium Cepa yellow) - skins

The papery, orange skins from the Yellow Onion make a great dye material to use on projects with children.  The skins are non-toxic and they are easy to come by.  They can be saved over a period of time, or you can often scoop up excess skins from the onion bin at the market.  So far, I have not been charged for the skins.  The checker usually looks at the bag in wonder, and when I explain what I am going to use them for, sets the bag aside, commenting that they think that is pretty cool.

Last week three of my grandchildren were visiting for a few days, so we decided to do a dye project using a batch of onion skins I had saved for just such an occasion.  First, we tore up the onion skins, putting them into the dye bucket, covered with water, and set the pot on the stove to simmer.

While the skins simmered, we took 3 white, 100% cotton T-shirts to prepare for dyeing.  The T-shirts were brand new and had been scoured a few days before to remove any chemical residue that might remain from processing. We tied the shirts with rubber bands, then we put them into a pan of room-temp water to soak. 

After the skins simmered for about an hour, we let the pot cool, then strained the skins out of the liquid.  I added 1 Tbs. of alum for mordant, stirred well, and we entered our wet T-shirts into the pot.

We put the pot back on the stove and simmered for about 45 minutes, turned off the heat, and let the pot cool again.  Next, we pulled the shirts out, undid the rubber bands, rinsed them, and hung them on the clothes line to dry.  The kids were thrilled with the results!

There was still alot of color in the dyepot, so I added a few things:  1 skein (100 yds.) of copper mordanted yarn (left), 1 skein (100 yds.) of alum mordanted yarn (right), both 100% wool, a sample strip of silk fabric (top), a sample strip of muslin cloth (middle), and a small silk gift bag (bottom) which I tie-dyed.  There was not much difference in color between the skeins of yarn, the alum-mordanted yarn being a little brighter.  The silk took the color very nicely.  Like the cotton T-shirs, the muslin was much lighter in shade.

Note:  We found that the tighter rubber bands provided greater contrast between the white and the color.


  1. K: looks so much like his daddy in this pic!
    S: is such a pretty gwill (like her daddy used to say it when he was a wee lad) and
    G: What a goof!
    BTW the yarn is pretty cool, too

  2. Thanks for commenting, MJ! The kids had a great time with the dyeing, and love their shirts. Sierra was wearing hers the last time we visited them. Too, I love the dark burnt orange the onion skins give on wool.