Plants for Dyeing: Onion Skins

Possibly the most readily available dye source I know, onion skins also produce a reliable color, depending upon which mordant and what kind of dye pot you use. It’s also nontoxic and environmentally safe. Just using alum mordant, you can get a variety of shades by varying the pot or kettle. My favorite is brass, which will yield a strong but lovely golden orange to rust, depending on how long you simmer the wool. Iron will produce a greener tinge. Glass or enamel will give a strong yellow, ranging from light to dark again depending upon time. In my experience the colors are fast and fade resistant.

I always save the yellow skins when using onion for cooking. If you can’t collect enough on your own, grocery store and restaurant personnel are often willing to let you have their abundant leavings.

I’ve read that red skins will produce a different color but have never used them.



4 thoughts on “Plants for Dyeing: Onion Skins

  1. Bonnie says:

    I have dyed with onion skins for years, mostly the yellow ones. Both yarn and wool for rug hooking and eggs at Easter. I put a layer of skins in a throw away turkey pan, then some wool, then more skins, more wool, etc. Water to cover and cook in the oven for about an hour or so. Low temp. Just let it sit there. Got a cool mottled look to the wool. Should work with yarn too. I have used red skins but it was by accident. Some got in with the yellow when I was going to dye some yarn and the yarn came out a cool apricot color. Have fun.

  2. Patt Popple says:

    onion skins make a wonderful egg dye as well. It keeps from one year to the next. Cook raw white eggs in it, leave in the bath overnight or for varying times. You’ll get lucious shades of sienna brown to light gold. Place a leaf or flower petal on the side and wrap tightly with cheescloth and a piece of string or small rubber band and you have a batik egg. A solid colored egg can be scratched into with a needle to make a design. Don’t eat these eggs if you’ve left them in the bath all night or outside the fridge all day. Dry them in a bowl, I have a few dozen I did from 15 years ago! They don’t stink, really, the inside just dries up over time. I display them in a glass column lined with moss. My Polish grandmother always colored eggs this way at Easter, but didn’t save them, that was my idea.

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