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Easy Dyeing with Onion Skins

It is so easy to dye fabrics with onion skins! All you need are onion skins, a pot of simmering water and your fabric! I use yellow onions (since we cook with those anyway) and the resulting dye color will be a rust color ranging from pale to dark depending on how many skins you have in your pot!

White onion skins will not darken enough to get color but there is no reason you can't throw some in with other colors. Some red or purple onion skins tend to fade a bit over time but they are still a fun additive to the pot!

In the video, I put several samples into the turkey roaster pot I like to use. Raw silk, blank silk habatoi scarf, and a previously ecoprinted silk scarves and leather sample. Some details are in the video.

So gather your supplies!

  1. Onion skins

  2. pot of water

  3. fabric

  4. big spoon or tongs

  5. thermometer is helpful

Onion Skins: For this project I had a dog treat container full of onion skins that I dumped into my pot. I had about 2 gallons of water. Have friends and family save onion skins for you! You may not know that the grocery stores vacuum up all the loose onion skins in the bin and you can always ask for theirs!


I was working on my porch (on a cold day!) and as you can see in the video, I raised the temperature to around 180F. No need to boil. I used my turkey roster but any pot will do. Sure you can "cook" indoors as it is just onion skins.

Fabric: As seen in my video I had an assortment of fiber to put into my pot. Onion skins will adhere to virtually any fabric without the use of mordants. And although everything I used in the video were protein fibers, onion skin dye works fine on cellulose fibers such as cotton and linen. If you watch the video carefully you will also notice that I did not pre-wet my fabrics before submerging them into the pot. For this exercise today, it was not necessary. If you decide onion skins are your next favorite go to natural dye, then pre-washing and even scouring of some fabrics prior to dyeing is recommended.

Spoon or Tongs: You will be lifting your fabrics out of a hot pot!

Thermometer. We are all familiar (thanks to Covid-19!) with digital point and shoot thermometers and they are super handy in ecoprinting! The other thermometer shown is one used for cooking and it is highly accurate!

I simply simmered everything at 180F for about an hour, then turned off the heat and, because it was dark and getting even colder outside, I just let the pot sit overnight! That is NOT necessary! You can take them out when an hour or so is up.

Here I am pulling out a previously ecoprinted wool piece that I felt needed a little "help." lol. Then everything was washed in a washing machine and dried on my clothesline.

Silk, silk, raw silk, wool, leather (below)

Ecoprinted leather simmered in onion skin bath

Soaking previously ecoprinted pieces or fresh fabric in an onion skin bath is a great way to enhance many pieces! I particularly like to dye raw silk to use in my clothing as an accent piece! Below is a nice example of doing just that!

Accent pieces are raw silk dyed with onion skins!

Dyeing onion skins is a simple yet fun way to add some beautiful earth tones to your fabric. Start saving your onion skins today and see what colors you come up with!-Theresa


Just a reminder that things are starting to get busy!

March 8-9, 2024 is the Carolina Fiber Fest in Raleigh NC where I am teaching 3 workshops (See my workshop page for details)

March 24-30, 2024 is my Ecoprint on Leather Maker's Workshop at John C Campbell school in the lovely NC mountains! Details under my workshops!

Until next time!


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