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Dyeing with Yellow Onion Skins

Never did I imagine soaking my clothes in onion dye but here we are. If you want to bring some awesome earthy brown tones into your wardrobe, you're in the right place and I promise you won't be disappointed.

Yellow onion skins are another common kitchen food item for many households so this is a great dye to start out with. Although it did take me a while to collect the amount of skins I wanted for my dye, the colour was well worth it! My yellow onion skin dye created a rusty orange-brown colour. Creating my onion skin dye was a fairly simple process and was completed in one day. An important thing to note is that the more skins you use to create your dye, the deeper the colour will be. For this experiment, I used approximately 10 to 20 grams of skins. I will also be dyeing 1 linen top and 1 cotton top in this dye pot for reference.

Don't forget to take a look at our "Intro to Natural Dyeing" blog before starting your dyeing. Find out what fabrics are best for dyeing, which plants give you the best colours, how to properly pretreat your fabric, and how to care for them afterwards.

What You'll Need

  • Yellow onion skins (the more the better!) - 30 grams is the recommended amount but I used much less than this.

  • Medium or large pot with lid for dyeing (depending on how many clothes you will be dyeing at a time).

  • Medium or large pot/bin to strain your dye into.

  • Wooden spoon

  • Sieve or strainer

*** It is preferable that you keep your dyeing equipment (pots, spoons, etc.) separate from your cooking equipment. Depending on the dye stuff you are using, some plants are safer to use than others in your common cooking pots.

Let's Get to It

1. Collect & Store Your Yellow Onion Skins

The first step in this process is to collect enough skins for your dye pot. Save your onion skins and let them dry on your counter. It took me a few weeks to collect the amount of skins I used for my dye. However, I could have waited to collect more skins but I just couldn't wait to get started! I actually peeled the skins off onions at my house that weren't even being used yet.

2. Add In Your Skins and Cover with Water

Once you are happy with the number of skins you have collected, give them a rinse before adding them to your dye pot and covering them with water. For my dye pot, I added about 10-20 grams of skins and covered them with about 12 cups of water.

3. Add Some Heat

Put your pot on the stove and bring to a boil. Let your dye pot simmer for an hour with a lid on and frequently give it a stir. After letting simmer for an hour, turn off the heat and let it sit with the lid on for about an hour. Turn the heat back on low for about 30 minutes and then, again, turn the heat off and let it sit with the lid on for about 30 - 45 minutes.

4. Test Your Colour

Before you remove the skins, it is important that you test your dye colour! If the colour is not as dark as you'd hoped, don't be afraid to heat it up a few more times and let the colour seep out. I put a small piece of cotton fabric into my dye pot just after adding in my onion skins to monitor the colour.

5. Strain Out the Skins

Once your dye pot has cooled and you are happy with the colour, it is time to strain out the skins. Strain your dye into a separate pot or bin. You can then transfer your dye back into your original pot. Don't forget to compost your skins!!

6. Scrunch Dye Effect (optional)

This dye step is optional but it gives great results! I scrunched both shirts that I was dyeing for this experiment. To get more of a tie dye, marbled pattern, you can scrunch your fabric before dyeing. Scrunch your item into a flat circle shape and use a mesh cloth or gauze fabric with a string to hold it in place. The tighter the scrunch, the more accentuated the pattern will be. Check out the final products at the end of the blog if you are curious about this dye effect.

7. Wet Your Fabric & Submerge in Dye Pot

Dunk your items into a bowl of cold water, ring out excess water and then submerge your clothing into the dye pot. Only add enough items so that they can all be fully submerged in the dye. I dyed my shirts separately.

8. Add Heat

Put your dye pot back on the stove on low to medium heat with the lid on. Gently heat up for about 30 minutes. Make sure to stir around your clothes frequently and try your best to keep the fabric from resting on the sides of the pot. Once you have turned off the heat, let the pot sit for an hour or so with the lid on. I let my pot cool for about an hour and a half and after checking the colour, I was ready to take my top out of the dye pot. If you want a darker colour, leave your clothes in the dye pot and gently add more heat.


Once you are happy with the colour of your fabric, you can remove your clothes from the dye pot. Ring out the excess dye and unscrunch your fabric (if you did the scrunch effect). Now let hang dry. I did the same process for both of my tops that went into this dye bath.

Here is a before and after pic for my 100% linen top I dyed with onion skins. It produced a rusty orange colour!

I really love how these scrunch dyes came out! My 100% cotton top turned a more rusty brown colour as seen below.

And don't forget to dance in your new creations!!!

And that is it for my how-to on dyeing with yellow onion skins! Check out our "Intro to Natural Dyeing" blog to see how to take care of your naturally dyed pieces. I would love to see all of your experiments on natural dyeing and see how you brought some new life into your wardrobe. If you give it a try, make sure you let us know how it went! And if you have any other suggestions or questions about natural dyeing, for sure leave them in the comments below!


Much love, TGH xx

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