I learned about using compost to make natural dyes via a podcast that my boyfriend was listening to one night, and it caught my attention. On the podcast, the woman was talking about collecting onion skins from restaurants to turn them into dye and I thought, well we go through a lot of onions, so might as well start collecting. I also asked some girlfriends to save their onion skins for me and had quite a collection. This past weekend I finally put the skins to use and the results were surprisingly nice. They will be sewn into eye pillows and cases.
The Collection: I’m not sure on an amount, but if I had to guess I’d say that I used about 20 onions worth of skins. Initially I froze the skins, but I found that that’s not necessary. The skins keep well at room temperature as long as none of the flesh is on them. It’s winter now, so that might not be the case during the humid summer.
The Process: I followed this blog. Outlined below are the steps I took to dye my fabric.
- After collecting and storing the skins until I was ready to dye, the first step I took was to soak the onion skins. I covered the skins in water until they were all covered, but of course some were not submerged because they floated to the top. I had read that soaking over night gets the best results, so that’s what I did.
- The next day I boiled the skins in the water. They didn’t remain
boiling for long. After they reached boiling, I lowered the heat to simmer. They simmered for about an hour. When I went to turn off the gas completely, I noticed that a lot of the water had boiled off and the water was colored an orange-brown. I removed the skins as much as I could.
- The next step is soaking the fabric in thedye. Using different types of metal creates different colors, so I used two different pots and experimented a bit. One piece of fabric was completely submerged in a cheap camping pot (I’m not sure what type of metal it is, but it’s cheap) while the other fabrics I played around with and explain how below. For the best results the blog said to soak the fabric in thedye while it is heated on the stove for about an hour.
- Two fabrics I tie-dyed. The first fabric I planned to use for eye pillows. The second was a shirt that I altered when I first bought my sewing machine (it has very rough hems from learning how to sew!)
- The other effect I daydreamed about making was an ombre effect, or fading from dark to light. I theorized that if I strategically hung the fabric above the dye only submerging the end and then lowered more into the dye every hour, then I’d end up with the part that was soaking the longest would be darker in color and that which was soaked for the least amount of time would be lighter in color. The end of the fabric wasn’t submerged at all and stayed the original cream color (minus some staining from the steam of the dye.
- After the fabrics were in the heated dye, I turned off the heat and let them cool in as they were. For better results it was recommended to have them sit in the dye overnight which is what I did. The following day (3 days into the process now) I took them out of the dye and rinsed them in cold water until they stopped running.
The results of this process came out great, I thought. I hope to play around with other natural dyes in the future. A student recommended dying with turmeric and fruit skins. Have you had any success with natural dyes?