Yellow onion skins create a golden range of earthy colors. With a concentrated dye bath and enough time for the fibers to soak, the colors achieved are a combination of red and yellow, usually resting in the middle as an orange. The results radiate warmth and happiness, combining the physical energy and stimulation of red with the cheerfulness of yellow. Protein fibers such as wool and silk, dye deep to medium shades of ochre, creating pigments in the cadmium-orange families. Referencing sienna, burnt orange, pumpkins, terra cotta, and rust. Cellulose fibers such as cotton, hemp, and bamboo dye a range of dark orange to a lighter orange peel, having deep notes of golden-yellow or light yellow-brown, but remaining a soft earth pigment. Referencing California poppies, deep saffron, with a mix of mustard. For a beginners introduction to dyeing with onion skins and to compare color results of red onion skins and yellow onion skins read my previous blog post: Natural Dyes - Red Onion Skins

I took my time when creating these dye samples. I gathered plenty of yellow onion skins to fill my dye pot completely. I added water to my pot, boiled the skins for 30 minutes, and allowed the skins to soak in the bath for a few days. I strained the skins from the bath and added my (pre wet) fabric. I brought the dye bath back to a boil for 30 mins with my fabric, keeping an eye on the surface making sure to release any air bubbles from the fabric. I allowed the fabric to soak in the bath overnight. This amount of time isn't necessary to achieve color results, but it is how and why my colors are so saturated. I did not use a mordant in the dye bath but I did use an aluminum pot to heat the dye, which creates brighter color results. An alum mordant would generally give the same effect as an aluminum pot. The overall process can be done back to back without overnight soaking, the results will vary, and with less time the colors will range in the light-yellow hues. Whether the fabric turns out light yellow or deep orange the natural colors are full of life and uplifting, rejuvenating our spirit!

The Recipe

  1. Onion skins (the more the better)
  2. Water to cover
  3. Bring the water to a boil and let simmer for an 1 hour
  4. Remove the onion skins from the pot (I suggest using a colander)
  5. Soaking the dyestuff a few days before is an alternative or aid in extracting color from dyestuff
  6. Evenly soak fibers in hot water before placing them in the dyebath (this helps achieve even color)
  7. Place pre-wet fibers into the dyebath
  8. Heat dyebath for 1 hour, using a spoon or stick to submerge fibers and free air bubbles
  9. To achieve even color avoid crowding the dyepot
  10. Let the fibers cool in the dyebath this will give brighter results
  11. Most dye artist let the bath sit and cool overnight or even a few days, longer is stronger
  12. remove the fibers from dyebath, rinse with cold water until water runs clear
  13. hang to dry