Red Onion Green

red onion skins

Red onion skins are turning out to be a fascinating dyestuff. Last year I used them on unmordanted silks and a piece of cotton in one of the solar dye jars. I got reddish purples and browns that turned green if dipped in iron.

This time I tried hot extraction and hot dyeing on alum mordanted fabrics. The results were quite striking greens on cotton and silk noil and browns on the lighter silks. The organza turned a very dark brown.

So apparently red onion skins can give anything from red to green and brown but is there a way to control which colour? My guess is that it depends either on the temperature (red needs lower) or the mordant (red dyes better on unmordanted silk) or the quantity of dyestuff (too much and the red turns brown). If you've dyed with red onions I'd be interested to hear about your results!

PS I've added a small feather No.11 to the shop. It's of the 'shells & feathers' variety.

PPS In the fantastic Internet Archive there's a wealth of 19th century dyebooks readable online. I love the indigo chapter in this one. And I really need this book.


evika nueno said...

Hi Eva, I love your blog. Your works are beautiful as are your tinctory experiments. It is very much what I'd love to do, my day dreaming stuff. I wonder if when you dyed the silk with red onion skins you finished the process it with a way to fix the colours kind of permanently? I enjoy very much your blog, gives me a sense of peace and joy. Thank you for letting us to see your findings, and achievements and your beautiful images.

Lisa at Lil Fish Studios said...

I've been saving my onion skins in a jar, just for this purpose. The green is fantastic.

Do you have an iron solution, or is it enough to use an iron pot? I haven't tried that.

Veerle said...

Oh, how I love your subtle artistic work!

Lisa Stevens said...

Slightly at a tangent as I haven't tried natural dying (although I have seen someone make bright yellow handmade paper with onion skins)onion skins also work as a ceramic glaze :)
Must try that again...your blog is inspiring me to try new materials in the kiln again!

Anonymous said...

Hi Eva! this is very interesting. I dye with onion skins often, it is one of my most favorite dyestuff. So far, I have only used premordant or no mordant, here is silk and tencel dyed with red onion skins http://www.flickr.com/photos/21909272@N00/3543831564/in/set-72157623646812876/, and here is unmordanted merino wool http://www.flickr.com/photos/21909272@N00/4164094788/in/set-72157623646812876/
I have never achieved reds, only various shades of brown http://www.flickr.com/photos/21909272@N00/3543831552/in/set-72157623646812876/

Leililaloo said...

Hi Eva, i am a bigggggggggg fan of your work and i am so happy that i bought one of your necklaces today.

Eva said...

evika - thank you. I think maybe what you mean is mordanting. With these fabrics I did it at the start before dyeing. I soaked them in alum overnight.

Lisa - an iron pot should work but I don't have one so can't say from experience. I keep some rusty water in a jar a dip the fabrics into that. I look forward to your experiments!

Veerle - thank you!

Lisa S. - that's great! I didn't know you can use plants for glazes too.
PS I've dyed with the things you sent me, will show the results next time.

red2white - thank you for the links! Some of those are quite different colours again. It's such versatile material. I especially like your lighter merino in the last photo.

Dana - thank you, it's on its way :)

Velma said...

your dyebook is wonderful. i like peeking inside.

Patty said...

I had no idea you could dye with red onions, that is so incredibly cool! Thanks for posting ;)

Mona said...

I just found your blog recently - and I'm so glad I did! Your work is simply exquisite!!
And thank you for sharing your dyeing experiments, you have a very interesting way of approaching the art of dyeing. I actually thought red onion skins produced the same colours as regular onion skins. That dark brown on the organza is beautiful. I'll have to see if i can achieve some similar colours.

lotta said...

I enjoy to follow your dye experiments, as I am stumbling along the same path recently. I love the unpredictability of natural dyes, but in the long term I understand the need of knowing why you get a specific result. Thanks for sharing. Your work is just beautiful.

iNdi@ said...

i rather like 'pot as mordant' myself...
onion skins are indeed wonderful

and thank you so much for the link to the archives
a treasure trove i never knew could be accessed!!!

♥♥♥ w o o l f ♥♥♥ said...

your creations are just so dreamy! truely inspirational... thank you

Martine said...

i have been dying with red onion a lot.
allways mordant only with alum, a cold mordant i can use over and over. I send you a flickr link. This felt is dyed with a mixture from yellow and red onions till the color was right.
love your work!