Pam Haughn mentioned onion skin dyeing in her guest blog the other day so that prompted this post. Start saving all those yellow onions skins and ask the grocery store and friends to hoard them up as well. It takes a lot of skins to dye using the casserole method as the skins need to pretty much cover the wool for a good golden, mottled coverage.
Stove top method:
Use natural or lighter coloured wools as darker colours may bleed and affect the outcome although this can be quite striking.
Wash or presoak the wool per the usual.
In a two quart pot add dry onion skins, 6 cups hot water and simmer, stirring for 15 minutes – strain. Make a second extraction using 3 cups of water, simmer again for 15 minutes, strain and add to first extraction. Discard skins. (This method is less messy as the skins do not come in contact with the wool.)
In a dye pot enough water to cover the amount of wool you wish to dye, add 2 Tsp. salt and bring to a boil. Add ½ cup dye solution. Immerse wet wools and simmer for 15 minutes adding more dye as needed to obtain colour desired, do not let the wool reach a boil. If the wool is bunch it will come out mottled or abrashed. If you want solid colour stir. (Boiling breaks down the fibers of the wool causing it to become sticky.) After the dye is absorbed, add 1/3 cup vinegar and simmer 15 minutes longer. Rinse well in tepid water. Results will be a golden, caramel coloured wool, like an antique parchment.
Casserole oven method:
This method produces a lovely mottled effect. Spread some of the dye onion skins in the bottom of the casserole pan. Using presoaked, lay the first piece over the bottom layer of skins. Sprinkle each piece of wool with dry onion skins and salt. Continue to layer in this fashion. Depending on the many layers add enough water and 1/3 cup of vinegar to keep the wool wet. Cover tightly with foil and bake in the oven at 250* for 30 minutes.
Note: Although pretty, red onion skins do not dye red, they will be a slightly darker golden than their yellow cousins. It was a surprised to discover as I was specifically collecting red ones for that cranberry look.
I would have done some dyeing for this blog but I don't have any onion skins and it takes quite a collection to produce a decent colour.