Dye with Onion Skins: Natural Dye for Textiles, Fabric, & Clothes

An easy process to dye with onion skins, no mordant required! What you’ll need: A large pot, natural fabric, water, onion skins – and you’re ready to start!

Onion skins produce a brilliant yellow hue which will brighten any natural fabric with a warm, sunny shade.  Dyeing with onion skins couldn’t be simpler too – just boil them in some water, add your fabric, and allow to sit.  This all natural dye process is quick, easy, and produces the loveliest shade of yellow.

What You’ll Need:

  • Onion Skins: and plenty of them!  I didn’t weigh mine, but I would guess I used about
  • An Enamel Pot used for dyeing: I have a special dye pot (that I thrifted at Goodwill, best $3 spent!) used only for dyeing so I don’t stain my nice kitchen pots.  While onion skins are all-natural the pigment can still get on your kitchen tools and pots,  so I would recommend using one special for dye only.
  • Tongs & Something to Stir With: As with the pot above,  I would recommend using equipment only for dying and not your normal kitchen tools.  I stirred my fabrics with a stick from outside so I wouldn’t dye my wooden spoons yellow.
  • Natural Fabric: Natural plant fabrics hold natural dyes best, so use fabric that is 100% cotton, silk, linen, or flax.

For this process I used 100%  cotton tea towels that I got from good ol’ TJ Maxx, nothing fancy. They are about 12 x 12 inches with a little fridge, so they were small enough to all fit in my dye pot at the same time.  And I used yellow onion skins, but if you have enough red ones that would be beautiful too.

This process is super easy and doesn’t require a mordant.  With many natural dyes a mordant is needed to ensure the fabric holds the natural color in.  Since onion skins are high in tannin, the tannin acts as the mordant so the fabric naturally absorbs the color.

Dyeing my tea towels with onion skins took about 26 hours in total (the fabric was soaking in the dye bath for the majority of the time), and it required very little active time.  This step-by-step guide should be very simple to follow and will produce fabric with absolutely brilliant yellow color.

Day 1

Wash the Fabric

I like to pre-wash my fabric before dyeing as it removes any of the chemicals that the fabric may have on it form the manufacturing process.  Just throw them in the normal wash machine with some detergent, and wash on a normal cycle.  Hang to dry.

Prepare the Dye

Fill a large enamel pot with onion skins, and cover with water until about 3/4 of your pot is full.  I didn’t measure in weight how many skins I had, I just filled the pot, and got down to dyeing.  Bring the onion skins to a boil and simmer on low for 1 hour.

Warm the Fabric

In a separate pot, boil some water and add your fabric to this to let it boil for about 5 minutes or so.  This will help  the dye adhere to the fabric better.

Add Fabric to Dye Pot

Using tongs, carefully add the hot fabric to the dye pot with the onion skins.  Stir well to ensure no air bubbles are trapped under the fabric.  Simmer the dye and fabric for an hour, then turn off heat and allow the fabric to soak in the dye for 1 day.
*You can keep the fabric soaking for longer than 1 day for a deeper richer color…  I found that I loved the color after 24 hours, but assess and allow fabric to soak for longer if desired.

Day 2

Discard Dye

After your fabric has been sitting in the dye for 24 hours, it should have a bright yellow hue. Discard the dye (I did outside in our forest because I didn’t want to get pigment in our kitchen sink) so only the fabric remains in the pot.

Rinse Fabric

Under cold running water, rinse out the dye from your fabric.  Continue to rinse until no more pigment comes out from the fabric and the water runs clear over it.

Hang to Dry

Allow the fabric to air-dry on a drying rack, clothesline, or over a hanger.  It was a beautiful sunny day when I finished dyeing, so on the clothesline they went!

Enjoy Your Lovely New Textiles!

After my fabrics dried I was so happy with the bright yellow color from the onion skins.  These tea towels would make such a perfect hand-made gift – but I am keeping them because they are a little too beautiful to part with.

If you use this method to dye with onion skins, be sure to leave me a comment or ask a question below, and tag me on Instagram so I can feature you.  I love seeing all your photos!

Don’t forget to follow over on Pinterest & Instagram – I’d love to connect with you there!

Naturally Dye Fabric with Onion Skins

An easy process to dye with onion skins, no mordant required! What you'll need: A large pot, natural fabric, water, onion skins - and you're ready to start!
0 from 0 votes
Cook Time 2 hrs
Soak Time 1 d
Total Time 1 d 2 hrs
Course Crafts, Lifestyle

Equipment

  • Enamel Pot
  • Tongs
  • Natural Fabric

Ingredients
  

  • Onion Skins: and plenty of them! I didn't weigh mine but I would guess I used about
  • An Enamel Pot used for dyeing: I have a special dye pot that I thrifted at Goodwill, best $3 spent! used only for dyeing so I don't stain my nice kitchen pots. While onion skins are all-natural the pigment can still get on your kitchen tools and pots, so I would recommend using one special for dye only.
  • Tongs & Something to Stir With: As with the pot above I would recommend using equipment only for dying and not your normal kitchen tools. I stirred my fabrics with a stick from outside so I wouldn't dye my wooden spoons yellow.
  • Natural Fabric: Natural plant fabrics hold natural dyes best so use fabric that is 100% cotton, silk, linen, or flax.

Instructions
 

Wash the Fabric

  • I like to pre-wash my fabric before dyeing as it removes any of the chemicals that the fabric may have on it form the manufacturing process.  Just throw them in the normal wash machine with some detergent, and wash on a normal cycle.  Hang to dry.

Prepare the Dye

  • Fill a large enamel pot with onion skins, and cover with water until about 3/4 of your pot is full.  I didn't measure in weight how many skins I had, I just filled the pot, and got down to dyeing.  Bring the onion skins to a boil and simmer on low for 1 hour.

Warm the Fabric

  • In a separate pot, boil some water and add your fabric to this to let it boil for about 5 minutes or so.  This will help  the dye adhere to the fabric better.

Add Fabric to Dye Pot

  • Using tongs, carefully add the hot fabric to the dye pot with the onion skins.  Stir well to ensure no air bubbles are trapped under the fabric.  Simmer the dye and fabric for an hour, then turn off heat and allow the fabric to soak in the dye for 1 day.
  • *You can keep the fabric soaking for longer than 1 day for a deeper richer color...  I found that I loved the color after 24 hours, but assess and allow fabric to soak for longer if desired.

Discard Dye

  • After your fabric has been sitting in the dye for 24 hours, it should have a bright yellow hue. Discard the dye (I did outside in our forest because I didn't want to get pigment in our kitchen sink) so only the fabric remains in the pot.

Rinse Fabric

  • Under cold running water, rinse out the dye from your fabric.  Continue to rinse until no more pigment comes out from the fabric and the water runs clear over it.

Hang to Dry

  • Allow the fabric to air-dry on a drying rack, clothesline, or over a hanger.  It was a beautiful sunny day when I finished dyeing, so on the clothesline they went!

Enjoy Your Lovely New Textiles!

  • After my fabrics dried I was so happy with the bright yellow color from the onion skins.  These tea towels would make such a perfect hand-made gift - but I am keeping them because they are a little too beautiful to part with.
Keyword Dye with Onion Skins, Natural Dye Pigment, Natural Fabric Dye
Did You Make This Recipe?Tag me @theherbeevore in your photo on Instagram so I can feature you!

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