For what feels like a hundred years, I've been throwing away my red onion skins. Those gorgeous wispy flakes of dazzling royal purple.
Until this summer, when I learned onion peels make great dye.
Good thing I love red onions!
I've even had mild success at growing them in my garden. Not this year, however. We didn't get the veggie garden in this year. So I bought red onions. For the last few months, each time I bought one, I also cleaned extra skins out the bin in which I found the one I bought. I brought home bags of red onion skins until I had enough to dye a skein or two of yarn.
I soaked onion skins in a clean spaghetti sauce jar in the sun for nearly a week at a time, always checking for mold, which was promptly discarded if found.
After what seemed like maximum purple extraction, I'd strain the fluid and store it in a clean orange juice jug in the freezer. After collecting nearly one gallon of ruby red fluid, it was time to dye.
I'd read the red isn't the final product. I expected green. Lime green. Luscious, beautiful, nearly glow-in-the-dark green.
I'd read mordanting the yarn with copper helps the green. So I mordanted a skein of cotton in copper. Copper can give yarn a slight green tint all by itself. That's actually what I hoped for.
I soaked the yarn, a copper dish scrubby, a tiny bit of vinegar and a lot of distilled water in a giant clean pretzel jar in the sun for at least a couple of weeks. The water eventually turned just slightly green, but the yarn stayed white.
While my mother-in-law was visiting, I attempted to perform magic for her by dropping the copper-mordanted yarn into yet another clean pretzel jar with thawed red onion juice. We watched. We waited. The yarn stayed reddish orange. My mother-in-law eventually went home, and the yarn was still peachy orange.
After two days of soaking, I removed the yarn and washed it in cool tap water and watched as magic finally happen right before my eyes!
Voila! Magic green!
That was so much fun! Let's do it again!
I mordanted a second hank of cotton yarn in the copper water. I hoped the onion skin exhaust (pigment leftovers from the first red onion yarn) would make a slightly lighter shade of green.
I soaked the yarn in the red onion juice for a day, then called The Lizard to come watch as the color changed from rosy pink to minty green as I washed the yarn in cool tap water.
Voila! Mission accomplished!