Sea Green and Sapphire

A blog about a love of colour, addiction to fabrics and joy of crafting…

My Latest Crafty Exploit

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Yarns I spun and dyed with onion skins

There’s so much going on here on the crafty front that I hardly have the time to blog about it. I got my first batch of raw, unwashed wool a few weeks ago and now I’m in the middle of processing it. And I have learned the secrets of making good rolags for woolen spinning. But both of those topics are the subject of another day’s post. Because today I want to write about my latest crafty exploit, dyeing.

I bought some acid dyes some time ago, but in the end, I decided to start with some some natural dyes, as the process is more familiar to me since I have done it a few times many years ago. And here are the first results, from onion skins, in various shades. Yellow onions gave some interesting shades of toffee and pale yellowy tan, and red onions gave me a fantastically rich chestnut shade. Well, someone might say they just “brown”, but then I am not adverse to brown. Natural shades are always very subtle and sort of undefinable, making them interesting to look at. Just the kinds of colours I like.

Dyeing with onion skins is a good place to start exploring natural dyeing, as the material is non-toxic and pretty much free if you collect your own over time like I did, and you don’t even need to mordant your wool beforehand. Apparently the colours are not very light-fast, but for a first experiment that doesn’t matter too much. And natural colours mostly fade very gracefully, they may become paler but do not lose their character.

The only downside of yet another crafty hobby is that my materials and equipment are taking over the house. The bath tub is full of buckets with wool soaking in it, and there’s constantly some yarn and fiber drying somewhere. Luckily my husband is remarkably relaxed about it: “as long as it keeps you happy” he says, which is definitely the right answer (isn’t he nice?). Although that hasn’t stopped him from making jokes about the state of the house (as well as endless tedious dyeing/dying puns). I don’t think he’d be surprised if he came back from work one day and found a sheep or two in the living room….

Because it’s better not to do your dyeing in the kitchen, I started dyeing on the patio with a portable table-top stove, but once the patio became full of buckets and bowls and bits and pieces I though enough is enough, and moved everything dyeing-related to a workshop in an outbuilding (yes, I am very lucky to have it). The only downside is that dyeing is a time-consuming process that takes several hours, so sitting in a windowless workshop is not so much fun but as the days get warmer I can sit on a bench outside knitting, while waiting for my pots to simmer away.

I’ve already experimented with a few other plants, but more of those later, once I have a chance to photograph them. It has been an exciting start and I love being able to play the mad scientist who is developing new colours.

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Author: Heidi

I love colour wherever I find it, in art, photography, gardens, nature. I also love all kinds of fiber arts; spinning, dyeing, knitting, felting, sewing.

2 thoughts on “My Latest Crafty Exploit

  1. Beautiful! Natural dyes are so tender. Do you read Riihivilla’s blog? It’s time to start growing dye plants in Finland, I suppose things are already growing in your part of the world.

  2. Hello Barbro! Yes I do read Riihivilla, it’s a real inspiration to me. The growing season is just starting over here, this year I will be growing lots of dye plants for the first time ever: madder, woad, Dyer’s Chamomille etc. – very exciting! It’s my plan to write about my experiences on this blog.

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