Calendar of Dyeing – January – Onions

Article by Laura Rymer

At the Christmas Guild meeting last year, Santa gave me a Dyeing Calendar.

Each month there is an inspirational picture of the dyestuff and the results achieved.

I set myself the challenge of keeping up with the calendar and where possible, attempting to try each monthly dye process in turn.

I though it would be fun to share my experience and results in the newsletter each month. Maybe you had a similar calendar and want to share your results too.

January – Onions

I had been collecting onion skins with a view to doing some dyeing and I had sufficient to make a dye pot; the calendar spurred me on. My onion skins were brown to give an orange dye, but you could use red onions for a pink/purple dye.

The yarn was an assortment of woollen spun skeins produced during practice for my Foundation Certificate in Spinning course.


  • 175 g of Onion skins (at least half the weight of fibre)
  • 180 g of Woollen spun Ryedale and Hampshire Down yarn washed, rinsed.
  • Mordant – not required as onions are a substantive dyestuff

The onion skins were put in pot, covered with water and boiled for one hour –

Meanwhile; the yarn was put to soak in some water.

Surprisingly the pot did not smell unpleasant or of onions as it stewed. 

Onion skins being boiled for dying

After an hour the onion skins were strained through a colander leaving a rich orange dye bath behind. This was left to cool overnight.

The onion skins were composted.

Yarns being dyed

The pre-soaked yarn was drained and added to the dye bath.  The pot was gently bought to a simmer and left for 30 minutes. Skeins of yarn were removed at intervals from 30 minutes to 1 and half hours to give a variety of shades.

One skein (Ryedale) dyed particularly deeply.  I think there was sufficient dyestuff left in the pot to run a second batch of fibre and achieve some lighter shades.

Freshly dyed yarns in pot

The skeins were hung on the line to dry on a frosty afternoon

The Onion dyed yarn

Onion-dyed yarn