Natural dyeing yellows and browns with onion skins

Written by [email protected] on Aug. 27, 2009 in Natural Dye Plants

The humble onion skin can be very versatile when it comes to natural dyeing, producing with a good alum mordant and modifiers a wide range of yellows, oranges and browns.

Living in France, it is easy to collect onion skins with the help of my neighbours, I have a good supply of organic onion skins to keep me going all year round. I just keep them in a paper sack in a dry place until needed.

Hanks Dyed with Onion Skins

I have heard it said that if the onion skins are kept too long they don't dye so well, but I haven't noticed that much even when using old onion skins.

Hanks Dyed with Onion Skins

I soak my onion skins overnight and then boil them up the next day until they are a real brown mush, then strain them and use the liquor in the dye bath. If the colour is not strong enough I boil them up again. The second boiling can also be used for a lighter colour.

The pH of the water makes a difference to onion skins, a too alkali dye bath will eliminate the red pigments in the onion skins, so if you want a more orangy yellow add a little vinegar to your water.

All the shades in the images are made with different strengths of onion skins.

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Discussions: 6 comments


Anne Shoring

Anne Shoring on 09/17/2009 8:32 p.m.

I have a handspun knitted cushion that I dyed with natural dyes (including onion skins) 20 years ago and the colour is still good. I use onion skins for some of my plant dyed sock yarns - it gets some funny comments (no it does not smell of onions) but it makes a lovely colour. I get mine from Fodders, the health food shop in Hereford.


Shalu on 06/01/2010 3:14 a.m.

Love u jaan

Liz Chowfin

Liz Chowfin on 08/31/2010 1:22 p.m.

Sounds interesting will try it out today. plz let me know how much skin is needed to dye a small swatch of 10inch x 10inch


Brigitte on 11/07/2010 12:33 p.m.

Hello Andie, I supposed you''ve been using the skin of brown onions. Have you tried dyeing with red onion skins? There also exists an expensive pink onion from Roscoff in Brittany that could be tried.


Sallyb on 12/04/2011 8:24 p.m.

The color is extracted automatically when you boil the skins in water. I have tried it with red onions and i get darker color results but it would not be considered red. I use Knit Picks swish bare and it dyes really well and can withstand all the boiling without felting.

Johnny Sun

Johnny Sun on 03/05/2012 2:02 a.m.

I have white spot on my face, because of drinking to much before. I need help.

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