Color from Yellow Onion Skins

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I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it definitely wasn’t bright orange.  Yellow, maybe.  Or even light brown.  Looking back at a beautiful spread of fiber dyed using yellow onion skins on the Folk Fibers blog, I see that orange was definitely within the realm of possibility, but I was secretly hoping for more of a golden hue.  Mostly though, I’m in awe that something as simple as yellow onion skins without any mordants or after-baths or other tinkering could yield such a vibrant color on wool.  The effect on cotton is more subdued and much less orange, but I love the warmth.

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My mom is finally taking notice of my natural dyeing tendencies and recently knit Adi a wool bag for her toys out of a creamy wool so that I could dye it if I wished.  As an added bonus, my mom left a very large skein of the same wool with me to use for dye experiments.  Previously I had only been dyeing cotton and alpaca yarn, but the alpaca was mostly a light brown color to begin with (which is what created the very dark orange-brown color in the top photo).  Now I can finally dye white wool to my heart’s content and will even start experimenting with the difference between dyeing yarn before and after knitting.

IMG_8366Top: white wool used for dyeing and a square of knitting (seed stitch) for dyeing in progress.  Middle: (left to right) white cotton yarn, light brown alpaca yarn, and white wool yarn dyed with yellow onion skins (first through the dye bath), and white wool yarn dyed with yellow onion skins (second through the dye bath). 

It still amazes me how much natural dyeing and knitting have been perfect for life with a baby and toddler.  Without the distraction of taking care of Adi I would never have the patience to wait for yarn to sit in the dye bath for a day or two, or for it to dry without rinsing so that it really has to dry twice.  I also wouldn’t be as interested in knitting if it weren’t something I could do while watching Adi or waiting for her to finish eating at the table.  She has grabbed my knitting needles more times than I can count and never once hurt herself.  While I could be frustrated that I no longer have as much time to sew or (especially) use my loud sewing machine in our small apartment, instead I’m trying to focus on the wonderful way that I have been pushed outside of my comfort zone, starting at the very beginning again on so many things (knitting, weaving, natural dyeing).  Parenthood has been so full of these unexpected gifts.

Happy Mother’s Day to all you mamas out there!

Kathryn

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