Back to dyeing

I thought it was time I got back to dyeing, as I haven’t done any for a while. This is partly because of other priorities, but also because a little dyed fabric goes a long way when you’re handstitching. You really don’t need that much of it. I’ve had occasional notions of perhaps trying to sell any surplus, maybe via Etsy, but I haven’t yet done anything about it. I’m probably too busy with work and household things to start even a small-scale commercial enterprise. And besides, I don’t have a clear idea of whether there’d be any demand for it.

A prompt to get started again was reading about dyeing with avocado stones. A few weeks ago I bought a copy of ‘Quilting with a Modern Slant’ by Rachel May, in which there is a brief instructional section on dyeing using avocado stones. We don’t eat a lot of avocados, so it took me a while to save up half a dozen stones. I followed the instructions, added the cloth…. and, well, it was disappointing. Maybe I didn’t boil them for long enough. Maybe they’re the wrong variety of avocados. Whatever the reason, the fabric emerged very little changed from the way it went in to the dyebath. Avocado is supposed to produce great pinks and purples. Not for me.

So, I turned to my rather substantial collection of onion skins. I had a large bag of plain brown onion skins, and a much smaller supply of red onion skins. What, I wondered to myself, would happen if I used both? (I didn’t have enough of the red ones to use them by themselves). Well, this is what happened – a rather lovely selection of pale browns: Onion skin dyeing

Not quite what I was expecting, but then that’s the lovely thing about dyeing with vegetable dyes; you just never quite know what you’re going to get. These colours are much more muted than the yellows I got a while back with dyeing with the plain brown skins only: Dyeing with onion skins - results

Both are lovely. Both add to my stock of colours and both are reproducible to at least some extent.

What I need to do more of, now, is logwood dyeing as I’ve practically exhausted my range of greys. I’ll report back if and when I get round to it.

Dyeing with onion skins – result

Dyeing with onion skins Р what a good result!Dyeing with onion skins - results Have a look at the photo, which shows the bundle of dried fabrics and threads, before ironing.

The piece of fabric to the left, ¬†which is fraying in quite an appealing way, is wool crepe. This is an excellent fabric for picking up all the dyes I’ve tried so far. To its right is a piece of habotai silk which has taken up a very similar colour. In the background, out of focus, is a piece of lightweight linen which has come out as much more of a sunshine yellow. The threads in the foreground are (L) stranded cotton and (R) silk.

I’m really pleased with these results, especially as they are low cost as regards the dyestuff. Onion skins are a waste material, normally shoved into the compost bin chez Gowthorpe. After the dye has been extracted, the slimy bits of skin can go into the compost, so no loss there. The only ‘cost’ is remembering to gather them up into a paper bag while you’re doing the food prep. Now that I know how good the results are I’ll be much more inclined to be organised and do this.

And this isn’t the end of it. Currently drying on the rack in the kitchen is a second batch of fabrics and threads which were boiled up and left for 24 hours in the dye pot. These are much lighter in colour; paler versions of the colours in the photo above.

What’s next? Well… looking out of the window from where I’m sitting typing this, I can see a clump of very healthy-looking rhubarb. Last year I tried using rhubarb leaves for both mordant and dyeing purposes, and I’ll be continuing my experiments very soon. The drawback with rhubarb leaves is that the liquid they produce is highly toxic so it requires care in handling. More reports in due course….

The weather has taken a distinct turn for the better in England and today has been a gorgeous spring day – around 14C, sunny all day and a distinct smell of spring in the air. Very unusual, but all the more welcome. I hope this signals some better weather to come, especially for those who have been battered by storms and flooding. I’m now looking forward to another spring and summer of hanging out dyed fabrics and threads to dry in the garden. If you’re a reader of this blog and you have any thoughts or useful tips to share about dyeing please leave a comment.


Dyeing with onion skins

Just a brief post today about dyeing with onion skins. Onion skinsI’ve been saving up onion skins for some time now to get a sufficient quantity for dyeing. I’ve now collected enough to fill a pan, which is currently (as I write – this is action blogging) coming to the boil. I intend to boil it for about half an hour and then leave for several days to maximise colour saturation before I put any fabrics into it. I’m hoping this works out well, so fingers crossed.