Dyeing with Kitchen Scraps: Yellow Onion Skins

Dyeing with Kitchen Scraps: Yellow Onion Skins

Posted by : Mary Wutz   /  

Play with your food! Onion skins are one of the easiest materials to collect and experiment with if you're new to the natural dye scene.

Yellow onion skins give rich golden yellow to pumpkin-orange shades. Red give greenish or brown colours. A tip of the trade: Stick to one or the other, mixing different colored skins will give you murky browns.

To get started, you'll need about 25-30 grams of skins per 100 grams of yarn/fiber. This is a lot of onion skin material so it may take you some time to collect. To safely store the skins, keep them dry in a paper bag. 

Although no mordant is required to fix the onion dye to the textile, using different mordants will give you a wider range of colors and help with color fastness. Additionally, results will vary for protein fibers compared with cellulose fibers.  Alum mordant will give the brightest shades and is the most environmentally responsible option. For instructions on how to mordant cellulose and protein fibers, click here and select "Recipes and Formulas".


  • A stainless steel pan large enough to fit your yarn comfortably
  • 100 g of yarn or fiber
  • 25-30g of Onion Skins
  • A fine sieve
  • 10g salt per 100g yarn (optional)


*Make sure your onion skins are free from dirt and black mold.

*Salt is optional, but is assists in creating more even coverage of the dye on the fiber as it slows the absorption rate. 



  1. Soak yarn (mordanted or not) for at least 30 mins before dying to ensure an even coverage.
  2. Place onion skins in the stainless steel pan with enough water to cover and simmer for 30 minutes. You’ll notice the skins become translucent and the water become coloured.
  3. Strain off the coloured liquid with a sieve and return it to the pan, minus the onion skins. Add salt at this point (if desired) and stir until dissolved.
  4. Squeeze the excess liquid from your yarn and add the yarn to the dye bath. Give it a good stir. You should see the yarn start to absorb color immediately.
  5. Slowly bring to a boil and gently simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. The liquid should become clear again as all the dye is absorbed by the yarn.
  6. Allow the dye vat to cool to room temperature before removing the yarn/fiber. This reduces the risk of felting. 
  7. Rinse the yarn/fiber thoroughly with room temperature water to remove any excess dye or mordant. 


Have Fun! 



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