Friday, October 8, 2010

Dyeing with Red Onion Skins

"Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble."
~MacBeth, William Shakespeare

It feels a little weird to be hovering over a large pot, stirring up all this weird stuff, so close to Halloween! But it is a little like magic to see what kinds of results you can get!

My personal mission this week was to make green which is really hard to make from natural dye. Who knew green, the most found in nature colour wouldn't translated so well into natural dyeing?

I got really excited about this colour, olive green! but then the pink water seeped out, and the resulting colour was quite a bit different.

So looked online, and onion skins, spinach and artichokes (to name a few), boiled up with some vinegar, sometimes produce green. Sometimes. The description I read was, "lighter than forest green." So off I went to the grocery store.

Oh, that's what colour it is when you lift it out of the pot. A very yellowish khaki. I still like it though! Very different from anything we produced at the university.

Other customers watched me pick through the fat red onions to pick out the flaky skins that had fallen into the bottom. I threw two onions in the bag too, just in case people might think I was completely cuckoo. But after twenty minutes of picking out the dry skins, I paid my 1.53 for my dye supplies and went home.

The boiling water was pinky-red, but immediately, the skein of wool went a muddy colour. I boiled it for half an hour and then let it sit for another hour or so, and here is the colour I got.

Look at that clean hand! i must be getting better at dyeing!

Khaki! Not quite forest green. Not quite green either, but a beautiful vibrant hue of khaki (I never thought I'd ever write those words!) I'm not sure the colour translates super well in these photos. Apparently yellow onion skins make yellow, but red onion skins contain pigment called anthocyanin, which has a blue hue to it. The two mix in the pot and green is (sometimes) the resulting colour, depending on how much anthocyanin the red onion skins contain.

The dry skein- a little less intense than when it was yellow.

I bought spinach too, in case I wanted to try to make it more green, but of course there were no guarantees and spinach would go well with dinner tonight, so I withheld the spinach. Besides, I'd want to see how spinach would dye a virgin skein for the experiment anyways!

Khaki skein and red onion.

I did a dangerous thing and paid a visit to the natural dye and materials store, Maiwa yesterday. Gorgeous stuff! I may have to think about making a big natural dye rug or something. Lucky for me, Weaving on small looms is next, when we return to school in two weeks.

Have a happy Canadian Thanksgiving weekend! No class next week and since I've done my dyeing for the week I'm back onto painting.


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