Onion dying

Today I took my first step into natural dying and began with onion dying. After researching into mordants and cleaning fabrics beforehand I decided to start with onion dying as a mordant was not necessary, however I did still use salt as a mordant to fix on to the fabric samples, I am aware that due to this the colour may not last as long as other mordants, but I knew it was something I am able to source.

To begin the process I peeled the skin of 10 onions and began to boil (approx 1 hour) whilst this was boiling I prepared my fabrics, ensuring they were clean and then boiled them further with salt, different fabrics needed to be boiled for different amounts of times due to the sensitivity etc.

Once this had been completed I drained the onion skins from the water and allowed the water to cool. At the this point I could see the transformation in colour from when I had initially started. Within the first 15 minutes I could see the colour had changed slightly but by this point the colour was a vibrant red/orange.

Next I began to boil the dye again but this time adding in the pre washed and wet fabric into the onion dye. This was where I timed myself and took out a range of fabrics at different times to see what would work best, what colours were more vibrant on fabrics? etc.

To complete this process I rinsed all the dye samples (apart from three) under cold water and allowed to dry over night. The three I did not rinse straight away I left in the dye for a further two nights, the reason I did this was because roughly after 6 minutes the dye water began to evaporate and burn to the pan, so I diluted what was rest with further water, still creating an orange colour but not as bright and left for a longer period to see the results.

The results from my natural dyes worked well and I am completely overwhelmed with the outcome, I feel that I have positively captured the essence of morocco throughout onion skins. Each colour created from the same pan is completely different in one way or another. I found that silk worked best to attract the colour, creating a deep/intense red where as the others such as cotton, calico and canvas created a lighter orange. The fabrics that were left for a further two nights in diluted water were yellow with folds of orange in them.

During my next experiment with creating my own natural dyes I will add more water during the first initial boiling process this is so that when the fabrics are in the final stage, I can leave some fabrics in for longer to potentially get a greater colour. The dyes I wish to experiment with next are, saffron, henna and turmeric. This is because I hope they will create the colour I saw within Morocco and some are used widely in Morocco.


Websites I used to help me along the way:







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