Dye wool with onion skins

Dye wool with onion skins

Materials needed:

10 gr onion skins (red and yellow, mixed)

10 gr Elena wool

Basic laundry soap

An enamel pan

Heat source



Step 1: preparation of the wool for dyeing with onion skins implies: preparing the skeins and scouring the wool.

Skeins should be secured with several tie points. I usually use 4 tie points. This will prevent tangling (you really do not want that to happen!).

Scouring the wool means basically washing the wool in tepid water with some kind of detergent in order to eliminate the wax and any other treatments on the wool. Scouring also helps the fiber to open up and ensures an even color. I use a very basic laundry soap with a neutral pH and with added borax (borax is a substance that helps softening water that is high in elements like Mg and Ca). Another option is a pH neutral dish washing detergent. Because our wool was not treated with any chemical substances I leave the wool to scour only for a short period – 30 minutes is enough. Next, the fibers are rinsed in tepid water and left aside while the dye bath is prepared.

Step 2: prepare the dye bath.

In the enamel pan pour water and add the plant material. Let the temperature rise and simmer (boil at around 80 degrees C) for around 30 minutes. Let the dye bath to cool. When the dyeing liquid is at tepid temperature, remove the onion skins (squeeze the plant material in your hand to extract as much of the color).

Step 3: dye the wool

Add the wet scoured wool to the dye bath and put the pan again on the fire. Let the temperature gently rise to simmer point (80 degrees C) and let it simmer for 40 minutes (or until you are happy with the shade). Remove the pan from the heat and let the dye bath cool. When the liquid is cold, remove the wool and rinse it well with tepid water. Dry in a shady place.



Tips: if there is still enough color in the dye bath you can color a new skein of wool. The resulting color will be lighter, perfect for an ombré project! 

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