You read that right. Today, you’re going to learn how to dye your clothes with onion skins. Pretty cool, I KNOW.
A genius idea which, I must say didn’t come from me, but rather from designer Genia De Marco. Founder of Genia Evelina and natural dye extraordinaire, I found out about her work when she and Emilie Pittman, founder of Em & May, contacted me a few weeks ago for an Instagram collab.
At the time, they were launching an underwear capsule collection together—a mix of Emilie’s designs and Genia’s hand-dyed fabrics. And the reason I’m using the past tense is because it already sold out. Beautiful things go fast, ladies.
Regardless, I highly suggest you check out both of their brands. Their aesthetics are super different, but both share a similar eco-friendly philosophy, most notably through the use of deadstock fabrics.
Onion Skins: A Natural Pigment
Back to my onions. This hand-dyed fabric situation really got me thinking, so I asked Genia to share with us (a fraction) of her knowledge about natural pigments. The result: this amazing onion skin DIY she put together exclusively for the blog. How lucky are we, seriously!
Now, let me address the elephant in the room: NO, you won’t smell like a walking onion stew. Because dry onion skins—which is what you’ll be using for this DIY and not the onion itself—are practically inodorous.
Regarding the type of onions, Genia told me: “I used red onions and plain cotton and the colour came out like a burnt orange. But I read that using yellow onions will give a lighter peachy tone.” Your choice, then!
My Personal Experience Dying With Onion Skins
I used a 100% cotton shirt and I left the skins in the dye bath for the entire duration of the process (this will make more sense when you start reading the steps).
During the first hour of soaking, my shirt turned light orange. But after a few hours, it shifted to a sandy beige. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting that at all, but I’m super happy with the result!
And if I can give you ONE more advice, wash your garment before dying it. I used a newly thrifted shirt for this and I think there might have been deodorant residue in the armpit area (I know, it’s a little gross). What it did: the colour looks a tiny bit more saturated in those spots. It’s subtil, it won’t stop me from wearing my shirt, but that’s the one thing I’d do differently next time.
So that’s it. Ready to dye your clothes with onion skins? Let’s do it!
WHAT YOU’LL NEED
- Your garment (It needs to be natural fibres. Silk = more saturated colour, cotton = diffused colour)
- Cooking pot
- Container or bowl
- Onion skins*
*The dry papery skins only. The more you have, the more saturated your colour will be. And obviously, the more fabric you have, the more skins you’ll need.
Tip: Collect them in a mason jar until you have enough for your project. For reference, I bought 10 onions for my shirt, but I think 8 would have been enough.
Preparation of Dye Bath
- Fill pot with water. For quantity, try to visualize your garment—it needs to be comfortably covered by water.
- Bring to boil.
- Bring down to simmer and add onion skins.
- Stir occasionally until you get desired colour.
Dyeing Your Garment
For Uneven Colour With a More Organic Look:
- Leave onion skins in pot, wet your garment beforehand, then add it to dye bath. Where the skins touch the fabric, it will appear more saturated. Now, go directly to step 3 below.
For Even Colour:
- Pour water into bowl using sieve to filter out onion skins.
- Wet your garment beforehand, then put it in the dye bath. The longer you leave it, the more saturated it will become.
- When you’re happy with the colour, remove the garment from dye bath. In my case, I let it sit for 3 hours, stirring occasionally.
- Rinse with cold water until it runs clear.
- Hang to dry.
That’s it! Pretty easy, right?
Have you ever dyed a garment with onions skins? Or with any other types of food? I heard avocado pits are amazing for tie-dye. Let me know in the comments!
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