Onion skins

Allium cepa, pelure d’oignon, Zwiebelschale, cáscara de cebolla, craiceann oinniún

Yet another example of never having learnt everyday words in the language class. While Caecilius erat in horto and coquus erat in culina, we never actually learnt what coquus was cooking. Probably meat as we learnt the Latin vocab for “pest” and “scoundrel”, which he shouted at the dog as it ran out of the kitchen. I don’t think la famille Bertillon ever cooked with onions, and Herr Wasistseinname probably didn’t buy them at the Frankfurter Messe. The fact that we all know what it’s like to cry onion tears really needed to be taken into account. Thank heavens I learnt Spanish without a text book! Dame un kilo de cebollas, por favor. Ya!

And so to the dyeing…  During one workshop the onion skins produced a dark red. As the skins were a little pinkish, I thought perhaps they were either from shallots (nah… too big…) or a new type of “pink” onion that had appeared in the gardening mags and in the supermarket. Haven’t seen them since, so I guess they weren’t popular or suitably different to what we already have. During a subsequent workshop we used brown onion skins and ended up with the same deep red. Interesting.

With my latest experiment, I used 100% WoF brown onion skins. Didn’t get the deep red, but pleasing results anyway:

onions

As usual, 1, 3, 5 7 no mordant; 2, 4, 6, 8 15% WoF A/Cot; 3 & 4 alkaline modifier, 5 & 6 acid modifier, 7 & 8 iron modifier. The photo has picked up a little too much contrast in the plys: squint and imagine there are no white bits. But what about light-fastness? Apparently, low. I read in one source (can’t remember which one), that onion dye fades to a “pleasing shade”, and on another source (French, but that’s all I can remember – with all due respect to the author) that subsequent dyebaths will improve fastness. I have another 16 mini-skeins to test, along with these samples, fastness after the first, second and third dyebaths. More on that later. Even though we use a lots of onions, 40g of skins takes a lot of curries!

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Natural dyeing workshop

After spending some weeks deciding on what exactly we were going to dye with, and then worrying on more than one occasion that the dyes weren’t going to p

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erform, last Saturday’s workshop was full of pleasant surprises…

There were seven participants, all friendly and enthusiastic, and all with interesting tales, information and tips to add to the proceedings. The dyes used were (from bottom to top): hawthorn berries, brown onion skins, red onion skins, Tagetes minuta, dahlia flowers, Tagetes lemonii (dried flowers/heads), Eucalyptus cinerea, E. incognita (yep!) and betel nuts.

I didn’t have time to follow Jenny Dean’s recipe (in Wild Colour) for the haws, so boiled up some leaves and twigs for about 40 minutes to get as much tannin in to the dyepot, then added about a kilo of berries and simmered for three-quarters of an hour, then left overnight. This mixture was strained and reheated for the dyeing experiment. They turned the woolen yarn a shade of light brown that I’d never had before, so that’s one for future ref.

onionsall

The onion skins were amazing! (right to left: brown onions, red onions, Tagetes lemonii). Even though we used a scant 50% wof, the brown ones dyed a deep copper, while the red ones (close-up below) came out dark, khaki green; the unmordanted ties were lime green, and both without trying. Could it have been the copper pipes at the Guild?

A smaller quantity of dahlia heads than I would have liked gave such a deep colour, and onions2redwhen we dipped half (or more) of the skein back in the liquor with bicarb added, well, even better.

I was concerned that as the tagetes flowers were dry, they’d give muted shades of old gold. Lemonmii gave such a deep sunshine gold that at first I thought it was the brown onions, and the minuta heads could have been fresh – the brightness and intensity of the resulting colour is still a source of amazement.

E. cinerea performed to its usual standard, while the other (maybe a type of peppermint gum?) gave a very pale yellow. Still a good shade to have in the line-up.

The betel nuts? These gave a deeper brown than I’ve ever managed before. None of the pinkish hue, mind. They were, as last time, soaked in water and bicarb for a couple of days.

All in all a successful run of experiments and a great bunch of people to work with!

Onion skins

I’ve come back from the supermarket with the occasional odd item, but I guess this counts as “eccentric” rather than plain odd. It just so happened that I was in the veggie section while the onions were being made more presentable, and immediately clapped eyes upon a box full of dye material.

I had to think twice, tonion skinshree times, before actually asking for them, but then eccentricity took over from reserve and the result speaks for itself.

The guy did say I was welcome to help him sort the remaining red onions; I would have liked to have returned the favour, but I think I may have pulled off all the skins and left naked veggies.

In the meantime, hands off – they’re destined for a workshop.