Over the last year and a half I have saved all the yellow onions skins from the bags of onions I buy at the grocery store. They were jammed into a gallon size ziplock bag and stowed under the sink, kind of hidden behind things because a bag of this sort is sure to raise the eyebrows of my husband. Cause really when you run into a bag of what looks like garbage but saved for who knows what lurking under the sink or in the back of the closet, well lets just say that might be how those hoarders started. And I think Marty fears that with out some restraints I could turn into one of those hoarders seen on the TV with bags of yarn piled under the beds and stuffed into the closets and books and magazines piled on every available surface. So my bag of onion skins was stashed for a very long time behind the mess that lives behind the closed cupboard doors in the kitchen.It was too windy to set up for dyeing outside and this is onion skins- I don’t think onion fumes would drive us out of the house. So I emptied the dried up brown bits into a pot and covered them with water and set it on the wood stove to heat. As the water heated took on a yellow color and there was no noticeable odor. I had 2 skeins of yarn mordanted with alum and put them into the pot, immediately the yarn turned a light yellow. I left the pot simmering on the stove and went about my chores. Every once in a while I would lift the lid on top of the pan which was staying warm but not boiling, and I would be rewarded with the sight of lovely yellows and oranges. After a few hours I pulled the yarn out of the pot and set it aside to cool. But I could see there was still color plenty left so I put 2 more skeins into the pot. This yarn was not mordanted so I just mixed the alum into the pot. I read earlier in the summer that this might not be the best practice because the alum holds the dye onto the yarn so if you put it alum in the dye pot it would grab the color not the yarn. Well the yarn did not seem to be absorbing much color and but I didn’t worry after all this was the exhaust and the pale yellow was still pretty. I decided to leave the yarn to soak over night. The next morning at 4:00 Marty stoked up the stove and by the time I wandered downstairs the pot was heated again. I set the pot and the yarn on the counter to cool and we went for our morning stroll. before breakfast I decided to take the yarn out and was rewarded with yarn the same color as the day before. There is still color left in the pot but I didn’t have any yarn to put in or time to do it so I decided to pour the liquid and the skins in a tupperware container and then put it into the shed to use later(again hoarding?).
So you might of noticed I said that I poured the skins and liquid into a container. Typically I don’t strain my pots of dye. I leave the bits and pieces in the liquid and then emerge my yarn into that floating mess of plant materials. My yarn takes on a mottled or speckled look. Or what is sometimes called kettle dyed when you buy it at the store. I prefer this, and love the look of the changing intensity of colors that clings to my yarn. Some people complain about the bits of vegetation that is on the yarn when they pull it out of the pot but I find that a lot of it comes off with a little shake while it is wet. And then when is dry and I put it on my swift and wind it into a ball with the winder that what ever is left comes off as it is spinning up. I even will put dry yarn into my dye pot so that it slowly soaks up color and has dark and light areas. If a person would want a more solid color then they could strain the pot and then soak the yarn in water before submerging the yarn all at once.
So this yarn is sunshine on a cloudy day and was the easiest winter natural dyeing project. The colors range from a very soft mellow yellow to a golden hue and a more intense orangey yellow. I love them all. I already have a project in mind for the golden yellow. The dye material is easy to get and free, I think a person could ask at the grocery store and they would only be to happy to let you have the skins(although you might get an odd look). The yarn I used is knitpick bare fingerweight yarn. I used the silk and wool blend which took darker and the palette yarn which is the softer yellow. I think knitpicks is a bargain priced yarn and I enjoy knitting with it. Although I do think they cause me to have a large stash because they give free shipping for orders over $50 so I always order at least $50 worth of yarn ; )So there you have sunshine all balled up and ready to knit.