Project number one was to dye some yarn with onion skins. I had saved up nearly a paper grocery bagful of yellow onion skins - 5 whole ounces. According to Jenny Dean's book, Wild Color, this amount of onion skins would dye... 2.5 ounces of yarn. Wha'?!? It turns out that was not quite accurate, but it colored (heh) my decisions on how to proceed. The yarn I chose was Cascade 220 and Lamb's Pride, wound into approximately one-ounce skeins.
Also according to the book, if I wanted a nice tangerine color instead of yellow, I would have to mordant the yarn with alum. This I did, but using the cold, slow method outlined by Dean. After all, who wants to be slaving over a hot stove in July? I also ended up applying the mordant in two separate baths, as I kept changing the plan. This may have affected the results somewhat.
|Primary onion skin bath|
The only cooking I did was to simmer the onion skins for about an hour. After straining, this became what I called the primary dye bath. Then I simmered the onion skins for another hour, to create a secondary dye bath. I dyed a one-ounce skein of each type of yarn in each of these two baths, then another pair of skeins in each "exhaust" bath. I then combined the two baths and used that as well on another pair of skeins. I even threw two unmordanted skeins into the final dye bath, just for fun. The idea was to end up with a range of yellow-to-orange colors.
|The Plan (before additions)|
I chose the cold method for dyeing the yarn, partly because Dean said I could and partly because it's July (see above) and partly because Lamb's Pride contains mohair. Mohair provides warmth but does not like to be heated. The cold method meant soaking the yarn for 12 hours for each stage. This meant DAYS of my kitchen being cluttered with dye pots and other dye equipment.
|Orange you glad you are dyeing me?|
I'm fairly pleased with the results, especially the Cascade; the Lamb's Pride came out more murky.
From top to bottom: Primary dye bath, secondary dye bath, primary dye bath exhaust, secondary dye bath exhaust, combined dye bath exhaust, combined dye bath exhaust without mordant.
I think these colors will work well with the henna-dyed yarn I created earlier this year.
|Compare and contrast|
Not wanting to waste a single opportunity to dye something orange-ish, I took an old yellow-stained-armpit but otherwise perfectly good white tank top and threw it in the final exhausted dye bath, without mordant (although I could have added some mordant to the dye bath itself. I always think of these things too late.)
|White tank top now dyed|
Next up: dyeing with Queen Anne's lace.