Slow Summer

The weather here is really starting to warm up as we approach high-Summer, and as happens every year around this time I have begun to think about what my Summer creative life is going to look like.  In Summer, I like to slow it down and take it easy...

Although I do knit all year around, I'm similar to a lot of people that like to work on smaller, lighter projects during the warmer months, such as shawls or socks.  There has already been plenty of those, but this year there has also been more thought about what other kinds of fibre-related projects I'd like to explore?

One thing I have been meaning to try for a long time is solar dyeing, so with the clear sunny days we've been having, I decided the time was now!

solar dyeing onion skins

Under my sink was a bag full of brown onion skins that I have been collecting for the last 12 months, and from all my research and discussion with dyers; onion skins seem to be the easiest natural dyestuff to extract colour from.  Being a spur of the moment project I didn't have mordants on hand, but I did throw a slug of white vinegar in.  I'm not sure what that will actually do but I guess I hoped it might just help the dye "take" a little better?

The jar is one of my Nana's old biscuit jar (because you always keep biscuits in glass to keep them fresh, according to her wisdom) and it was the perfect size to take the 200g skein of some cream 4ply wool that I found at the opshop.  I assume that because no mordants have been used, this will not affect the jar's capacity to be used for foodstuff at a future date, either.

I really like the slow nature of this way of dyeing.  Results aren't immediate in any way, or even guaranteed.  There is always a chance the dyepot, or jar in this case, won't even yield a result. 

I posted on Instagram a couple of weeks back, seeking advice about how long to leave the jar, and received many great replies.  I really appreciate the generosity of this community, so willing to share knowledge, experiences, and encouragement.

The jar was left for two weeks in a good sunny spot on my back decking.  I prodded it a couple of times, and moved the onion skins and yarn around hoping to get even-ish coverage of dye.

The end result was this lovely, butterscotchy semi-solid.

It wasn't exactly what I expected, though.  I had always imagined a more turmeric-yellow from onion skins.  I am supposing that is the product of using a mordant though?

Regardless, I'm very happy with the butterscotch.  I think I'll end up pairing it with another colour and working it into a marled fabric - maybe a beautiful deep indigo blue, or even a darker caramel colour might be lovely?

And the verdict on solar dyeing?  I definitely see more in my future!  So simple and very little attention required, really.  It seems like the perfect way to have a play with natural dyeing.  I'd love to hear from you what your favourite dyestuff are for this method of dyeing yarn, too?


Kylie Robson
Kylie Robson