Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Onion Skin Dying wool for the very first time


Well, it has been warm, almost early summer-like week here in PA. We have been told that it will start cooling down and winter will show up again in the next few days. Ugh! But, this has inspired me to try some wool dying for the first time. I accomplished three different types of dying all in one morning. My best dye job was the onion skin dying. It was easier than I thought and with the help of a book called THE COMPLETE BOOK OF RUG HOOKING by Joan Moshimer,1975 and reprint 1989 and a fellow blogger Rugs O mine by Kathy. She is a fellow rug hooker that does awesome work and has been nice enough to answer my questions and give me some much needed advice. You can find her blog as well as some of her work on Etsy. Her seller name is woolfind. I followed the directions almost to the tee.

I began with eight ¼ yard pieces of Dorr Wool. (You can use more or less, but since this was my first time I decided I didn't want to waste great wool on a foul-up)My deepest darkest color was burgundy, then a rosy mauve, then a paler pink and then a subtle pink. I added antique white pieces for the final touch

I first soaked the wool in warm water in the sink with a mild soap detergent for about 2-3 minutes (until the wool was wet). I then used a vintage white enamel cooking pot for my dying chamber. After the wool was wet, I placed one piece of dark burgundy and two pieces of rosy pink still wet and not wrung out, in the bottom of the chamber. I then added onion skins from yellow onions on the top of the layer of fabric. (I have been saving the skins for some weeks). I scattered them on the wool but haphazardly. Then, I applied salt(about 3-4 tablespoons) and sprinkled that on top of the skins. My first layer was ready.

Next, I added two pieces of pale pink and one piece of rosy pink. I did the same with this layer adding the skins and then the salt. Last, but not least, I added two pieces of antique white on the top layer. Finally, I added the onion skins and salt.

Now I was ready. I took about 6 quarts of hot water and began to add this onto the already wet and soaking wool. I only added enough water to cover the wool. I did not fill it to a saturated consistency. You will be seeing the burgundy and pinks already rising to the top from the other wools at the bottom. The onion skins bring out a natural orangey yellow. You then place the pot on the stove. Use a low flame, cover and steam the wool for about 45 minutes. Voila!!! You are now finished!

I took a small strainer and placed it in the drain of my sink. You do not want those skins going down the disposal or sink. !!!! Messy. I then poured the water and the wool out. At the same time I ran cold water onto the wool to cool the fabric and help set the color. (The salt does that for you as well). After the wool was cooled I took the wool and ran it on a low heat in the dryer to dry. I couldn't put it outside that day because it was 32 degrees and raining!

Well, you can see how my wool pieces turned out in the picture. They are mottled and interesting to use in your rug hooking pieces. I also spot dye a few pieces as well. I will describe that at a different time. I used all Dorr Wools. Many of their colors complemented the color process and made the process very easy. If you have any questions don't hestitate to contact me. I am not a pro by any means but I can help!!!!!

Hope everyone is having a grand March!!!!


  1. I am thrilled to hear you jumped right in and did some dyeing. Loved reading how you did everything. But... where's the picture lol? Got so excited to see it, and I can't find it!
    Do you have it hidden Shug, hmmm?? I know you'll post it, I'm just teasing.

  2. Gorgeous!!! I can't wait to see what you use this wool in. For a flower, veining, outlining. Wow, the possibilities are endless. Beautiful job! Look forward to seeing your other dyeing...

  3. Oh thank you for sharing - I've just started dyeing wool myself!! These are beautiful!!!

  4. You did a great job on the onion skin dyeing. I haven't tried this yet but yours looks so nice I think I may just have to give it a try!