Red Onion Skins

I seeing what red onion skins can do on silk I can't help but feel romanced by it color… all the flaky layers create a unforgettable, tangy + blushly hues make me... blush!  Ancient egyptians considered the spherical silhouette and many layers of the onion a powerful icon of the eternal afterlife. Since it is also an aseptic + deodorant, they placed slivers of onions all inside and all around their mummies' bodies during the burial rituals.

As for today, I am dyeing a silk chemise in red onion skins I got (for free) at my local grocery store. If you ask nicely, I am sure they will give the skins to you too! (They are going to throw out the outer skins flakes anyways!) Or… you can always make a great big onion soup use the skins from that.

Another great thing about onion skin is that their color is easily extracted onto fabric. This means that you don't need a mordant to create a beautiful dyed piece.


  • 100% Charmeuse Silk Chemise garment

  • about a four cups of Red Onion Skins (the more, the deeper the color)

  • one large pot (preferably stainless steel)

  • stainless steel spoon + tongs

  • one handy strainer 

  • two large mixing bowls

  • water source (such as a kitchen faucet)

  • heat source (such as a stove top)



Step One: Pre-soak garment for about fifteen minutes. 

Step Two: While garment soaks in mixing bowl, put red onion skins in large pot on stove top. Add water. (To be perfectly honest, I only measure my water to onion skin ratio when I plan to reproduce that exact dye tone in the future. Otherwise, I use my prior experiences to help me determine the amounts. Experimentation is definitely key with all natural dyes.) The less water and more material the deeper the color… just be sure to have enough water to drown the whole garment.

Step Three: Slowly stir pot w/ spoon and bring to a boil. The skins will turn slightly translucent as the water goes form clear to reddish. This means that the color is being extracted from the red onion skins.

Step Four: place other unused mixing bowl in sink. slowly strain the skins + dye water. Keep in mind that you need to catch all the dye water into mixing bowl in the sink. this is the good stuff!

Step Five: put dye water back in pot and put it back onto the stove top.

Step Six: Take the pre-soaked garment out of its mixing bowl. Do not ring out! Add it to dye pot.

Step Seven: stir leisurely to desired depth of color on garment appears. Most of the color will attach to the garment in about 45 mins. You can always remove it from the stove leave it to soak for longer. This will slightly darken the color.

Step Eight: Once the color has dyed the garment to the desired tone, rinse out in luke cool water. Hang dry.