Onions are the perfect introduction to natural dyeing at home. Onions are rich in natural tannins so they do not require the addition of a mordant to “fix” the color. You can also feel good about making use of materials not otherwise used.
Below is a simple, no-fuss recipe for creating color in your kitchen. I encourage you to see our resources below and explore other methods and additional colors you can create with items in your kitchen!


Dyeing with Onion Skins

  • 1 Medium-large stainless steel pot
  • Undyed silk ribbon
  • Onion skins (yellow, red, or a combo)
  • ph-neutral washing soap

note | The larger your project, the more skins you will need. For a few yards of silk ribbon, the skins from a bag of onions will suffice. Red onion skins produce peachy-russet hues, and yellow onion skins produce an array of yellow-golds. 

1. Start by preparing your material. Add your silk ribbon to your stainless steel pot and cover with water so that your materials can move freely in the pot. Add a teaspoon of pH-neutral washing soap (such as Seventh Generation laundry soap). Gradually heat to just before boiling (180 degrees Fahrenheit) then turn down the heat and simmer for 40 mins.

2. Turn off heat and let cool. Once cool, thoroughly rinse your silk ribbon. Move silk ribbon to a bowl and cover with cool-warm tap water. Set aside till your dye bath is ready.

3. Add your onion skins (I typically use the skins of about 6 medium onions for 6-12 yards of ribbon) to your stainless steel pot and fill with water to cover. Cover your pot with a lid and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to a high simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. {To create a more concentrated color you can do this step the night before. Cook for 1 hour and cool in the pot over night}.

4. After an hour of simmering, turn the heat off and let the dye bath cool. Use a colander or cheesecloth to strain out your onion skins {or keep them in the pot to add texture and markings to your silk ribbon}. Add your wet silk ribbon to the dye pot {and your clean cheesecloth from straining too!} Heat to 180 degrees Fahrenheit (just before boiling) for 40 mins– 1 hour.

Red Onion Skins - create a peachy-coral hue   |   Yellow Onion Skins - create a golden hue


5. Turn off heat and let cool. You can leave your silk ribbon in the dye pot overnight, or for a few days to increase the saturation.

6. Remove your silk ribbon from dye pot and rinse thoroughly until water runs clear. Hang to dry. Iron on medium heat for a silky smooth finish. 

 Photo Kelle Sauer | Styling Lacy Geary


AVOCADO PITS / Pinks, Corals, Grays
ONIONS SKINS / Yellow, Coral, Peach, Green
COFFEE / Tans, Browns
WALNUT HUSKS / Tans, Browns
RED CABBAGE / Purples, Blues, Pinks, Teal
BLACK BEANS / Blues, Purples
BLACKBERRIES / Lavenders, Lilacs, Grays
POMEGRANATE / Golds, Gold-Brown, Green-Browns
HIBISCUS TEA / Purple, Pinks, Blues
ROOIBOS TEA / Peach, Coral
PEACH PITS / Peach, Pale Gold
BEETROOT / Pinks, Burgundy, Coral
TURMERIC / Yellow, Orange
CHAMOMILE TEA / Pale Yellow, Lemon Yellow
MINT / Yellows, Greens
ARTICHOKE / Cream, Yellow
ELDERBERRY / Blues, Lavenders, Purples
BLACK TEA / Copper, Browns
RHUBARB LEAVES / So Golden Brown, Creams
SPINACH // Yellows
ROSEMARY // Pale Yellows, Light Tan
CARROT TOPS // Yellows
CALENDULA // Yellows, Yellow-Green
THYME // Yellows
NETTLE // Yellows, Khaki, Warm Tan, Gray


Botanical Colors