How to scrunch dye with onion skins

I decided to go with scrunch dyeing for the upcycled tank top from my last post. Here’s a simple video tutorial of the method – scroll down for step by step instructions.

Step one: Scrunching

Choose a white item of clothing to dye.

Begin scrunching the top from one corner inwards. You can do a gentle or tight scrunch, they will just give different results. Do it tightly for strong contrast between dyed and undyed sections, or do it very loosely for a slightly dappled, almost solid colour.

Keep scrunching until the whole item is scrunched up.

Step two: Binding

Hold the scrunched bundle together with loose weave fabric, a mesh bag, string or rubber bands, so that it will keep this scrunched shape in the dye pot. The fabric on the outside will pick up the most dye, and some colour will seep into the folds. Again, how tightly or loosely you bind it will affect the results. I have used an old delicates washing bag to hold this bundle together, and I went for a medium scrunch, to get some obvious colour variation but without stark white patches.

Step three: Dyeing

Put your bundle in a dyepot and add your dyestuff. I used onion skins, because they are easy to get and they contain strong, substantive dyes. I also added a splash of iron mordant, to shift the colour to olive green and to help bind the dye to the fabric. You could also prepare your fabric with soy milk binder or a mordant in advance, but I was keeping things simple here.

Cover the fabric and dyestuff with boiling water, and simmer until you get a good depth of colour. I cooked this bundle for about 90 minutes, then let it sit in the dyebath overnight.

Step four: Unwrapping

Once your bundle has cooled down, unwrap it and admire the beautiful, organic pattern you have created!

Every scrunch dye is different and it is impossible to replicate results. Isn’t it wonderful sometimes to surrender to chance and embrace whatever happens? Such good medicine for the year we have just had.

I hope you enjoyed this simple tutorial and as always, I’d love to see your results if you give it a try. Leave a link in the comments or tag me on Instagram @gumnutmagic

 

4 thoughts on “How to scrunch dye with onion skins”

  1. Question: – this is really neat and would make a nice little “ad-on” for an eco-printing on paper workshop which I am trying to convince my friend to offer this summer. Everyone could bring their own t-shirt. does the fabric need to be 100% cotton? Is there any need or way to set the onion dye so it does not wash out or fade in the laundry?

    1. Hi Evelyn, you can do this method on any natural fibre – wool, cotton, linen, even rayon. I prepared this fabric with soy milk binder to help the colour to bind, but you could also use a mordant. Good luck!

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