Onion skin

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

 

Making natural paints and inks from plants

I’ve been making an exciting foray into the world of natural paints and inks. It’s not so different from natural dyeing really. You can use the same dye plants but just create a really strong dye bath by using a higher proportion of plant material to water. If the colour isn’t quite strong enough when you strain it, simmer it down until you reach the desired effect.

Natural ink made from onion skins and marigolds

For my first paints, I’ve gone with some classic dye plants. Above is red onion skin, brown onion skin and marigold flowers. I cooked these for about 2 hours, but the beauty of it is that there is no right or wrong length of time, just different colours and strengths. A lot of plant dyes will brown if you cook them at too high a heat though, so keep it at a low simmer.

Onion skin ink and iron on watercolour paper

Here I tried painting circles on watercolour paper with the red and brown onion skin paints, and adding in a drop of iron mordant (rusty iron dissolved in vinegar). It is so beautiful watching the plant dyes and the iron mix and blend. And I love having a new use for the mordants that I already use for my natural dyeing.

Avocado seed paint/ ink paper tests by Gumnut Magic

Next up was some avocado seed ink. The gorgeous peachy colour at the top was made after a short amount of cooking. The right sample is a simple brushstroke of the final colour, a beautiful earthy pink. The middle sample shows how beautifully it spreads on Japanese paper. And the bottom left two pieces have some iron mordant dropped in to modify the colour- which creates patches of gorgeous lavender purple and smoky blue.

After cooking, you do need to strain the liquid very well to remove any small particles of plant material. Use a coffee filter, or a piece of fabric folded over several times and placed within a metal strainer. Then you can use the paint as-is, or add a binder such as gum arabic to give it a more painterly consistency. Add a clove to each jar of paint or keep them in the fridge to prevent moulds from developing.

Making natural paints from onion skins, avocado seeds and marigold flowers

Here is my collection of paints so far. They look much darker and sometimes even a different colour in the jar to how they turn out on paper.

If you want more inspiration on making your own natural paints, I highly recommend the books Make Ink by Jason Logan and The Organic Artist by Nick Neddo.

If you want to come back to this idea later, you can pin the image below.

Use onion skins or marigold flowers to make paint or inkJ