DIY: Red Onion Skin Shibori

Red Onion Skin Shibori Onion Skin ShiboriOne of the things I’ve wanted to experiment more with is natural dyes.  My parents have a restaurant on Cape Cod , and they have been saving red onion skins for me.  On my last trip, I dyed a few pieces of cotton fabric with them using a shibori technique.  I used a recipe for the onion skin dye from Folk Fibers.  Maura, the talented woman behind the brand, is an expert at natural dyes.  The color on my fabrics came out differently than I was expecting from her post, but I think they are still very pretty.

If you’d like to try this out, the full how-to is after the jump.


-Washed cotton fabric (or any other natural fiber such as wool, silk, etc)

-Rubber bands

-Red Onion Skins

-2 large pots


Step 1: Make Dye

-Place your onion skins in a large pot.

Red Onion Skins-Cover the onion skins with water.

Red Onion Skin Dye-Bring the mixture of water and onion skins to a boil and simmer for at least 1 hour.  This allows for the color to come out of the onion skins.

Red Onion Skin Dye-While you are waiting you can fold your fabric for the shibori technique.


Step 2: Shibori Folding Technique

I folded the fabric using a modified version of a basic shibori technique.  Fabric should be scoured prior to dyeing.  If you do not have soda ash to do this, washing it with a detergent and no fabric softener should be ok.

Shibori Folding-Fold the fabric in half lengthwise, and again twice more or until you have the desired width.  The width of your fabric will change the gridded shibori pattern you achieve, so the wider your fabric is the wider your boxes will be.

Shibori Folding Shibori Folding-Once you have a long folded length of fabric begin to fold it in an accordion style until you run out of fabric.  You want to fold the fabric so that it is even.

Shibori Folding Shibori Folding Shibori Folding Shibori Folding

-Once you have your folded bundle, wrap it tightly with rubber bands.  The tighter it is the less dye will get inside.

Shibori Folding-Put your folded fabric bundle in a bowl of water and let it soak for at least 10-15 minutes.  This is important as it allows for the dye to be absorbed evenly.


Step 3: Dye your fabric

Red Onion Skin Dye

-Drain the onion skin water from the pot into another large pot.  You do not need to keep the onion skins, and they can now be discarded.

Red Onion Skin Dye Red Onion Skin Dye-Place your fabric bundles in the pot.

Shibori_fold_10-Heat the dye bath for at least 1 hour, stirring as needed to keep the bundles covered with dye.

Onion Skin Shibori-Let the fabric bundles cool in the dye bath (I left mine in over night).

onion_skin_shibori_03-Rinse your fabric bundles under cool water and unfold them.  You want to rinse them until the fabric runs clear.

-Hang to dry, and iron to remove any wrinkles.

Onion Skin Shibori

I am definitely going to experiment more with natural dyes in the future.  If you’re interested in them I highly recommend checking out the Folk Fibers blog.


  1. Now I want to prepare my sauteed red onions for you! (as well as save the skins for you ~) Lovely work.

    • Sounds good! I’d love to catch up soon – I’m sorry I’ve been so busy with the launch.

  2. Sarah

    I recognize those hands 🙂 I love the natural dye idea! I think beets or turmeric would also work well. Can’t wait ’til the shop opens!

    • Yep! Thanks so much for your help. Hope you are having a good week.

  3. pomegranateandseeds

    gorgeous! so so glad I found your blog the other day. another gifted rebecca in the world. so great!

    • That’s so nice to hear – Welcome!

  4. Grace - Stripes & Sequins

    this = amazing!!! obsessed.

    • Thanks sis! We can do it some weekend if you want…maybe dye t-shirts?

  5. what an incredible effect, achieved by such simple ingredients. Simply beautiful, thank you for sharing the technique

  6. Denise Atwood

    love this post, it was so much fun having you home to experiment! xo

  7. Maura

    Great job, I love the results!

    • Thank you Maura! I love reading your blog and am so impressed that everything is dyed naturally. You are so talented!

  8. Alison

    Great results I love the color it produced! How many onions did you use to get the amount of skin needed for the dye?

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  10. Aby

    Did the onion skin dye affect the texture of the cloth?

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