A few years back I remember picking up a plain calico bag that was in the sale at Hobbycraft. They usually have bins with sale items near the tills and I succumbed! It’s been in its packet at the bottom of my basket ever since though as I couldn’t decide what to do with it.
Well, last week I decided to have a go at making some rhubarb and date chutney as we have rhubarb in the garden that needed using up. (The recipe didn’t say how many jars it would make and I ended up with 8 altogether which is about 6 more than I was expecting – fingers crossed it tastes good!) Anyway, I knew that I’d be using quite a few red onions, and I also remembered from my afternoon with the lovely Annie on Skye last year, that you can use onion skins for dyeing wool and fabric. So, with that in mind I made sure I kept all my onion skins to one side after my chutney making marathon.
I found some really helpful instructions on line, followed them to the letter, and was really pleased with the results. It’s a very simple process and I’m keen to experiment with other natural dyes too now.
While the skins are working their magic, pop your bag in the sink in some hot water to soak.
Once the hour is up, remove the onion skins, take your bag out of the sink and squeeze as much of the water out of it as possible before placing it carefully into the dyebath.
Use a wooden spoon to make sure all of the bag is submerged in the dye.
Heat the dye gently for about an hour again and keep moving the bag to ensure all of the fabric gets covered. After an hour turn off the heat and let the fabric cool. Once cool you can remove the fabric, but you can also leave it for longer (and even overnight) if you’d like to achieve a slightly darker colour.
When you do take your bag out of the dye you’ll need to rinse it in cold water until the water runs clear. You can then hang it out to dry or pop it over the radiator.
I was actually rather pleased with the final colour of the bag (which is closer to the photo above than those below), but still wanted to jazz it up a bit. In the end I decided to sew on some buttons (I’m sure my button tin is magic – no matter how many I use the tin always seems to be full!) I selected lots of small buttons and set to work.
I wrote my slogan – Bee Kind – on some translucent baking parchment so that I could position it on the bag to see what it would look like. I then wrote the words directly onto the bag using a washable pen. These are great dressmaking tools – you can write on fabric but the writing will disappear as soon as you wash it – very handy indeed!
It was then simply a matter of picking out buttons at random and sewing them on to form the letters. This took quite a bit of time, and was a little fiddly as I had to keep making sure the bag handles didn’t get in the way, so I did it whilst watching a few episodes of A House Through Time which I can highly recommend!
I’ll definitely be experimenting with more natural dyes and might try a t-shirt next maybe. In the meantime, I have a lovely colourful bag to add to my collection!