Pilgrim Craft: Dye A Shirt With Onion Skins

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In our Pilgrim Unit study, we have learned just how self sufficient they had to be!  In this activity, we talked about dying cloth.  If the early colonists wanted something “colored”, they couldn’t run to WalMart & find a rainbow of tshirt colors.  They had to dye it themselves!

A variety of natural items were used to achieve different colors (walnut shells, fruits or vegetables, flowers, leaves, etc).  We used onion skins to make a nice, yellow dye for our shirts. 

**You can get lots of onion skins for free.  When I went to the produce aisle, I just dug to the bottom of the yellow onion bins & filled a produce bag with all the skins that had fallen off.  The very nice Produce Man asked if I needed help (why is that crazy lady only taking the skins?) so I told him what we were doing & he went to the back & pulled a bag of purple onion skins out for me!  

I think he might have learned something new that day too, as I explained about Pilgrims & dying cloth.

Here’s what you’ll need for this easy project:

*old tshirt

*yellow onion skins (the more skins you use, the more concentrated your dye will be)

*vinegar

 

What to do:

In a large pot, add your onion skins to some water.  Nothing precise here.  Just make sure you have enough water to cover your shirt(s) when you add them.  Again, the more onion skins you have, the more concentrated your dye will be.  We had a produce bag full of skins, and my son  just threw them all in.

Bring the water to a boil & cook the onion skins for 20 minutes.  Remove from heat & allow to cool.

Strain the onion skins out of the dye bath & return the dye to the pot.  Add 2 Tablespoons vinegar.  The vinegar will help the color set.

Submerge shirt into dye bath & allow to soak for at least an hour (we left them overnight).  Remove the shirt & rinse with cold water until the water runs clear.  I would suggest washing the shirt by itself in cold water (no detergent) to make sure there is no remaining dye.

If you want to extend this activity, use other things that the Pilgrims would have used as well!  Berries make a nice rich dye, and I’m curious what walnut shells would do (supposed to make a brown dye).  Let your child come up with some suggestions too!

 

Heather About Heather

Heather spends time homeschooling, raising 3 great kids, & traveling with her family. She loves folding laundry but hates putting it away. She shares a love of Disney World with her Hubby, she's a cruise fanatic, & bird-watching hobbyist. You can follow her on Twitter as @CrazyZeus1.

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