‘Little House on the Prairie’: How to Make a Green Scarf Using Onion Dye Like Laura Crafted for Pa Ingalls on the Show

by Katie Maloney

Have you ever wanted to recreate some of the homemade gifts featured on Little House on the Prairie? Now you can with this yarn craft tutorial.

Certainly, the Ingalls showed us that you don’t need money to show someone you care. In fact, each member of the family demonstrated just that during the season one episode, “Christmas at Plum Creek.” During the episode, each Ingall finds a unique way to ensure they are able to place gifts under the Christmas tree for their family. Mary works overtime for the town seamstress. And Charles earns extra money by fixing wagon wheels. But Laura’s gift to her father is our favorite of the episode. Laura decides to make her father a green scarf using yarn dyed with vegetables from the family garden. And with Spring quickly approaching, now is the perfect time to start planning how to recreate Laura’s scarf using yarn dyed with supplies from your own garden.

How to Recreate Laura’s Green Scarf From Little House on the Prairie

This tutorial is going to show you how to dye your yarn different colors using onion skins. Yellow onions turn yarn into bright yellow colors. Red onion skins turn yarn orange. To achieve the same green color that Laura used in her scarf to her father, you’ll need to add an iron mordant after you’ve dyed your yarn either yellow or orange. But don’t worry “iron mordant” sounds way more complicated than it actually is. So, let’s start with the first dye project.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  •  2 stainless steel pots
  • 2 heaping handfuls of yellow onion skins
  • Glass bowl
  • Mesh strainer
  • Stainless steel tongs
  • Stove
  • Water source
  • Wool yarn

It’s Time to Make Some Onion Skin Dye

Step 1: Start by collecting onion skins. You only need the papery outside layer of the onion. You can grab skins from your own garden. Or, you can ask an employee at your local grocery store if you can collect the skins from the onion bins – they just throw them away anyway. Once you’ve collected your onion skins, and purchased your yarn, you’re ready to start your project.

Step 2: Soak your yarn. In order for the yarn to absorb the color of the dye, it has to first be completely saturated with water. So, fill one of your pots with enough water to allow the yarn to float freely. With the yarn in the pot of water, bring the water to a simmer for about 20 minutes.

Step 3: Boil the onion skins. You don’t need to worry about measuring the skins. Simply guesstimate a 1:1 ratio between yarn weight and onion skins. You can always add a few more skins for good measure. Fill your second pot with enough water that your onion skins can float freely as they simmer. Place the skins in the water, add the lid to the pot, and allow the mixture to boil. Once everything starts to boil, decrease the temperature and let the mixture simmer for about an hour.

Step 4: Drain the dye. You don’t want all those onion skins mixing with your yarn when you start dyeing it. So, once the mixture has simmered for an hour, strain the dye into another pot so that all the skins are gone.

You’re Almost Finished!

Step 5: Now it’s time to dye the yarn! Place the fully strained dye back into your pot and place it on the stove over medium heat. Once the water is simmering, add the wet yarn to the pot. Allow the yarn to simmer in the dye for about 30 minutes.

Step 6: Remove the yarn from the dye using tongs and place into a bowl. Allow the yarn to cool slightly, then rinse it with warm water. Then hang the yarn to dry.

Voila! You have onion-skinned dyed yarn fit for an episode of Little House on the Prairie. Laura would be so proud!

Laura thinks about what to gift Pa on Little House on the Prairie.

How to Make a Green Dye for Your Yarn

We are confident that your yellow and orange yarn is absolutely beautiful. But if you’re looking at your yarn and thinking, “But Laura’s was green…” Don’t worry, this final step will turn your yarn a luscious green. It’s time to make the aforementioned iron mordant! And all you need are some old rusty iron nails and screws – we told you it would be easier than it sounds.

What you’ll need:

  • Large mason or pickle jar
  • A handful of rusty nails, wire, chain, etc
  • White vinegar
  • Water

Step 1: Place your rusty iron objects into the glass jar and add 1 part white vinegar to 2 parts water. Place a lid on the jar and wait two weeks. After two weeks, you’ll see an orange solution in the jar -the iron mordant is alive!

You’re Only Minutes Away From Seeing Green!

Step 2: Pour 1 cup of iron mordant into a bowl with 3-4 cups of water. Place your onion-skin-dyed yarn into the water making sure that all the yarn is saturated. Within a few minutes, you’ll see your yarn transform into a beautiful green color.

Step 3: Hang your yarn to dry.

Step 4: Celebrate because you are now officially an honorary Ingall family member! Welcome to the Little House on the Prairie.