Avocado dye is the perfect natural dye option for beginners. It can be used on any type of natural fiber (like cotton seen here) with great results. More importantly, it does not require a mordant- or a bonding agent- which can be quite rare for natural dyes, especially on cellulose-or plant- fibers. It’s also a great one to start with because it’s exciting! It lets you see and experience the unexpected as the water starts to turn pink- PINK! from old avocado pits and skins. unbelievable.
Alright, on to the nitty gritty. How is it done you ask? Well, its actually quite easy. That’s the thing about natural dyeing. The extraction of color and dyeing of fibers is pretty simple and straight forward. The complicated stuff like prepping, mordanting, ph balancing, color shifting etc is not needed for this project. (though some of those things would be fun to play around with and see if you get a different color or shade). I have often heard that people have not had much luck dyeing with avocado pits and skins-that the color was so faint it was hardly noticeable. However, I have had great luck with every time. So, I’ll tell you just exactly what I do.
I like to refer to myself a folk dyer. In herbalism, folk methods are often just eyeballed and not mathematically calculated. That’s how I usually roll. It’s definitely how I roll with avocados. The first thing you will need to do is get a bunch of avocado skins and pits. So, go ahead and make that big batch of guacamole, I know you can eat it all. I’d say maybe 3 avocados will get you a good personal use dye bath going. Clean the skins and and pits with a scrubby so there is no fruit left on them to rot. You don’t want to use them right away, so just leave them to dry out for a few days or a few weeks -heck, I have even left them for a few months… Not loving the sight of food scraps on your counter? You can also stick them in the freezer.
Next, figure out what your going to dye. It can be anything- as long as its natural fibers. So many questions about that last sentence, right? Natural Fibers means any fiber from plants or animals- cotton, linen, hemp, wool, silk, etc. Fibers that aren’t natural would be polyester, acrylic, rayon, etc. Why not natural fibers? Because they are basically plastic, and unless your using a greasy spaghetti sauce- you just can’t dye plastic. Alright, next question. What do I mean by anything? I mean anything…. that can fit in your dye pot and move about freely. A hand towel, yarn, a hat, a pillowcase, a toiletry bag, a vintage hanky, a new hanky, a play silk, etc.
Now that you’ve got your item(s) to dye. Let’s make sure they are ready to be dyed. If your item is new- you will need to scour or wash it to remove any coatings or finishes applied to it. If your item is used, you will need to wash it to remove any dirt or residue build up on it. If it is used and stained- I warn you now, the dye will not cover up the stains, they will still be there just maybe slightly pink now.
Now the time has come to extract your dye, or create your dye bath. Start by finding a pot. It’s always a good idea to have a designated dye pot. It should be large so that your items can move about freely in the water for a better shot at even coverage. All my dye pots have come from the thrift store or restaurant supply stores (for my big big pots). Stainless steel or enamel are best for consistency in color. Aluminum, copper, or iron may shift your dye color.
Fill your pot with water, again for avocado dye ph does not have much effect on color so fill it with whatever kind of water your heart desires. Rain water, tap water, filtered water, creek water, bottled water, etc. Throw in all those avocado bits and pieces you saved and bring to a boil. Let simmer for an hour. I like to let the dye bath rest overnight and then bring to a simmer for another hour the next day. At this point you are ready to dye your goods.
Well, almost. If you are using cellulose fibers (these are fibers from plants like cotton, hemp, and linen) you will need to soak them in water. This helps with getting even coverage of color. If you are using protein fibers (fibers from animals like wool and silk) you will need to soak in room temperature water and then slowly heat up that water with your items in it to match the temperature of your dye pot. This is to prevent felting and shrinkage of the fibers.
Now, it’s actually time to dye your goods. Slowly, but also all at once, add your presoaked and/or warmed items into the pot with the avocado pits and skins. give them a stir and let them simmer in the dye bath for an hour or more. The dye bath should remain heated at around 185-200 degrees for the duration. Stir occasionally throughout the hour to help insure even coverage. When the time is up, you can either let them cool down in the dye bath or fish them out immediately, ring and rinse and hang to dry.
You may need to do one more rinse before use to ensure all excess dye is rinsed out. Thats it! Let me know how it goes, or tag me on instagram @needlesandspines