Natural Dyes | Avocado Pits Part 2
As some of you may know I wrote a brief post on Dyeing with Avocado stones in March of last year. Since then I have had quite a few questions about the process which made me realise that I could have done a better job with the original post. So a year later here is an updated version where I will do my best to be as thorough as possible & answer the questions I have received over the year. (I have since put together a comprehensive guide on dyeing with avocados into an eBook. To see more on that click here)
Avocado is one of my favourite natural materials to dye with not only because of how simple it is but also because the colours it yields are so beautiful to me. I like the soft feminineness of blush that flows so freely from the stones. I have never been one for pinks & I'm still not but I do make an exception for a natural blush. Its beauty is everything I love, simple, unspoken, raw & elegant.
A few things to note:
Depending on how many avocados you have in your life you will want to start saving these a few weeks ahead of your planned dyeing adventure. What I have started to do is to keep a container filled with water next to the sink. When I use an avocado I wash the stone and pop it in the container and it stays in there until I have enough to dye with. Alternatively, if you know anyone who works in a cafe or are friendly with your local they may save some for you. Its amazing hows something that could be considered waste can be coxed to create something of such beauty under the right circumstance.
I read that you could dry your stones and use them at a later date but I tried that & got very weak results. I have read that some people freeze them and from what I've read they seem to be quite happy with their results. I have a large batch that I just received from a friend which I will be freezing in store for my next Natural Dye Workshop at the beginning of November.
Stones or skins:
I work with the stones because it is are easier to save the pits than the skins. I know quite a few dyers who dye with the skins alone or the skins and stones together. This is where you can try both and see what works for you. I have read that some people get more salmony colour results from the skins and more pinks from the stones. You will get different results depending on what you use, the type of avocado & the time of the year.
Vintage lace and tulle dyed with avocado stones
Before you start your dyeing it is very important to prepare your fabric by removing any residues, waxes or oils from the fibre.
Pre-treat your fabric:
I pretreat/scour my fabric beforehand by washing in the machine on a warm or hot cycle with a tablespoon of soda ash, if you don't have soda ash you can use soda crystals or baking soda. This will help remove any impurities, waxes oils etc. If your fabric or garment is heavily soiled maybe run it through twice. Do not put any detergent in as this will make it harder for the dye to penetrate the fibres of the fabric. Once my fabric has been prepared I like to cut it up into strips and do some test runs before any fabric or garment dyeing.
A note of Fabric:
As I work with cellulose fibres ( plant-based fabrics ) all my testing & the results you see here are on Linen which is a plant/cellulose fibre. Natural dyeing works beautifully with natural fibres. If you are looking to dye yarn or animal fibre you would need to follow instructions for animal fibres which I will be adding at some point in the hopefully not too distant future. You should get good results on natural fibres such as cotton and linen. I have had better results on linen than cotton.
A note on Colour:
As with all things natural, it will change & fade over time. I like the softer colours but you can always re-dye it if its fades past your liking.
A note on Mordants:
In the natural dyeing process, you will often hear people speak about "mordants". A mordant is a plant or metal-based fixative that is used to fix the dye to the fibres & extend the colour/wash-fastness of natural dyes. One of the magical things about avocado pits is that they contain tannin in the seed which acts as a mordant that binds wonderfully to natural fibres. The depth of the shade you can achieve depends on how many pits you use and how long you leave the solution to steep. Having said that sometimes it will take longer to get the results you want without the addition of a mordant.
The results I have included here show the colours achieved with & without mordants on Irish Linen.
Left Page: Left Column, Top swatch is fabric without any mordant (If I had left this overnight it would have had a much darker colour but as I was running quite a few experiments I just left everything in the pot for 30 minutes), below left is Tea + Alum + Avocado. Middle Column: Tea + Avocado, below that, is Tea + Avocado + Cream of Tartar. Right, Column from the top: Alum + Avocado, below that is Alum + Avocado + Cream of Tartar. Below that is Alum + Tea + Avocado. The last swatch is Alum + Avocado + Iron After Bath.
Right Page : Left Column from the Top: Tea + Alum + Avocado, below Tea + Alum + Avocado + Cream Of Tartar , then Tea + Alum + Avocado + Alum, lastly Tea + Alum + Avocado + Iron.
- For the experiments above all the linen had been pretreated by washing in the machine in soda ash.
- I used roughly 7-8 avocados stones, with all the bits washed off
- Swatches were simmered for 30 minutes
- The quantities for the modifiers Cream of Tartar, Iron & Alum were 1/4 tsp - 2 cups of water. Pieces were left in until I saw the change in colour that I was satisfied with.
- For the Tea, I boiled up 2 cups of water and added 6 Teabags & left in the tea bath for 10 minutes
- When I say 'Tea + Alum + Avocado' that means I dyed it in Tea, rinsed in water then put in the Alum for 5 minutes rinsed and then put in the avocado bath for 30 minutes.
WHAT YOU WILL NEED FOR SIMPLE DYEING WITHOUT MORDANTS OR MODIFIERS
- A big Pot ( big enough to hold whatever your dyeing)
- 5 to 8 fresh and cleaned avocado pits per ½ pound of fibre (more pits will produce a stronger, deeper colour)
- Fabric or fibres that you are dying
- A wooden spoon for stirring & removing you fabric
- Gloves ( I didn't use any but it would make life easier when removing if you did ! )
1. Pre-treat and soak your fabric before dyeing by following the instructions above. Keep it damp before adding to your dye pot.
2. Fill your dye pot with enough water to cover your material and have enough room for the material to move freely in the pot.
3. Gently wash your avocado pits ( removing any fleshy bits that may have stuck to the pit). Add the whole pits to your pot; the more pits, the darker the colour. Bring to a low boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer until the avocado pits begin to turn the water to pink and then a deep maroon, should take anywhere between 20-60 minutes to see the colour change.
4. At this point, you can either leave the stones in the pot and add your fabric or remove the stones, strain any bits from the liquid & then return to the pot. This is entirely up to you. If I am dyeing something that needs to be dyed evenly without any residual marks then I will strain but if I am just doing some testing I will leave the stones in the pot. If this is your first time I would recommend leaving the stones in the pot for as long as possible.
4. Place your fabric in the pot. Your material can be immersed in the dye pot while the dye is still simmering over the heat or after the dye has steeped and cooled. The longer the fabric soaks, the more vibrant the pinks will be. If you don't see a change in your fabric, our the heat off & leave your cloth in the dye bath overnight.
5. When the material reaches your desired shade, remove it from the dye pot. I like to let my pieces hang dry while the dye permeates the cloth as it cools & then rinse it in warm/cool water. I then put my fabric through a cold wash cycle with some eco-friendly detergent & conditioner.
Have fun experimenting with different types of fabric and amount of time you steep in the dye bath for. It's always so fun to see how different fibres take up the dye.
Irish Linen napkins dyed with avocado stones
STORING YOUR DYE:
You can use your dye bath for a few days after which it will start to thicken and get mouldy. Storing in your fridge may extend the life of the dye by a few days but as my fridge is too small I can't vouch for this. I usually dye what I need over the course of a few days and then discard my dye down the drain.
Keep in mind that if you plan on dyeing wool or animal fibres I would recommend mordanting in Alum before-hand for better results. I have dyed wool without mordanting and my results were weak. Let sit overnight for best results, also make sure to place in the dye pot once the colour has been extracted from the seeds and removed off the heat, DO NOT PUT WOOL IN A HOT DYE BATH AS IT WILL FELT. When your done, just give everything a gentle rinse and let dry naturally! It's so easy and so fun to watch the fabric transform and to see the magic of the natural dyes happen right before your eyes!
I hope you enjoy this post & I look forward to hearing about your experiences in the comments section below. If you have tried this in the past & it hasn't worked don't lose heart, I have had great results with this at home and then I have taught it in a workshop and it was a complete fail! As with all things in life you have good days with great success and days where you just can't achieve what you set out to accomplish. If you follow the directions above you should have some success and I wish you all the best! Thanks for reading xo
For anyone interested in an easy to follow guide, I have put all this information and lots more into an eBook. It covers everything you need to know about dyeing with Avocado for both plant & animal fibres. To see more on the downloadable guide click here.