I recently made a quick video tutorial on dyeing with avocado stones over on my Instagram which received some really positive feedback. So much so that I decided to create a new article on dyeing with these unsuspecting beauties ( this will be my third to date! ). When I teach my natural dye workshops I always like to make the process as simple and achievable as possible. I know what it's like to learn a new skill for the first time, sometimes it can seem daunting, intimidating or overwhelming. With that in mind, if you have been curious about natural dyeing and want to give it a go, avocado stones are a great place to start. I will explain how you can create beautiful pinks with these incredible fruits. I have summed all of this information up in an easy to follow eBook "Dyeing with Avocados" for anyone interested click here.
Before we get started let's talk briefly about mordanting. When working with natural dyes in order to get good results your fibre has to be "mordanted". A mordant is a plant or metal-based fixative that is used to bind the dye to the fibre increasing the colour fastness. One of the great things about avocado stones is that they are high in tannic acid which acts as a natural mordant binding the dye to the fibre.
Swatches of avocado samples on Irish linen from my natural dye notebook
All you need for this project is a pot, wooden spoon, avocado stones, something to dye, water and your stove. As you are first starting out don’t get caught up on quantities or ratios at the moment. Just use what you have and see this as a fun experiment. Use whatever pot you can, probably the biggest you have, it doesn't matter what its made from. I would start with at least 4 avocado stones, if you want to save more and have a stronger dye please do so. You will need something to dye, maybe a pillowcase, napkins or an old top that you no longer wear if you've got kids maybe one of their old tops or leggings. I would recommend starting with something cream, white or off white in colour.
Before you start dyeing you will need to wash what you have to remove the oils or residue from the fibre. Do this by washing with either 1 teaspoon of baking powder, baking soda or soda crystals ( do not add detergent ). If you don't have any of those just use 1tsp of dish soap. Now for the fun part!
YOU WILL NEED :
- Heat source
- Wooden Spoon
- Something to dye
- A big Pot ( big enough to hold whatever you're dyeing)
- 4 -9 cleaned avocado pits, please, feel free to use as many as you want
- Gloves (I didn't use any but it would make life easier when removing if you did! )
- Container or bucket to pre-soak your fabric after it has been washed & before it is added to the dye pot
1. Pre-wash your fabric in your washing machine using 1 tsp. of any of the following, soda crystals, baking soda, baking powder or dish soap.
2. Once your fabric is washed let it sit in a container or water to make sure the fibres are soaked through before adding to the dye pot.
3. Fill your pot with enough water, I always like to fill 3/4 way.
3. Wash your avocado pits ( removing any fleshy bits that may have stuck to the stone ). Add the whole pits to your pot; the more you add, the darker the colour.
4. Bring to a low boil, then reduce to simmer. Simmer until the avocado pits begin to turn the water to pink and then a deep maroon, should take anywhere between 40minutes -2.5 hours depending on your stones.
5. Once your water starts to change colour and the dye is released let the dye simmer for a little while longer. This is like cooking, you have to go with your own flow here. I can't tell you exactly minute by minute because it doesn't work that way, whatever you do is ok.
4. Now for the fun part! Remove the stones from your pot & add your pre-soaked/wetted fabric. This can be done with the heat on or off. I like to start with the heat on a low simmer for at least 30 minutes then I turn the heat off. You could leave the heat on longer if you want, just make sure you keep topping up the water if it evaporates. For strong colours turn off the heat & leave the fabric in the overnight. The longer the fabric soaks, the more vibrant the pinks will be. If you want soft subtle colours, leave your fabric in until you like the colour you see.
5. When the material reaches your desired shade, carefully remove it from the dye pot. Rinse with a gentle fabric soap & hang to dry.
My Mum's gorgeous pink china with Irish linen napkins, hand-dyed with avocado stones
There you have it, a simple little natural dyeing tutorial. I will do my best to add a video tutorial up here in the next few days to help you see how simple the process is. ( please be patient with me as these things take me ages! )
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. Just be sure to clean the fabric thoroughly without detergent before you dye.
Keep in mind that if you plan on dyeing wool or animal fibres be sure to add them once the dye pot has cooled completely. Otherwise, the heat will shrink/felt your fibres. Let them sit overnight for best results. When you're done, just give everything a gentle rinse and let dry naturally! It's so easy and fun to watch the fabric transform right before your eyes!