Learning how to naturally dye can be a wonderful way to slow down & enjoy the benefits of a relaxing process while having something beautiful to show for your efforts. One of the most practical applications of natural dyeing is using it to breathe new life into old fabrics and fibres, reviving old pieces with renewed purpose. I’ll never forget the satisfaction I felt when dyeing with avocado stones for the first time.
If you are new to natural dyeing, working with avocado stones, skins or pits is a great place to start. Avocados are a wonderful source of natural colour and a simple beginner dye to work with. The seeds contain tannic acid which acts as a natural mordant, binding the colour to your fibre without the need for anything else to assist. A mordant is an assist that helps the dye bind to your fibre while increasing the colour & light fastness (how well the colour holds up to the sunlight & also washing).
Many first-time dyers are surprised to learn of the beautiful shades of pink possible from avocados. Depending on the variety you use, where they come from, and the time of the season, you can expect a range of beautiful soft pinks, corals and salmon. With the use of modifiers (acidic or alkaline additions), you can further expand the palette and possibilities available to you.
To dye with avocado stones or skins, you will need to collect stones of at least 6-8 for light to medium shades of pink, the more stones you use, the stronger shades your dye will produce. While gathering, you can store them in an airtight container in the freezer until you have enough. You can also let them dry & store them in a paper bag away from direct sunlight. Below you will find a tutorial on how to dye cotton or linen (any cellulose fibres) with avocado stones.
You will need:
- Strainer or sieve
- A large pot (big enough to hold whatever you are dyeing comfortably)
- 3 to 5 cleaned avocado pits per ½ pound of fibre (more pits will produce a stronger, deeper colour)
- Soda crystals, washing soda or soda ash (sodium bicarbonate)
- Something to dye (t-shirt, pillow case, fabric, napkins etc.)
- A wooden spoon for stirring & removing your fabric
How to naturally dye with avocado stones:
1. Pre-wash your fibre in the washing machine, using 1 tsp of sodium bicarbonate for every 100g of the weight of fibre do not add detergent. If your t-shirt weighs 150g use 1.5 tsp of sodium bicarbonate.
2. After washing, soak your pre-washed fibre in a basin or bucket of water while you prepare your dye.
3. Fill your dye pot 3/4 with water. Add your avocados to the pot, there is no need to cut or chop the stones, they can be added whole.
4. Place your pot on the heat & bring it to a gentle simmer. It will take some time for the water to heat up & extract the dye. You should have a nice strong dye after 3-4 hours.
5. Once your dye is ready, strain out the avocado stones.
6. Take the fabric that has been soaking, squeeze out the excess water & gently add your piece to the dye making sure it is fully submerged in the dye.
7. Simmer gently for at least 30 minutes, longer for darker shades. The longer you leave it, the darker your colours will be. When you are happy with the colour, turn off the heat, let the dye bath cool & carefully remove your fibre.
8. Hang your piece to dry for 1-2 days, then wash on a cold cycle using an eco-friendly detergent & enjoy your new naturally dyed piece!
If you are planning on dyeing wool, alpaca, cashmere, or any type of animal fibre, be sure to let the dye bath cool completely before adding your fibres. For best results, leave your animal fibre in the dye bath overnight.
If you would like to learn about dyeing with avocado stones, you can access my free mini-course with detailed instructions and video lessons. If you do sign up, let me know how you get on & best of luck with your experiments.