Natural Dyeing with Avocado is one of the easiest ways to start experimenting with botanical dyes. You can use both the pits (stones) and skins which would otherwise be discarded after consuming the avocado. Today I want to show you the different color results when using pits vs. skins. We will also have a look at the color change when using iron sulfate as a modifier.
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Tips for Natural Dyeing with Avocado
#1 It is best to use fresh skins and pits to achieve more intense colors. But you can also store the dye stuff either at room temperature or in the freezer until you are ready to use the pieces. Just make sure to clean and dry them thoroughly.
#2 Different types of avocados produce different color variations. I personally like to use “Hass” avocados which are rather large with a deep green/brown skin and a round pit. But you just have to experiment a bit and see for yourself which color you like best and which types of avocado are available in your area.
#3 Mushing the Pits
After heating the pits for a little while, the peel gets softer and the pits often split in two pieces. If you mush the pits with a spoon and continue heating afterwards, you will get a more intense dye solution.
Range of Colors you can get from Avocados
The colorways avocados typically produce range from apricot/peach tones to dusty pinks. If you want to achieve a certain color it is possible to adjust the dyeing process in a way that helps you achieve this color. Let’s have a look at different options.
In my experience, the biggest difference in color results depends on the question if you mordant your skein of yarn before dyeing with avocados or not. For the longest time, I wondered why my skeins always turned out more on the apricot side when I was hoping to achieve dusty pinks. It was due to the fact that I always mordant my skeins with alum before the natural dyeing process to ensure maximum color fastness.
If you dye a skein of yarn with avocado that has not been mordanted with alum you can expect to get some shade of pink. On the other hand, if you use a mordanted skein, you will likely get a peachy/apricot skein.
Since avocados naturally contain high contents of tannins it is possible to omit the mordanting step and still get a good color fastness. If you would like to know more about tannins and their natural mordanting qualities, check out one of my previous blog posts about this topic:
Gentle Dyeing Process
As is the case with natural dyeing in general, slow is usually best. Slowly heating the pits or skins until simmering, letting the dye solution sit overnight before filtering off the dye material or even heating a second time is beneficial to the color depth of the dye solution. Cooking the skins or pits can dull the color.
PH and Water Quality of the Dye Solution
Shifting the pH of the dye solution towards alkaline should help to achieve pinker colors. I use washing soda to alter the pH towards alkali.
The qualities of your tap water can also influence the color result. If you aren’t satisfied with the outcome, try using distilled or rain water instead of tap water.
Freshness of the Plant Materials
If you use fresh skins and pits you will get more intense colors compared to dye stuff that has been stored for some time.
Number of Skins and Pits
Obviously, the amount of skins or pits you use compared to the weight of the yarn will result in more or less intense colors. When dyeing with pits I usually aim for at least equal weights of dyestuff and yarn. When dyeing with skins I find that even a ratio of 1:16 (e.g. 7 g worth of skins for a 100 g skein of yarn) still creates vibrant, deep colors.
Modifying with Iron
If you want to shift the pink shade towards mauve you can do so by modifying your yarn with iron sulfate.
In order not to damage the fibers and make them brittle, I only immerse my yarn in an iron bath for a short amount of time and without applying any heat. You can read all about my general method for modifying yarn with iron in this blog post:
The Natural Dyeing with Avocado Experiment: Pits vs. Skins
Now, let’s have a look at the color results in more detail. For this experiment I set up three dye pots.
Pot #1 contained 15 g of avocado skins (from about 2 – 3 avocados).
Pot #2 contained 400 g of avocado pits (from 28 avocados).
List of Materials
|Undyed skein of yarn||100 g|
You can simply use an undyed, natural skein of yarn. Maybe you even have some suitable yarn already in your stash. If you want to use a yarn that is in the form of a ball or cake, you have to create a skein first. This can be done by using a swift (this is the one I use and can recommend).
I used my Luster Sock DK yarn (100% German Merino wool).
Alum or potassium alum (KAl(SO4)2·12H2O) is a mordant which means that it is used to set dyes on fibers by forming a coordination complex with the dye. It increases the fastness of the dye.
|Pot||You can use an old pot or acquire one just for natural dyeing purposes. This is the size I use if I dye only one skein at a time, it has a holding capacity of 6 qt (5.7 L).|
|Bucket or Washing Pan||To scour and wash the yarn.|
|Kitchen Scale||To measure the alum and dyestuff. This is the one I use.|
|Tie||To secure the yarn and avoid tangling. You have to use something that is stable in boiling water and doesn’t give off any color. I usually use some kind of package cord.|
|Spoon||Wooden or stainless steel|
|Dish Shoap||Whatever you have on hand. |
This is used to scour and wash the yarn.
|Wool Laundry Detergent||This is the one I use and can recommend. It is gentle and doesn’t have any smell.|
Precautions: Don’t use the same pots and utensils for natural dyeing that you use for food preparation. Always wear gloves. Creating the dye solution and the dyeing process itself should be done in a well ventilated area. I often use a cooking plate that I put on my patio.
Natural Dyeing Process Instructions
Both pots were slowly brought to simmering and heated for about 90 minutes. Then the pots cooled down and sat overnight. On the next day, I dyed two skeins of yarn in each dye pot (after filtering off the dyestuff). One of the skeins had been mordanted with alum beforehand, the other skein was unmordanted. Both dye pots were heated for 60 minutes. Since I wasn’t satisfied with the color intensity of the skeins in pot #2, I heated them for an additional 15 minutes. Afterwards both pots cooled down and sat overnight.
For pot #3, I used both the skins and the pits from pot #1 and #2 and heated them a second time. After simmering for 90 minutes, the pot cooled down overnight. On the next day, I filtered off the dyestuff and dyed two skeins of unmordanted yarn. After 90 minutes of heating, the pot sat overnight again. On the next day, one of the skein was modified in an iron solution for 30 minutes.
Natural Dyeing with Avocado: Color Results
You can see the color results of pot #1 in the picture above. The unmordanted skein turned into a dusty pink. The skein that was mordanted with alum has a dark peach/orange/light rust color.
The colors achieved from the pits in pot #2 are, as you can see in the picture above, a lot lighter compared to the color results of the skins. This might be due to the fact that I collected and stored the pits over a period of several months. The skins, on the other hand, were only a couple weeks old. The color difference between the mordanted and unmordanted skein is barely visible. The mordanted skein is a bit darker but both skeins turned into a light apricot color.
The unmordanted skeins in pot #3 both came out a dusty pink. Since this dye bath was the second exhaust from the skins and the pits the colors are lighter compared to the unmordanted skein from pot #1. After modifying one of the skeins with iron it turned into a beautiful shade of mauve.
I am delighted with the results of this experiments. I think it shows very well how many different colorways you can create by using just one dyestuff. For the future I am planning on making some more of these experiments. Further increasing the color variations by creating dye solutions with different pH is something I would also love to show you in a future post.
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Natural Dyeing with Avocado: Further Reading Recommendation
I have already talked about Rebecca Desnos in a previous blog post. Her book “Botanical Colour at your Fingertips” is one of my favorite natural dyeing books. It contains several pages dedicated to dyeing with avocado pits and skins which I find very helpful and refer back to on a regular basis. She also wrote a blog post about some additional tips for dyeing with avocados:
And if you are looking for more natural dyeing content or a step by step instruction for the natural dyeing process, just have a look at the natural dyeing category of my blog.
I have created a beginner’s guide to natural dyeing that contains everything you need to know to get started. And the best thing: it is available for free!