Dyeing with avocado is a safe and simple process, perfect for beginners to natural dyeing. Both the seeds (also called stones or pits) and the skins contain colour. They produce a quite colourfast dye of the most unexpected and delightful pink.
The exact colour you get will be affected by which variety of avocado you use, the time of year, the pH of your water, and whether you use the seeds or the skins or both. For this tutorial I have used just the seeds, which contain more potent dye. I collected them over a couple of months, washing them well and storing them in the freezer. This keeps the colour better than drying them out.
- Avocado seeds or skin or a mix of both (well washed)
- Soy milk mordanted cotton fabric (find some instructions here), or wool/ silk
- An aluminium or stainless steel dye pot (aluminium will provide a mild mordanting effect but is not necessary)
- A long-handled spoon or stick for stirring
- Loose weave fabric such as muslin for straining the dye
Instructions for natural dyeing with avocado seeds
Cover the seeds in water and simmer gently for 1-2 hours. Turn the heat off and let the dye rest for several hours or, even better, overnight.
Break up the seeds to make more of the dyes available. This is best done while wearing gloves because the tannins can irritate your skin. If the seeds are too firm to break up, repeat step one first.
Re-heat the dye bath for another hour or so to let the colour develop further. Let it cool again, then strain through the loose weave fabric.
If you want to create a shibori effect, tie off sections of your fabric using rubber bands or string. For the top on the left, I tied off 3 sections to create 3 white lines. For the onesie on the right, I gathered fabric in the centre and wrapped it in rubber bands to create a circle pattern.
Bring the dye bath back to simmering, then add your fabric (pre-wet it so that it will absorb the dye evenly). Add extra water so there is enough space for the fabric to move freely. This will also help to create even colour. Let it cook on a very low heat for about one hour, stirring from time to time. Leave it to cool overnight, stirring occasionally. The colour will continue to develop as it sits.
When you are happy with the colour, remove the fabric from the dye pot. Keep in mind that the colour will lighten as the fabric dries.
Squeeze out the excess dye, and rinse well. Then remove the rubber bands to reveal the resist pattern.
Depending on the avocados you used and the pH of your water, you should get lovely peach to pink tones on your fabric. Below you can see that my soy mordanted cotton came out an earthy pink, somewhat lighter once it dried but still a rich colour. I also added a piece of silk to the dye pot and it turned a more peachy tone. You can shift peach dyes to pink by altering the pH of your dyepot with a small amount of washing soda.
I’ve also had some wonderful results using avocado dyed fabric as a dye blanket when eco-printing on paper. Take a look here.
Pin the below image if you would like to come back to this tutorial later. And if you do try dyeing with avocado, let me know in the comments!