Natural dyeing with avocado seeds: step by step instructions

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.

Baby onesie naturally dyed with avocado seeds

Materials

  • 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

 

Step one

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.

Dyeing with avocado seeds. Step one: cover with water

Pink avocado seed dye bath

Step two

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.

Natural dyeing with avocado. Step two: break up the seeds

Step three

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.

Straining avocado stone dye

Step four

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.

Shibori techniques for natural dyeing

Step five

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.

Adding soy-mordanted cotton to an avocado dyebath

Step six

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.

Natural pinks from avocado dye

Squeeze out the excess dye, and rinse well. Then remove the rubber bands to reveal the resist pattern.

Shibori dyeing with avocado dye

Avocado seed tie dyeing

Results

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.

Natural dyeing with avocado seeds: step by step instructions

Shibori resist lines on avocado dyed cotton

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!

Tutorial for natural dyeing with avocado seeds/stones/pits

17 thoughts on “Natural dyeing with avocado seeds: step by step instructions”

  1. Living in California I have access to a lot of avocados and seeds. Thank you so much for the info. I can’t wait to make a large batch of guacamole so I can use the seeds.

    1. In her beautiful ebook, Botanical Colour At Your Fingertips, Rebecca Desnos suggests using a 2:1 ratio of fabric to avocado seeds- so weigh your onesie then use enough seeds to equal half this weight. They are incredibly potent.

  2. I’ve read a lot of places you need to seal the dye after? What keeps the dye in from fading over time, any thoughts?

    1. The soy binder and the slow, gentle soaking and heating will set the dye. Then you can help the colour last by washing it gently and drying it in the shade. Keep in mind that all dyes (not just natural dyes) will eventually fade, especially from sun exposure.

  3. Pingback: Day One – Inspiring Visual Arts

    1. Hi Rocio, you can also use cow’s milk or nut milk. Even yogurt or egg, but they aren’t as good. Basically you want to use something rich in protein. You can also dye on animal fibres (wool or silk) and then you don’t need to use the binder.

  4. Can you explain the steps to do with the milk as a binder? Do you just soak the fabric in milk before adding to the dye? Thanks!

    1. I usually soak the fabric in soy milk overnight, squeeze it out, let the fabric dry, then do a few rounds of giving it a quick dip in the soy milk and letting it dry again, to build up more layers.

    1. Bamboo fabric should work well. Most bamboo fabric is highly processed and so is technically semi-synthetic like viscose, so can be prepared and dyed like that. Some bamboo fabric is more naturally processed and can be treated like cotton. Either type of bamboo fabric should give nice results when prepared with a soy milk binder before dyeing.

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