Avocado Dye

Using avocado pits and/or skins is a really fun and almost magical process. I love that what would otherwise be considered waste is used to create a range of peaches to coral pinks to deep russets. It’s a simple process that can create a big impact on the finished product. Pits and skins can produce different colors. In my experience, the pits produce more pink tones and the skins lean toward peach and orange tones. This is not a hard and fast rule and could definitely be different for your experience. You can use both the pits and skins together also. The beauty of dyeing directly with whole dye stuffs is the variations in the colors that you will achieve!

Cotton tea towels dyed with avocado pits and shibori techniques.

What you will need:

  • A big pot – big enough to hold the fabric you are dyeing and cover it with water
  • 4-6 avocado pits and/or skins – more pits will produce a stronger, darker color
  • Pre-mordanted fabric
  • A wooden or stainless steel spoon

Preparation:

  1. The collection process – eat all the avocados!! I try to buy avocados with a deep red skin. I’m not 100% sure it makes a difference, but it can’t hurt. After you have eaten the avocado, the pits and skins need to be cleaned. Remove any remaining flesh under running water and put them in a ziplock bag or jar in the freezer. I have tried drying them out, but I have had better results by freezing them.

    Avocado pits and skins ready for the dye pot.
  2. When you have collected enough (4-6 pits will be enough to dye a large scarf or a couple tea towels), place them in a large stock pot and fill with enough water for your fabric to be able to move around freely.
  3. Now you will begin the warming process. You want to warm the dye bath up slowly and not go over a very low simmer. You will start to see the color emerge in the water. After 45-60 minutes, your color should be getting pretty deep*.  At this point you have a choice, you could take it off the heat and let it cool overnight allowing the color to develop even further (avocados oxidize over time and the color has the potential to get darker) or you could move on to dyeing your fabric.

    Dye bath after cooling overnight.
  4. Once you are satisfied with the dye bath color, strain the bits of pits and/or skins from the pot. Reheat your dye bath to a very low simmer.

    Testing the color after removing the avocado pits.
  5. Evenly dampen your pre-mordanted fabric**. Damp fabric will take up the dye more evenly. If you are using shibori techniques add your damp bundles of fabric to the pot. Stir gently to expose all of the fabric to the dye. Make sure that all of the fabric is submerged. Stir occasionally over the next 20 minutes or so. Once you are satisfied with the color, remove from heat, but allow the entire dye bath to cool before removing your fabric. If you are having trouble keeping the fabric fully submerged, you can place a glass plate or bowl over the fabric to help weight it down. Remove the weight and stir your fabric a couple times while the dye bath is cooling to make sure everything is getting an even dye. You can also let the dye bath and fabric rest over night to allow for the color to further develop.

    Dye bath after cooling with fabric overnight.
  6. After everything has cooled off, you can remove your fabric. Ring out and hang to dry out of sunlight, but don’t rinse or wash it yet (try to be patient…it’s hard, I know!). Once dry, you can wait a few days or more before washing. There are a variety of opinions on if this is necessary or not to maintain your color, but it definitely can’t hurt, so if you can let your fabric cure for a few days all the better.

    Dyed fabric ready to be hung to dry.
  7. When you are ready to wash, use cool water and mild soap on the gentle cycle. Hang to dry out of direct sun or tumble dry on low. Some fading may occur over time, but now you have the skills to re-dye your fabric if you want or need to.
Hemp tea towels dyed with avocado pits.

Notes:

* The color can vary depending on a number of things; the type of avocado, where it was grown, what time of year it is all play a role in the color that you will achieve. Your water content will also affect the color. Embrace the variations! Also, if the color is not as dark as you would like, you can always redye your fabric. I have had a few flops and just made a new dye bath and redyed the fabric.

**If you purchased a DIY Tea Towel Kit from me your fabric has been pre-mordanted. If you have not, then you may choose to mordant your fabric before dyeing in order to achieve the best results.

For more information check out Botanical Dyes at Your Finger Tips by Rebecca Desnos. Rebecca also has a very informative blog post about dyeing with avocado pits and skins.

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