Avocados make a great dye for yarn, wool, silk, cotton and linen plant fibres.
As with all natural dyeing, when dyeing with avocados you will need to mordant the textile first so that the color remains steadfast and remains as long as possible through washing and use of the item. You can read more about how to mordant your wool on our Mordants and Fixatives page.
Avocado dye baths can be prepared using the well washed skins of the avocado or the pits/stones from the middle of the fruit. Each will give a slightly different dye color – or you can mix the two together.
Skins will tend to give colors that are redder whilst pits give oranges and apricots.
As with all natural dyes, the greater the ratio of vegetable material to textile, the stronger the resulting color. 1:1 ratio is a good goal to aim for, but 2:1 will obviously give a much stronger color if that is what you are aiming to achieve.
Preparing the Avocado Dye Bath
Keep the peels and pits of the avocados in the freezer until you have enough of them to create a strong avocado dye bath. Make sure to chop the pits before freezing, when they are at their softest!
Five or six large avocados for 100 grams of wool will give a lovely light-to-medium pink shade. You will need many more for deeper colors.
Cut these pits and peels into small pieces. The smaller the better. Place them in a large jar covered with water and a good ‘glug’ of ammonia (approx. 1/4 cup of ammonia per litre of water is a good mix). The ammonia will bring out the reds from the avocado skins to create a lovely deep red avocado dye.
Leave the jar of skins or peels (or both) on a sunny window or outside for as long as you can. A few days at the very least – and even up to a few weeks or months for deep dye colored liquor.
Give the jar a shake or a stir everyday to aerate the liquid – which will intensify the color. You will notice it getting darker and darker each day. Place a small sample piece of your textile into the dye bath and leave it there until you are happy with the results or until the color gets as deep as it will go.
It is a good idea to heat the dye every few days to kill off any bacteria. If mould grows it will change the dye to brown. A quick zap in the microwave is usually an easy way to do this, however you may prefer to pour into a saucepan and heat on the stove top.
Make sure to read below the instructions regarding not overheating the dye!
Dyeing the Yarn or Wool Roving
- Soak your pre-mordanted yarn or wool in cool water, until thoroughly wet. This usually takes about 30 minutes. Gently squeeze out the excess water.
- Strain off the dye liquor through a sieve and fine cloth, to remove any debris from the pits and skins of the avocado
- Place the dye into a heat proof vessel such as a saucepan.
- Place the textile to be dyed into the dye bath. Now you can either leave it there for a few days (or even weeks) before moving onto the next step, or if you are running out of patience just continue on.
- Place the yarn or wool roving into the cool dye bath, along with some more ammonia and heat gently. Keep below the simmering point! If you over heat the dye at this stage you will lose the reds and get browns or even beige instead.
- Keep the yarn and dye just below simmering point for approximately an hour.
- Turn the heat off and leave the yarn in the dye pot overnight – or until completely cold – to get the maximum color from the avocado dye
- At this point you can leave the yarn in the dye for another few days and then reheat to deepen the color. Or, you may continue on as below (this step can be repeated a few times to get richer colors).
- Rinse gently under cool water with a mild wool wash detergent. At this stage you will likely lose quite a bit of the color and end up with something lighter than you thought. But don’t be disappointed, this is the nature of natural dyeing!
- Hang to dry.
The secret to getting lovely colors from avocados for dyeing is patience and time!
Hopefully reading this article has made you realize that dyeing with avocados is a whole lot of fun and you want to try it yourself!