I am currently working on two dolls for an auction and have had much joy dyeing fabrics for their clothes. This summer, I will start growing flowers and plants for dyeing in one corner of our garden, but since the flowerbeds and the vegetable patches are still pretty much asleep, and since I have emptied almost all jars with dried herbs and flowers in our larder, I went for something that we had plenty of: avocado.
We try to not buy any imported fruits, but it is difficult during winter and in the past few weeks we have eaten a lot of avocados. Using both the dried avocado peel and pits (rinsed thoroughly before drying) was a sop to my bad conscience – at least nothing got wasted. Avocado is perfect for natural dyes because you don’t need any fixatives/ mordants. I love how a handful of dried peel and chopped pits can do such magic and turn a simple piece of cloth into fabric in vivid colours.
Depending on what kind of avocado you use, the dye will turn out dusty pink or brown. I used peel and pits from Hass varieties this time but have dyed with Fuerte and Ettinger before (both dyes tend to turn out more pinkish). The more guacamole you have eaten, the more peel and pits you have to make dye from – and the more intense and richer will be the hue of the fabric. For the 1.5 liters of dye in this tutorial, I have used six avocado peels and pits.
The fabrics I have dyed were made from silk, cotton and wool (you can use any natural fiber). All fabrics need to be free from any residues from fabric softeners and textile dressings. Wash them gently in a ph-neutral detergent and rinse well.
Bring water to boil in a stainless-steel cooking pot with lid. Chop the dried avocado peel and the pits and add to the water. Boil and let simmer for one, two hours. Strain through a fine sieve and pour the dye (without the pits and peel) back in the cooking pot, turn on the heat again and bring to boil.
Put your (still wet) fabric in the pot. I let both silk and cotton simmer in the hot dye for a while. If I use wool, I let the dye cool off before I add the fabric. Make sure that the pot is big enough so that the fabric can move freely. Stir from time to time so that it gets soaked well.
For a soft hue, remove the fabric after a while. If you want a more intense result, let the dye cool off together with the fabric and let soak over night. Once your fabric has reached the desired shade, remove it from the dye and rinse well, first in warm, then in cold water until the rinse is clear. Use ph-neutral detergent, wash gently, rinse again. Hang to dry.
In the photo below, you can see different shades of brown and brownish pink. I dyed lace, tiny silk ribbons, linen, cotton jersey and three different kinds of silk. If you don’t have anything to dye right now but make plenty of guacamole, rinse the peel and the pits well, dry them thoroughly in a warm place for a couple of days and keep them in an air-tight container. I always keep several jars with material for natural dyes in our larder and it is great to have them handy for when the crafty bug bites me…
[EDIT: You can see a little sneak preview of Ursa’s clothes here]