Last weekend I was overcome with creative restlessness. That emotion plus rain usually leads to a new project. By Sunday I started three: crocheting a hat with my black bean dyed yarn, a coil basket with mushroom dyed yarn, and a dye.
Perhaps like most dyers, my freezer stores mysterious freezer-burned dye material. Thanks to my Mom, my childhood freezer often stored bags of frozen lumps labeled POISONOUS MUSHROOMS-DON’T EAT. My freezer is a bit more tame. All I have are blackberries so old they’re more ice than berry. And a collection of avocado pits and skins.
Before I continue with last weekend’s dye, let me backtrack to the summer of 2014 when I first played with avocados in a series of solar dyes, just for a quick comparison.
To read about my process dyeing pits, here’s the link on my site, and here’s the result.
For the avocado skins, I’m sorry to say, my notes are limited and I didn’t document proportions. (Always take good notes.) I do know this: I soaked them in a vinegar/water solution in a tightly sealed jar for a month. (Guessing a few glugs of vinegar?) The vinegar makes the dye acidic (opposite of dyeing with the pits, which you want alkaline). A month because I forgot about it in the garden. I added the wool, let the sun work it’s heat making magic, and there you go.
Fast-forward to last weekend. I was curious to see what would happen if I threw the pits and skins into the pot together, since when I dyed them in the past, I changed the pH of the dye in opposite directions. For the pits, I went alkaline. For the skins, I went acidic.
The frozen pits and skins together weighted 2lbs; I counted 11 pits before I chopped. Notice how the pit color changes once cut – neat stuff! After they simmered in water, I added 1 teaspoon of washing soda to raise the pH. I didn’t have testing strips, so I used my eyes: the color changed from uninteresting to fusia. I called it good. I added my 2 oz skein of wool.
*Washing soda is a cleaning product that contains sodium carbonate. You can also use ammonia. Both should be easy to find at a grocery store.*
This dye takes patience and works best done in stages. I heated it for 30-40 minutes (simmer is okay, but don’t boil, it wrecks the yarn) then removed the pot from the heat with the yarn still in, absorbing as much as it’s little fibers are able. Wait a day. Carefully simmer it again, take off the heat, let it cool, wait a day or so and repeat. Honestly, I’m not sure if I had to wait a day, or a certain amount of hours. I worked it around my weekend schedule. It’s not going anywhere.
I did this three times. Each time the color deepened.
Then the work week began again, and it was forgotten in the pot for two more days before I thoroughly rinsed it.
The color is similar to how the cut pits looked after oxidizing in the air. It isn’t a clean pink, it has hints of brown. Is that the influence of living in my freezer for a few years? Or from the dye of the skins? The pondering, guessing, and repeating of experiments continues. Perhaps next with the ice berries. I mean blackberries.
- Use wool, ideally with an Alum mordant. I always have better luck using animal fibers. Plant fiber might work, but it will be harder to achieve something darker than a light pink.
- Change the pH. If you don’t have pH strips, that’s fine, don’t let it stop you. Add small amounts (one teaspoon or less) of washing soda or ammonia at a time, and watch the color change. Do this away from the heat and before you the add the yarn.
- Patience. Do this dye in stages.
- Take good notes so you know what (or what not) to do next time.
- Good Luck!
Awesome! I have got to start saving these again. You got really beautiful colors!
I just finished dyeing some wool with Cochineal… this looks very interesting… I am definitely going to try it. (even if it is “unmanly” pink)… Thanks
have you tried not using the washing soda / ammonia ? I read from somewhere to use organic unsweetened soy milk as a mordant to non animal fibers and it takes color much better!
Unsweetened soy milk? – interesting! I’d be curious to see the results.
Love your results!!
I did some dye on merino wool, superwash. With both skin and Stone, separate.
I cooked the skin with amonia a few times and got beautyful Pink, also tryed to Cook it in a Iron pot and god really beautiful purple 😍 with som hint of brownish.
Love to dye with avokado! 😍
I wonder if an iron after bath would also change the color to purple? Thank you for sharing!
Very cool! Ive been attempting to achieve the same result using seeds, but I keep ending up with the orange-y color, very much what your photo above shows! I haven’t tried monitoring Ph levels, but Im wondering if my well water may be the culprit. Ive heard well water is very alkaline in nature.
It could be the well water. Did you add ammonia or washing soda? You could also do the dye with distilled water and see if that changes the results. Good luck!
Has anyone tried using dried skins or pits? My freezer is too small to take space for dye stuff, so I have collected dried skins and pits. My first try dyeing didn’t come up with anything to brag about, so maybe it’s using dried instead of fresh frozen…
Does it matter if the avocado pits and skins are dried? I don’t have that kind of freezer space, and my one try at dyeing with dried avocado was less than nice.
I know that some dyers collect them this way. I don’t have personal experience, so I’m not sure if will change the color. But it can’t hurt to try it and see what happens. Good luck!
Want to add- just make sure they are throughly cleaned. You don’t want avocado residue on the pits or peels to mold.