Fabric Dyeing with Avocado Pits

I’d been collecting avocado pits in a bag in my freezer for a few weeks when the bag reached max capacity. I had plans of dyeing fabric with them but had been too intimidated to give it a try. The bursting bag was the push I needed.

Turns out, dyeing fabric with avocado pits is much easier than I imagined. I documented my process in my Stories on Instagram and saved them to my Highlights in case you want to see the process in action.

Look for the Natural Dyeing Story saved in my Highlights on Instagram to view the process step-by-step.

 

Why Dye?

For me, I’d fallen in love with the pink hues avocado dyeing had been producing for others around the internet and was craving the color in my wardrobe.

TIP: You can use natural dye to breathe new life into a dull garment, brighten up an old pillowcase, make your cheap bed sheets more luxurious, save a stained tablecloth – get creative!

Plus, Andy and I eat a lot of avocado. When I was pregnant I had to limit myself to one a day (ha! Seriously that’s very close to true). Saving the pits for dyeing keeps them from going uselessly into the garbage (or compost…I really need to work on that mission). #TrashToTreasure

Also, the process is far easier than you think and very forgiving. Don’t worry about sticking to exact timelines or measurements. Treat this like an experiment (because it is!). On that note, do not use your most prized material for your first dyeing experiment just in case 😉

For more convincing reasons natural dyeing is fabulous for everyone (& the environment), read this post from Apartment Therapy.

 

Materials

Fabric: natural fibers (linen, cotton, wool, etc.) are going to soak up color much easier. I used a 100% cotton tea towel I found at a thrift store and a set of old white sheets (not sure the fiber content, but likely cotton).

TIP: Check the bed linens section of your local thrift store for old sheets, wool blankets, tablecloths, etc. that you could use (check the tags for fiber content). Large dresses and muu-muu’s (check the nightgown section!) are great sources for yardage too (Also great for refashioning).

Pot: You will need a large stainless steel or aluminum (heat-friendly) pot with enough room to hold your fabric. This is the pot I use*.

TIP: Ask your friends – I posted my need for the pot in a for-sale group I’m part of on Facebook. One of my friends saw it and had a pot she was willing to pass on to me for free. If you don’t have any luck from your network, check thrift stores and garage sales.

While avocados are natural and something you would eat, I would still suggest reserving the pot you use for dyeing strictly for that (don’t use it for cooking later..).

Avocado Pits (obviously): If you don’t consume a lot of avocados, ask your friends to save you their pits.

TIP: Is there a restaurant nearby that serves guacamole or avocado toast? Ask if they’d be willing to save their pits for you.

More pits = richer color. 

TIP: The general formula seems to be ~5 avocado pits her 1/2 pound of fiber. I used 24 pits to dye 1 queen size flat sheet and 1 tea towel (I did not weigh my material – I just used what I had: a quart-size bag full of avocado pits + white fabric from stash).

Water: I used tap water.

TIP: If you aren’t crazy about the color your first dyeing attempt produces, try a different water source – collect rain water, use bottled water, borrow someone’s well water…

Utensil for stirring: You will want a utensil with a long handle (like a wooden spoon* or something similar) to push your material around in the dye. A sturdy stick from your yard might even work 😉

 

Mordants

Typically with dyeing, you need something called a mordant. This piece of the dyeing process intimidated me because I didn’t totally understand it.

The great thing about dyeing with avocado pits is that they have their very own mordant so no extra material is required here. However, you can use a mordant if that’s something you want to try!

FUN FACT: Avocado pits contain tannin which acts as a mordant to bind the dye to your fibers.

 

Saving the Pits

I’ve heard of several differing storage methods for the avocado pits. The best method I found was washing them immediately to clean off any lingering flesh from the pit then tossing it into a bag in my freezer.

TIP: I read here that storing them in a paper bag or cardboard box will keep them from molding (storing them in glass will not).

For my first dyeing experiment, I used only the pits. Despite mixed reviews, I used the skins in addition to the pits for my second trial. From my experience, the skins seemed to dull the color – it came out with more of a beige undertone (less pink).

If you decide to use the skins, clean them the same as the pits – remove the fleshy bits.

1. Prepare your pits.

If you have been storing your pits in the freezer, take them out to thaw. Put them near a window so they can get some sunlight (because we all release our best colors then, right?).

If you haven’t done so already, make sure fleshy (green) bits have been removed so your pits are clean.

2. Bring the water to a low boil.

Fill your pot 2/3-3/4 full of water (enough to cover your material). Heat to a low boil.

Due to the size of your pot, this will take quite a while. Don’t forget about it because you don’t want to burn your house down, but find something to entertain yourself for a while (like knitting!).

3. Wash/soak your material.

TIP: Soy milk is said to have “protein cells that stick to the natural fibers making it more dyeable” and can be used to soak your material in preparation for dyeing. If you are using the soy-milk-method, you’ll want to soak at least twice (overnight) so take that into account before you prep your dye bath.

While waiting for your water to heat, toss your fabric into the washing machine or hand wash it in hot water. I lazily threw my fabric into the washing machine with a gentle detergent, but using no soap may be best.

TIP: Add some baking soda to the wash to remove any impurities.

You will want your fabric freshly washed and still damp when you add it to the dye pot. If your material is already clean, you could just soak it in hot water for preparation.

4. Add avocado pits to water.

I have heard mixed directions here so find your preference. I added the pits after the water heated but some people add the pits to the water before it is boiling.

TIP: If you are planning to dye yarn, you will want to be able to strain the pits (and bits) from the water before you add the yarn. You could heat the pits in a smaller pot to release the dye then strain into the larger pot (of water) with your material.

The pits will decompose and break apart through the dyeing process. Leaving the pits in the dye bath with your fabric could create spots of uneven dyeing. I think that’s part of the beauty of the process, but if you are going for a more evenly distributed color, strain the dye before adding your material.

5. Heat dye & material for about an hour.

Leave your material and the pits/dye over a low boil for about an hour. Use your utensil to push your material down into the dye bath – try to push out any air bubbles that may form under the fabric for a more even color.

TIP: If you are dyeing animal fibers (like wool), be cautious with the heat. I would recommend adding your material after the heat has been turned off & the dye bath has cooled a bit.

If your dye stew cooks down, add more water (you want your material to stay covered).

6. Remove from heat and let the mixture settle.

After about an hour, remove your pot from heat and let the dye mingle with your fabric for as long as you wish (at least an hour, but up to a day or two). Stir the mixture occasionally.

TIP: Remember that the color you are seeing on your fabric will be deeper while in the dye bath so when you see a color you like, leave the fabric a little longer.

7. Remove your fabric from the dye bath & rinse.

Remove your fabric from the dye bath, wring out, and rinse with cold water.

8. Hang to dry.

Hang your fabric and allow it to dry completely.

Some advise to hang your material out of direct sunlight which makes sense. I have an indoor drying rack (like this*) which worked perfect.

9. Save or discard your dye.

So long as your dye bath has not started to mold, you can reuse it by storing it in the fridge. The color yielded will be weaker. It’d be perfect for dip-dyeing paper notecards!

Your avocado pits can be composted.

[I lazy-girl-composted mine by tossing them straight into my garden.]

10. Wash your material.

Once it has dried completely, launder your material (fabric).

 

*This post contains affiliate links. If you use the link to make a purchase, I may receive a small compensation at no additional charge to you. 

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