Updated: Apr 25
Your 15 Step Guide to Dyeing Fabric with Avocado Pits and Skins
Join me as I carefully walk you through the exact step by step process that I use to avocado dye garments for my slow fashion brand.
Avocados: delicious, nutritious, and… pigment dense?
(Just when you think you know a guy, am I right.)
It’s true, this superfood has in fact proved itself to be the super-est food of all with this hot new, post-toast party trick. I am of course referring to the avo’s ability to dye textiles a ravishing range of pinks.
Because I myself am relatively new to the natural dyeing scene, I am experiencing first hand the learning curve that comes with transitioning from fashion designer to fashion scientist. With this in mind, I have highlighted which steps are optional so that your first foray into dyeing isn’t totally overwhelming.
From start to finish, expect to spend a minimum of 3 days on your avocado dyeing project, though I tend to spend an average of 2 weeks because I prefer to let the dyed fabric set before washing (It is slow fashion after all.)
Natural Dye Materials and Supplies You'll Need
Large Stock Pot (different metals will yield different colors. I use stainless steel.)
Large Leakproof Tub/Bin
Face mask (We've all got a few of these lying around at this point)
*It you’re not as big a fan of the approximate sciences as I am, these additional supplies should scratch your itch for exactness:
Kitchen Scale (Optional)
PH Strips (Optional)
Measuring Cups and Spoons (Optional)
Natural Fiber Fabric
Natural dyes are NOT suited for synthetics (polyester for example). Use natural fibers such as protein fibers (wool, silk, etc) OR cellulose fibers (cotton, viscose, etc). I have chosen EcoVero™, a viscose cellulose, to dye with.
Cleaned Dark Purple Avocado Pits and/or Avocado Skins
- I collect mine from local cafes and fill my dye pot to the brim. Fresh is ideal. You're going to want to select avocados that have a dark purple skin, as they possess the most pigment and will produce the strongest pink dye.
Aluminum Acetate (or a substitute mordant)
Bicarbonate Soda (ie. baking soda) (Optional)
White wine Vinegar (Optional)
ATTENTION: These supplies should be used only as components to your dye kit, and should not be involved with food prep because of the chemical reactions that dyeing produces. Please label carefully to avoid confusion!
Extracting Dye From Avocados
STEP 1: Collect avocado pits and skins. Be sure to use avocados with dark purple skin, as these produce the pink color.
STEP 2: Scrub those little cuties clean, being careful to remove all green flesh. Leaving green flesh in your dye bath will cause the dye to turn slightly yellow or even brown shades.
STEP 3: Carefully chop, the seeds are slippery!! See in the photo below how highly pigmented avocado seeds will already begin to turn a rust color soon after cutting!
STEP 4: Toss into large stock pot (One which will be used ONLY for dyeing, as it is not food safe).
STEP 5: Add Water
Add enough water to cover the tops of the Avocado bits, or almost cover in my case, since I tend to use more pits and skins than the average natural dyer.
Pro Tip: The PH of your water will drastically shift the colors that your dye produces! Use PH strips to monitor your dye bath's acidity if you are after more precise results.
STEP 6: Heat water so that it reaches a slow simmer, BUT DO NOT BOIL. Overheating your dye bath brown.
Alternate heating and letting cool for a few days, adding more water when needed, to slowly extract your dye. I typically do not heat for more than 2 hours at a time.
STEP 7: Strain
Pour room temperature stockpot contents through your nutmilk bag to remove any bits that might cause an uneven dye. The pre mentioned tub/bin is handy for this. You are welcome to save and re-dry your avocado pits and skins to use again another day, though the next bath won't be as vibrant!
After straining, your avocado dye is ready to go. Until then, you can either keep it in the plastic tub, return it to your clean stockpot, or pour it into some jars, whatever works best for you. Keep in mind you will need your stockpot for the fabric scoring and mordanting processes.
Preparing Fabric for The Dye Bath
Wear your mask and gloves from this point on.
STEP 8: Scour your fabric
This essentially means to remove anything from your textile that might prevent an even dye (chemicals, stains, etc.).
To do this, add soda ash (approximately 1-2% the weight of your fabric) to your clean dye pot filled with hot water. Hold temperature at 160-180°F for about half an hour. When introducing your fabric into the bath, make sure to do it slowly and carefully, unfolding any creases as you go. This is to achieve more even results in your finished dye product, and this same attention should be applied with every bath of liquid your fabric is put into throughout the entire process. Let set for 12 hours. As a side note for measurements, my kitchen scale is broken, so I’ll be honest and say that I just threw in half a soup spoon full of soda ash for my 3 meters of ecovero. I also have no thermometer, so I kept the water just below boiling point. Carefully rinse fabric (it’s hot!). Typically, I will rinse it with my showered.
STEP 9 (optional): Machine Wash
If you are extra concerned about achieving an even dye, toss the fabric into the washing machine for a short cycle. If continuing immediately to step 3, do not dry your fabric.
STEP 10: Tannin bath
To bump up that color absorption, fill your tub/bin with water and add Tannic Acid (8% Weight of Fabric = approximately 36 grams per 1kg of fabric). You will want the fabric to be presoaked in water before adding it to the tannin bath. This could mean tossing it in directly after a washing cycle, soda ash soak, OR if it has already dried, just give it another plain water soak for 30 minutes to allow even absorption of the tannic acid throughout the fibers. Introduce your fabric slowly and evenly into the tannin bath. Let soak overnight (or for at least 12 hours), stirring occasionally.
STEP 11: Mordanting
Mordanting is the pre-dye (and sometimes post-dye) process that binds the dye to your textile. Depending on the fabric you are using, you will choose a mordant accordingly. For my cellulose fiber EcoVero™, I use Aluminum Acetate. Dissolve aluminum acetate (8% weight of fabric, or 36 grams per 1kg of fabric) into very hot water (110-120°F) and place fabric inside. You do not need to maintain this heat, and so if you prefer to use your plastic tub to soak your fabric in, that is just as fine as letting it soak in your stockpot. Again, let the fabric sit overnight, or for at least 12 hours, stirring occasionally.
Dyeing Your Fabric
STEP 12: Dyeing!!!
The highly anticipated moment has arrived.
Begin by reheating (again, not boiling) your strained avocado dye in your stockpot. Keep the heat going, and (slowly and carefully, of course) introduce that fabric.
As an aside, if you are looking to alter your dye colour, you can do that by altering the PH. This is done be adding bicarb soda (more alkaline=more red) or white vinegar (more acidic=more orange). It only takes a touch of either. Feel free to experiment until you have found your desired shade! For this optional step, the PH strips are incredibly handy.
Achieving an Even Color with Your Natural Avocado Dye
For the most even dye possible, it is important to have plenty of wiggle room inside of your
dye pot for stirring. I am always pushing it with this step, because my stockpot is not nearly large enough for the amount of fabric I need to dye for my business. Don’t be like me.
As with the two steps before, I like to keep my textile in the dye bath for at least 12 hours, longer if it tickles my fancy.
Pro Tip: It feels important to note that in my experience, fabric is much more vibrantly colored when you have just pulled it out from the dye bath. While the textile looked like the photo to the left initially, once the process was finished it had transformed into a more of a rose mauve shade (as shown with the final garment below). To achieve a final product so vibrant, using madder dye is a better option than avocado.
STEP 13: Hang to Dry
After back and forth, I have decided that allowing your fabric to dry for a bit without rinsing is the best way to go. You do risk your final dye results coming out a bit more uneven this way (not necessarily a bad thing, this can yield lovely patterns, see photo to the right for example), so if you prefer to exchange some vibrance for evenness, that is your call. When drying outside, avoid excessive direct sun exposure.
I also have found that a quick ironing to your fabric (post-dye bath and pre-wash) will also do its part in setting the color, and will help with future wash fastness.
Pro Tip: When line drying, allow your fabric to touch the metal line or metal clips as MINIMALLY as possible. Metal interacts with the natural dye and will leave markings. Even after the fabric has been transformed into a final garment, I recommend avoiding metals. I haven't had any issues with jewelry, even my iron has been fine, but thoughtlessly laying my garments over metal drying lines post-wash has filled me with much remorse. Truly, I can't even talk about it.
STEP 14: Wash
For your final wash, I recommend tossing it back into the washer for a short low heat wash.
STEP 15: Hang to Dry... Again
Heed my warnings from Step 5 please.
Viola, you've done it!
Ultimately, natural dyeing is a personal process, and it is import to experiment to see what works best for you. As you can see above, this particular dye batch gifted me with a sort of terracotta color! Many dyers end up with more "pinkish" tones, but as I've said before, so many factors beyond just the dye process itself will influence your end product.
As someone who never considered themself to be particularly gifted in any of the exact (or in this case, exact-ish) sciences, learning how to make natural dye with botanicals has been shockingly empowering. It has done a number on my old system of self beliefs, particularly the one that tells me I have “artist brain,” a sneakily disguised way of saying that my brain is just made for painting, not maths or sciences. Really, it’s a sugar coated way of telling myself that I’m not smart. Clearly I was misguided somewhere down the line, because take a gander at this sick ass dress!! Us guys and gals are much more than we give ourselves credit for, and in my experience, stepping out of my comfort zone and attempting what might seem like an intimidating new project like this is the ideal way to get out of that limitations funk!
If you're excited about your dye results, I'd love to see them!
For a social share, email your project photos to: email@example.com
tag @sydneyduncanco on instagram