Many years ago, I heard how fantastic avocado skins and stones were as a natural dye for fabric. Consequently, I would save my skins and stones in the freezer and after six months, when I ran out of room, I would reconsider my need for these items and toss them in the bin, only to start the process all over again a few months later! I have done this for many years….

For those who read my first post about my foray into botanical dyeing, you will remember that I am just beginning on my journey into this subject. With the help of Rosemary Hamersley from Kalamunda Community Learning Centre, I have gotten braver and taken further steps, I made some dye!

The skins and stones had been in the freezer for a few months, and I added a couple of fresh ones too. Apparently, you must clean the flesh off the skins. Have you ever tried to do that with old skins? Even scrubbing couldn’t take it off. Lesson learned! I now give them a scrub once removed from the fleshy bit. Must say, that the stones are a bit easier to clean.

As mine had quite a lot of flesh, I placed them outside during those very hot days (you may remember the weeks of 40 degrees C we had in the summer of 2022) hoping it would bake them clean. Not sure if this really worked but we will talk about this later.

My raw materials, avocados skins and stones stored in the freezer then heat dried at air temperature (40 degrees C).

My research into dyeing with plants highlighted the need to know the weight of plant material you are using, so you can add the equal amount of fabric to the dye pot when you get to that step. My skins weighed 138 grams and I added 2 litres of water (to cover) in a stainless-steel pot. I brought it to the boil then simmered it for an hour. Similar process for the stones, weight was 480 grams (I removed the outer papery husk and split the stones in half) and I added 1.5 litres of water.

I love these scales! Skins and Stones ready for boiling in my outdoor kitchen

You will see from the photo that I have used my kitchen scales for this activity. I was using avocado, something I routinely prepare in my kitchen, BUT you must be extremely cautious when preparing dyes as many plant materials are not as user friendly and innocuous as avocado. I mostly do my dye work outside with dedicated utensils.

Most instructions say to leave the plant material in the water overnight. As I couldn’t get back to it, it sat for 5 nights (oops!). 

In discussions with my friend Jenny Stove, re the preparation of avocado dye, Jenny mentioned the process used by Rebecca Desnos’ in her book Botanical dyeing at your fingertips (Jenny also very kindly gave me a copy). Basically, boil up your skins in an aluminium pot, remove the skins and re-boil, then decant through muslin or similar into a jar. Rebecca uses the aluminium pot as a mordant instead of using Alum. Hmm, I thought, this looks like a good idea.  So, 5 days later, I re-boiled the skins and stones (again) in an aluminium pot for 1.5 hours, adding a bit extra water to allow for evaporation.

Now, you may think that adding additional water would dilute the strength of the dye, but no. The strength of the dye is about how many dye particles are present in the solution, not about the ratio of dye particles to water.

Up to now, I did not own an aluminium pot. A message to my street network provided an old crab pot that Eric no longer wanted, and it is a great size for fabric dyeing work. Thank you, Eric!

Eric’s aluminium crab pot

As I only have one aluminium pot, I left the skins mixture overnight (really, just one night this time) and decanted it into a large jar so I could repeat the process with the stones. Set up the stones to boil and, unfortunately, went to have lunch. Very silly idea, you guessed it, the pot boiled dry and a week later I am too scared to look at the mess in the bottom of the pot. I just added a bit more water and left it to soak. I wonder if burnt avocado stones make a good dye? Watch this space for a future blog!

The effect of retained avocado flesh is a very cloudy dye solution. Even though it was strained at least twice, minute pieces of flesh slipped through into the dye. I wonder if this affects the finished product? Will let you know next time!

Looking for that unique Mother’s Day gift? Sadly, my dyed items will not be ready in time, but we have so many fabulous hand made items in the CAP online Shop, including hand dyed and painted works by very talented people. Check them out!

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Part 1 – Forays into botannical dyeing 02/03/2022