Hi there, and welcome to my third instalment in my botanical dyeing journey! In my last post I went through how to (or how not to) make avocado dye. The dye was quite cloudy, I think due to the very small pieces of avocado flesh that did not get trapped by the muslin filter when I transferred the dye into the glass bottle. Would this affect my fabric colour, I wondered?

My Cloudy Dye

I had previously prepared the fabric for dyeing by boiling in a solution of bicarb soda and water for a few hours (described in Part 1 post). I used old cotton sheeting so it may not have needed scouring but, as I am still learning, I decided to do this step. The sheeting was torn into approximately 15-inch squares and weighed 140g (you may remember that I had used 138g skins to make the dye, and you need to use weight for weight to get the best results).

Preparing the fabric for dyeing by boiling in a solution of bicarb soda and water

To mordant the fabric, I “attempted” to use the process described by Rebecca Desnos, in her book Botanical Colour at your Fingertips. Mordanting is like adding a bridge that takes the dye particles from the solution and secures them into the fibres. This is required for cotton, and other cellulose fibres such as hemp and linen, when using avocado dye. You do not have to do this for protein fibres e.g. wool and silk.

Rebecca suggests using a litre of milk diluted with 5 litres of water and soaking the fabric for 12 hours. This is followed by drying the fabric, re-dipping it in the milk quickly (make a fresh batch if it has soured) and drying. This step is repeated, the idea being to coat the fabric in three layers of milk.

Well, I misread the first step and added my fabric to a litre of milk, covered it and left it overnight. The next morning my fabric was covered in big dollops of curdled milk! Yuk! Not wanting to remove the milk from the fibres, which would have removed the mordanting effect, I gently swished the larger pieces off in clean water. Inspection showed there were some small pieces still adhering but, as I did not want to waste the milk and hours involved, I decided to dry it and see what happened.

Remarkably, there were no visible pieces left in the morning. I am not questioning too deeply why this is. I prefer to believe that the fabric soaked them in, rather than that “something” ate them off!

I stored the fabric a week before using in my dye pot, as recommended by Rebecca. For my dye pot, I used a slow cooker (not something I would do if using anything remotely toxic, but avocado skins are a normal part of my kitchen repertoire). I poured the dye into the slow cooker, set it on low, added the dampened fabric and left it to cook for 12 hours. I let it cool overnight before checking one piece to see if it was dark enough and, hey presto, it was! If I had wanted it darker, I would have re-heated it for another 12 hours and, again, left it to cool overnight. The length of time used is to give the dye particles the best chance of absorbing into the fabric.

Fabric cooking in the slow cooker overnight

I was very pleased with the result. The colour is quite a deep, dusky pink with some darker and lighter flecks. The darker flecks may have been caused by small pieces of curdled milk, which concentrated in the fibres and held more dye particles. On the other hand, the paler flecks are more likely to be caused by not enough mordant in those spots. This is all just conjecture on my part, if you have any other thoughts please let me know!

I love the result from the avocado dye and am preparing some more fabric to go into the same dye pot. I understand that it may be lighter, as there are fewer dye particles in the slow cooker, but the colour is still quite dark and I can redo the heat process multiple times to get the desired result, or until I run out of dye particles in the pot!.

The dyed fabric was a perfect colour match for two needle cases I was embroidering, one of the projects from my Botanical Dyeing class at Kalamunda Community Learning Centre with Rosemary Hamersley. I had printed the fabric in an iron bath using eucalyptus leaves, then applied acrylic paint to a leaf and pressed this onto the fabric. Once dry, I stitched around the leaves in matching thread and lined the cases with the avocado dyed fabric – my first completed item using all my own work!

The finished product, two needle cases lined with the avocado dyed fabric

I am delighted at how seemingly forgiving the process is. I aim to do more with avocado (my freezer is accumulating skins and stones as we speak!) and would love to hear of what others have done. Have you used avocado skins and/or stones in dyeing before? What was your experience and what were your results like? Let me know in the comments below.

Also, don’t forget to visit the CAPWA Shop for that unique handmade gift for Mother’s Day, and everyday!

View previous posts:

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

Part 2 – Preparation of avocado dye 23/03/2022