Natural Dyeing With Madder and Avocado

Hello all, welcome January and welcome brand new year! I hope January has been good to you and you were able to ease into the year a bit. I had planned to check in sooner but over here it’s been a busy, busy start of the year and honestly the month has flown by. I can’t quite believe we are within arms reach of February already! Perhaps 2023 thoughtfully wanted us to get used to the whole time whizzing by in a blink thing early, as it will be very familiar throughout the year anyway. I thought I kick of the new year with a natural dyeing post since even though I have mentioned it occasionally in my sort of hodgepodge seasonal catch up posts, it’s been a while since its had its own post on the blog.

I will be honest, right of the bat this was meant to be an avocado dye vat only, but that didn’t work out as I had hoped. I will go into details to the how and what in the rest of this post but I wanted to put it here at the top cause I know that lots of people do searches for these type of things and then without reading get excited and wrongly assume that I got the colour of these skeins from avocado alone. So to avoid that I’ll just start with that bit of info from the start. So now we got that out of the way let’s dive into what happened and how I ended up with these beautiful terracotta pink skeins.

This dyeing quest has been in preparation for a long time. I have long admired the beautiful shades of pink people have been drawing from avocado pits and peels and I wanted to try and see if I could coerce some colour out of them as well. We are not a huge avocado eating household so I saved the peels and pits from these for over a year; cleaning them and then storing them in the freezer. I have read that there are two good ways of storing avocado dyestuff for dyeing; one being in the freezer and the other is letting the material dry out completely, both methods should yield as strong a result as using them fresh, though may differ in shade.

The skeins are natural white coloured wool from Lithuanian sheep that I got from a Lithuanian company some time ago. They are 100 gram skeins of sport weight wool. I mordanted these with alum in my usual method that you can read about here and here.

My amount of dye material consisted of 12 pits and 10-11 peels. I read somewhere that the pits give a pink that is more purple toned whereas the peels give an orange toned pink. Since I mixed them I guess my colour would land on a pink in between. The peels are an assumed amount as they had broken up much more in the freezer and I know I had to cut away bits and pieces when cleaning the peels up. I made the dye bath in my usual method by slowly bringing the pot to a near boil and then keeping it to that temperature for a longer period. The dye bath had a strong reddish colour which seemed encouraging so I popped in the skeins and repeated the process. This first dyeing session yielded no colour on the skeins whatsoever. This was odd as the dye in the pot looked strong and usually there is at least some dye take up, even when it is minimal. So I figured something might have gone wrong with mordanting the skeins to cause the minimal take up. (I know you can still dye without mordanting, the dye just won’t stick as well with most due stuff, but I had to point the finger at something and this was it).

So I left the skeins in the dye bath for a the night and redid the mordanting the process the following day. In hindsight this was probably needlessly wasted material, but that is the benefit of hindsight. Just to be sure I also redid the dye bath, meaning I made an entirely new bath with the same peels and pits. This resulted in a strong reddish brown colour which I added to the previous bath to make give it some extra punch in the hope it would now be strong enough to yield some colour. I repeated the same dyeing process and then left the yarn in it ostensibly for the night but it became a few days as I tried to figure out what to do with it.

The results of this second dye bath were a bit better than the first but the emphasis is on bit and with a reminder that the first dye bath yielded no colour whatsoever. Some colour had been taken up after that second attempt, but it was at best a very light beige (with a bit of imagination and if you squinted your eyes enough, it may have had a slight pink undertone). I don’t have good photos of this as I knew I wouldn’t keep the colour like this and didn’t want to go over the process of hanging skeins to dry that I would immediately dye again. This is not terribly helpful for you but it is what it is.

I ended up “saving” the dye bath by adding madder extract. I prefer working with whole dye stuff but using extracts enabled me to use the avocado dye bath and I didn’t have to waste more water and resources making a new bath. So I made a sort of paste from the madder extract by adding a bit of boiling water, I added this mixture to the already existing dye bath of avocado and added the wet skeins to it. Otherwise the process was exactly the same as before.

I was still aiming for a soft pink colour and not a saturated red so I added relatively little to the dye bath to achieve that. If need be I could always add more dye to the pot later. The resulting colour is a soft terracotta pink, so an orange leaning pink, which is my favourite kind of pink. It’s a colour that from what I’ve seen from results from others should be very achievable with avocado. While this is technically a mix dye of avocado and madder, without a doubt more colour came from the latter than from the former.

I’m happy with the achieved colour, just a bit unsure about how I achieved it. Thing is, there are no certainties with natural dyeing and it’s impossible to predict exact colours and this dyeing adventure definitely showed it. I wonder if part of the issue with my underwhelming colour results is that with avocado you just need a lot more dyestuff than what I had. So the ratio of dye stuff to yarn grams needed to be different. Avocado in and of itself might still be a good dyeing material, but one where you need a lot of volume per grams you are dyeing to get significant colour transfer.

That said I don’t think I will soon be trying dyeing with it again. It might have been a different story if we regularly ate them and could just save them by and by, but we don’t and honestly it already took up more space in my small fridge than was really practical. Given that I can achieve the same colour with a more reliable dyeing agent that requires less of said dye material to dye the same amount I think I’m going to stick to madder for the time being. That said I am happy with the resulting colour and also laughing at myself how I drastically turned around about this shade of pink!

Thanks for reading, I hope you are all well, that you’ve been able to enjoy some January quiet and that winter has been less temperamental and weird in your neck of the woods. See you soon!

2 thoughts on “Natural Dyeing With Madder and Avocado

  1. Dank je voor het delen van het verfproces van de wolstrengen met avocado. Leuk en leerzaam om de stappen en ervaringen hierin te volgen naar de uiteindelijke kleur resultaat. Mooie warme tint. Groeten Margot

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