• Ellen Kardell

Natural Dyeing a Suite of Yarns with Avocados

In the last few years, I've been focusing more on multi-yarn projects, and dyeing yarns to get the colors I need for them. This was a simple project that I thought I would share with you.

I don't have a proper dye studio in this house yet, so that limits me to using non-toxic natural dyes for right now (note: not all "natural" dyes are non-toxic). Creating a dye with avocado peels and seeds is really easy because you don't need to pre-treat your yarns, the process known as mordanting.

I used seven vintage and/or stash yarns, all undyed cream color. From bottom to top: Lambs Pride wool/mohair, Louet bulky mohair, a coned wool boucle, Plymouth Yardley boucle baby alpaca/silk, coned baby loop mohair, and Plymouth King George, a baby alpaca/merino/cashmere blend. In addition, I added a ball of Bergere du Nord cotton/viscose blend, shown in the bottom photo. Total weight was under 8 oz.

How to Make Avocado Dyed Yarn

Prepare your yarns. Tie them loosely in several places so they don't tangle. Using hot water and Synthrapol fiber detergent, soak the yarn/fabric/fiber for at least 20 minutes. Rinse a couple of times to remove the detergent, but do not agitate the fibers or they could turn into felt.

The first part of the dye making process is to make your yummy guacamole or avocado toast! For easier removal of the seeds and skins, quarter the fruit. After scraping out all the green goodness and making the guac, place all of your dye materials in the sink and clean off the remaining fruit particles with a soft scrub brush. I used 6 avocados in this batch.

I let the skins and seeds dry out overnight, but you can use them immediately.

  1. Fill your dye pot with water, bring it just up to a boil, add the avocado skins and seeds and reduce it to a simmer. I left it at that temperature for about 2 hours, until the color of the water was a deep pomegranate burgundy.

  2. Remove the avocado bits. Place your yarn into the water. Move it gently into the dye bath to submerge it completely.

  3. Set the pot to a low simmer, and let the dye do its work. Occasional lift the yarns and gently move them in the pot for even coverage. My yarns absorbed most of the dye in 2 hours. Turn off the burner, and let the yarn cool overnight (this is a low input process).

  4. When the yarn is cool, remove it from the dyepot, and rinse with hot water until the water runs clear. I use a Synthrapol bath to remove any excess dye, then several hot water soak cycles. Be careful to not agitate the fiber during this process.

  5. Hang to dry.

These are the results. You'll notice that different fibers take the dye slightly differently, giving you a wonderful tonal blend in your fiber art project. I found that the mohair blends dyed to the deepest shades, and the alpaca the lightest.

Below is the cotton and viscose blend I mentioned earlier. These types of plant based fibers react very differently to dyes in general than the wool/mohair/cashmere blends. I may not use this one in my project, but will take note for future plant based dye baths.

Pattern suggestions

I'd go with a simple garter stitch on large needles, doubling up the finer yarns to avoid very thin areas, changing the yarn every row and self fringing the cut ends. You can also try the classic ripple stitch knit or crochet for throws.

Have you tried this? What do your results look like? Let me know in the comments!

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