Dyeing yarn naturally is a blast! It's easy for beginners and you only need a few supplies to make your own natural and organic dyed yarn! One great natural dye can be found in avocados.
Avocados give a beautiful range of pink colors when you use them to dye. Yes, avocados make a pink dye bath! Pretty cool, right? You also won’t need to add a mordant (which keeps the color from bleeding/fading in the sun) because there is tannin in the pits, which acts as a natural mordant.
Why Natural Dye?
For so many reasons, naturally dyeing your yarn is better than using chemical dyes such as reactive or acid dyes. First off, you’re using food scraps that would otherwise be thrown away. By saving the pits and peels of avocados and dyeing with them, you’re giving them a second life before tossing them. Secondly, using natural dyes means you don’t have to inhale any harsh fumes, or use any safety equipment while you’re dyeing. Third, you can use your kitchen! If you use chemical dyes, it is recommended that you use a different dyeing area since you do not want chemicals in your food prep space. But when you natural dye, you don’t have that problem so you can use your kitchen, and the pots and utensils that you normally cook with. (Disclaimer: if you bring any sort of mordant or chemical into your dyeing, using the same utensils will no longer be safe.)
- Skeins of dyeable yarn
- Knife and cutting board
- ~5 avocados (if you use more it will be darker, it you use less it will be lighter)
- Large pot (recommended 16 qts)
- Big bowl or pot to strain into
- Small tub or bucket
- Coffee filter
- Fine Mesh Sieve
- Wool wash
- Drying rack (optional - something to hang the yarn on to dry)
Things to Note
- This can be done in 1 day, but the color will be stronger if you do this over the course of a couple of days
- You don’t have to use fresh avocados. When you use avocados in your daily life, just rinse the pits and peels thoroughly and place them in the freezer. Then they will be ready to use whenever you want to dye.
- Each batch will come out differently. Getting the exact same shade twice will be next to impossible so dye all the yarn you want for one project at once. On the other hand, you could create a nice fade in a project by doing different batches.
Step one: With your knife, cutting board and avocado, cut into the avocados and save the pits and skins. Thoroughly rinse them to get the leftover avocado bits out. Carefully chop the pits in 4 even pieces. This part isn’t necessary, some people chop them and some people put them in whole, but when you chop them you get more surface area on the pits so in my mind you will get a richer color. Place all pits and peels in a large pot. Fill water approximately halfway (enough for your yarn to fit in there and enough to account for some evaporation.)
Step two: Let simmer for 1-3 hours. The longer you simmer for, the darker the color will be and vice versa. Turn off the burner and let cool.
Step three OPTIONAL: Let it cool overnight. Let it simmer the next day for another hour or so, turn off the burner. Repeat this step for 1-3 more days. Again, the longer you simmer it, the darker the color will be and vice versa. For the samples in this blog, I simmered twice before I dyed.
Step four: While your pot is cooling, soak your skein(s) in lukewarm water. Do not mix around, just let it sit. Be very gentle when handling the wet yarn, you don’t want it to felt.
Step five: When your pot is cooled, using your tongs pick out all of the peels and pits. These can be thrown away now (or better yet, composted!) Next, drain the avocado bits using a coffee filter and sieve. Place the coffee filter in a sieve over top of another pot or bowl. Strain out all of the little pieces that are left in the dye batch. This process can be tedious, but you don’t want any food bits in your yarn, so it makes it very worth it!
Step six: Place the pot back over heat and bring it to a simmer. Take the yarn from the lukewarm pool and put it in the pot. Use your tongs, gently make sure each section of the yarn gets saturated with dye. It may float at first, but after a few minutes it will get fully submerged. Again, do not agitate or stir the yarn, you don’t want it to felt. Let it sit for about an hour or so, checking the color every so often to make sure you get the shade you want. Note: if you are using animal fibers like wool, it may make your kitchen and/or house smell like wet sheep.
Step seven: When you get the color you want, turn off the heat and let the pot cool. While it is cooling, you can prepare your small tub or bucket with the wool wash. Follow the instructions on your wool wash for the amount of fiber you dyed. Use lukewarm or room temperature water.
Step eight: Take the yarn out and gently squeeze out some dye. Place it in the tub and gently rinse. Let sit for 15 minutes.
Step nine: Gently squeeze out some water and hang to dry.
Step ten: You can use the same dye bath one or two more times, depending on how much dye if left. If it is still pink, feel free to use it again, following steps 6-9 again. When it becomes light yellow, that means the dye bath has run out.
Step eleven: Enjoy your naturally dyed skeins of yarn!