I’ve always been a big fan of natural dyes. They fascinate me. I admittedly have not spent a great deal of time learning about them. I have simply admired them from afar. But I am fully aware that they are a rather in-depth art form.
I’ve watched a few YouTube videos on them, read a few blog posts, and I follow several practicers of this art on my facebook page as well. Additionally, I once had the privilege of meeting and chatting with an artist, who works with natural dyes made from mushrooms, at a mycology fair. Her work was particularly fascinating to me. But then mushrooms are hovering at the top of my ‘interests to extensively explore’ list for sure.
I fancy that one day, I too will be a master of natural dyes. But that is probably not actually on my real life’s agenda. It is very much my personality to become intrigued by more things than the average human (or even the average superhuman) can do in a lifetime. Natural dyes likely fall into that category.
I did dabble with them a bit last Easter while dying my eggs for the holiday. You can read about that here if you would like.
It was really fun for me to knock that off my should-do list. And left me wanting to give dying some sort of textile a shot even more. So, as I too often do, I got myself half-cocked ready to dive into dying some yarn with avocado skins. Half-cocked … meaning I didn’t really do the research. I simply saved up some avocado skins in a ziplock bag in my freezer, grabbed a skein of white yarn one day while I was out shopping, and pushed forward with the intent of figuring it out as I went.
On the day I had designated for this natural dying project, I sat down and did a few google searches on the subject. It was my way of making an attempt at not completely botching the project!
Starting with the first article I read, I began to realize that I should have saved the avocado pits as well as the skins. Ooops! I would have been better off if I bought an actual mordant for the project. All I had on hand was salt or vinegar. Ooops again! AND it is best to use a natural fiber when dying with plant-based dyes. My yarn was acrylic. That’s a triple Ooops!
I had to make an executive decision concerning whether or not to proceed with this project. And I, in my usual fashion, chose to simply push forward and see how it all panned out.
After all, what’s the worst that could happen? I would waste a little salt? And a skein of yarn? Not much loss there. Perhaps the greatest loss would be my time.
However, in return for that time, I would gain the experience. Likely learn a thing or two in the process. And possibly even end up with a reasonably pretty skein of yarn, that I could craft something useful from. Something that would bring a smile to my face every time I look at it, because that’s what things I craft with my own hands do ❤
I pushed onward! I pulled the skins of 8 avocados out of the freezer and washed them. Then I simmered them very lightly in 16 cups of water for about an hour. I turned off the heat and let them sit on the stove overnight.
When I got up in the morning, I pulled the skins out of the water and ran it through cheesecloth to get rid of any remaining food particles. I put it back in the pot, tossed in a cup of salt, turned the heat on low, and stirred it until the salt was fully dissolved.
This is when I put the skein of yarn in the pot. And it is also the point of the project where I made a very regrettable mistake 😦 I thought it would be a good idea to unwind the skein of yarn before I put it in the pot. It made sense to me that doing this would result in a more even distribution of color in the final product. That still makes sense to me.
However, there must be a better way to do it, because the way I did it didn’t work out very well at all. I wound it neatly around my forearm. Using the crook of my hand and my elbow to hold it. Much like you would wind up a garden hose on a hose hanger.
Then I placed the yarn in the pot. After a few hours it became clear that the yarn wasn’t absorbing any more pigment. So, I pulled it out of the pot, and placed it in a strainer in the sink overnight.
It was no longer neatly wound. Obviously. And the next morning I thought I would wind it back up and hang it to finish drying.
That’s when the problem started. I expected it to be a little tangled. But I never thought it would be as bad as it was. Holy Crap!!! The yarn ended up in a SERIOUSLY TANGLED mess.
Still, I didn’t despair. I simply tossed it in a bag and hauled it off to work with me. I generally need something to pass the bulk of the time when I am there. My job could be compared to that of a lighthouse keeper. A bunch of watching and very little doing. If I didn’t bring something in with me to keep my mind occupied I would fall asleep without a doubt.
I estimated an hour, maybe two, and I would have the yarn untangled and nicely wound up again. Then I could take it home and hang it up to dry. Simple enough. Or so it seemed.
That was until I got started untangling the yarn! Deducting the time needed to perform my job duties, stretch my legs, and confer with my coworkers at shift change it took my entire shift to straighten out that yarn. NOT EVEN KIDDING! That’s just over 6 hours folks. I seriously wanted to poke a pencil in my eye!
As I untangled it, I wound it up in a ball because it was easier to work with that way. But that left me with a damp ball of yarn! So, I took it home, and then hauled it back off to work the next night. I spent some time that night, and the following two nights, crocheting a basket with it. I figured the basket would dry more quickly than the ball (and it did, of course). And I was pretty hesitant to try to wind it up garden hose style again so that it could be hung to dry!
The basket is fabulous! I did indeed wind the little bit of yarn I had left over garden hose style, took it home, and hung it to dry. After it was dry, I wound it back up in a ball and tucked it in my leftover yarn tote. It can be used for some small project in the future. AND I’m a happy girl! Many lessons learned ❤
I have no idea what the best way is to submerse yarn in plant-based dye for the purpose of dying it. But I do know that it is not to wind it up like a garden hose.
I’m more than a little happy with the end results I received, as far as color is concerned, with my yarn. It dyed rather nicely. Picking up a pretty subtle but yet rather appealing color. I didn’t get the vibrant color that I saw others produce while doing my little last minute google searches for this project. But, I’m satisfied with my results for a first attempt, for sure!
As mentioned above … I now know that I need to learn about mordants, if I want to go further with my natural plant dyes education. I must choose natural fibers in the future for these types of projects, if I indulge in them. And if I choose to use avocados as the plant matter to make a dye in the future, I should save the pits as well as the skins.
But this time … I broke all the rules. And things still turned out alright in the end. Apart from that 6+ hour untangling session. I’ll call it a WIN 😉