5 tips for dyeing pink with avocado
Avocado is one of my most favorite dye sources. We eat a lot of avocados at home and therefore have quite a substantial amounts of avocado skins and stones left. They would end up as a kitchen waste otherwise and I love the fact that I can use them in a creative way instead of throwing them into a bin.
Avocados make a range of colors from soft peach to deep coral pink, if you treat them right. Over the past few years, it was probably the most used dyestuff in my kitchen. I learned a few tricks that I will share with you so that you can achieve the most beautiful and reliable colors, too. These tips cover only the techniques for making a dye bath. Mordanting fibres is another story and while I won't talk about it in detail, I will just say I usually use soya milk or don't pretreat the fibres at all. Avocados bind well with both protein and cellulose fibres and the color stays vibrant for a long time if taken proper care of.
This is how you make the most of your avocados:
1. Use black skins only
Avocados with black skins make the nicest pinks. Green skins don't have much pink pigment in them, so they won't give any good results. You can use stones from both kinds, though, as they store enough pigment in them. You don't need many avocados to start. To dye a simple t-shirt, skins and stones from as little as three avocados can already be enough.
2. Freeze both skins and stones
I always put avocado skins and stones in a freezer before making a dye bath. I don't store them for too long, though, as they might get greyish and the color will get slightly "muddy". I usually use them within a few days to a few weeks. After putting your avocado skins in a freezer, soon you will notice that black skins are showing some red spots on them. When that happens, it means they can be put in your dye pot. If the skins are stored for too long, they will lose this reddish tint on them. They will look dry and slightly brown and they won't give the most brilliant results anymore. Stones usually hold for a while longer.
You can also dry the skins and stones, but I prefer to freeze them for one reason. It makes it easier to track if they are still potent in pigment. I also believe it keeps the color fresh for a longer time.
3. Give it time
My avocado extraction process always takes a few days. Both skins and stones usually store more pigment than can be extracted in just one dye bath. After the first extraction (heating up the avocados and simmering them for about an hour) I let the dye bath cool down overnight and sieve it through a muslin cloth on the next day. I put water over the sieved avocados and heat them up again, making another lot of dye. I repeat the process even up to 5 times, before all pigment is extracted. Stones usually store more pigment than the skins, so I process them separately. I combine all of these dye baths in one dye pot. This lengthy process also helps the pigment to oxidise over time, deepening the color. Remember not to boil the pigment for too long, it's the time not the heat that produces the richest hues.
4. Shift the pH
This is something I came up with, observing the water quality in Berlin. Our water is quite calcareous and slightly alkali and always produces nice deep pinks from avocados. I saw many people making peach color with their stones and skins, but it never happened in my dye pot. Some time ago, I added just a few drops of white vinegar to my dye bath and the color shifted instantly to a more orange side of the spectrum. Accordingly, if you shift the pH to more alkali, adding either some baking soda or just a pinch of lime, you will get deeper pinks. You can use this trick to revive a dye bath that used to be pink, but after being stored for sometime, it's pH level dropped and the color changed. It works like a charm!
5. Steam for a deeper color
Just like the most of the things I know about dyeing, this one was a lucky accidental discovery. After you dye your fibres, lift them over the hot dye bath and steam them for a few minutes. Hot steam will make the color even darker. I believe it's an extra oxidation taking place in this process, which deepens the color. This trick works for most tannin-rich dyes, which avocado is one of. I steam all of my tannin & iron dyed fibres, too, and it really makes a difference.
If you have more tips for dyers using avocados in their process, let me know. I'll be happy to update this post and credit you!