With our annual "Come Dye With Us" program coming up on October 23rd, we thought it may be fun to throwback to last year's dye day. We know things were a little different last year - "Come Dye With Us" went on virtually, and the fun of dyeing was had in our patrons' homes. However, you may not have known that our Stitch 'n Time team enjoyed some fun onsite as well - after COVID lockdown, they were just dyeing to get back onsite!
Last year, we had some fun exploring a few of the dyes you may have right in your own kitchen! Kool Aid, Black beans, onion skins, etc... You can check out those dye adventures on our SNT YouTube playlist. There's really quite a list of natural dyes available to most of us. We thought, maybe you might want to try a little DIY (Dye It Yourself, of course). No need to rush out and buy materials, you probably already have a number of natural dyes in your kitchen right now. We’re going to focus on avocado skins and pits which (somewhat surprisingly) give a rusty/pinkish color. Before you jump in, we should go over a few good practices.
Use a natural material as the item you are dyeing. Cotton, linen, wool, or silk will all work fine. These materials will readily take dye. Synthetics are not a good option!
Make sure whatever you’re dyeing is washed and clean before you start, as many fabrics come starched and will not accept dyes. If you're looking for some specialty materials, we do sell handspun wool yarn made from our Hog Island Sheep wool!
Use only pots/stirrers, etc... that are not for regular cooking. Mordant (the stuff that helps natural dyes stick to fibers and not fade after washing) aren’t safe to ingest and some can be quite toxic, so please don’t use a cooking pot for them. Please use a clean outdoor bucket or something you do not plan to eat/drink/cook with in the future.
Acquire your mordant (if needed. Some natural dyes, like Black Walnut, don't require a mordant). Mordants like alum can be purchased at craft stores and grocery stores. Always use safety steps (like gloves, etc...) when using mordants as they can be dangerous to touch or consume.
Color intensity is up to you! Most natural dyestuff will produce a deeper color when you use more of it. Play around with how much dyestuff to fabric/yarn you put in. For exact amounts, we recommend at least 3:1 ration of dyestuff to fiber. Also, the freshness of your dyestuff will impact the color results, as well as the amount of time you leave the fiber in the dye.
If you don’t want to use an actual mordant you can give the material you want to dye a white vinegar bath. Vinegar is not a mordant and will not work as well to keep your items from fading in the wash, but it opens the fibers a bit and allows the dye to soak in more by removing natural oils. You can also help fix the final color after dyeing by soaking your finished item in a solution of 1c white vinegar, ¼ c salt, and enough cold water to fully submerge it for 1 hour (roughly 4 cups). Then give it a cold rinse before washing it by itself in your washing machine.
Let’s get started! And if you enjoy dyeing (or just the idea of it without actually DIYing it yourself) "Come Dye With Us" at the park on Saturday October 23rd from 11am-4pm. You can find out more information here, but don't wait too long to sign up. This program is limited in space and always a crowd favorite!
Avocado Skins (Pink)
Basically, you’re going to make an avocado stock/tea with leftover avocado skins and pits. You can save your materials in the freezer until you have enough to work with. Scrape out as much of the green as you can. You can also wash them to make them extra clean for your item, but it’s not strictly necessary. You need:
Your fiber (fabric, skein, or loose fiber)
Avocado skins and (optionally) pits. Remember, more dyestuffs = more color.
Pot for dyeing. You’ll needs to heat it on the stove or fire.
Optional if using avocado pits: mordant or white vinegar and non iodized salt
Optional: pot for mordant/vinegar baths
Mordant your item if you choose to or if you’re not using the pits. We recommend Alum as a mordant for Avocado. You'll need the weight of the item you're dyeing to measure out the correct amount of mordant. Follow instructions on your chosen mordant or boil item in 1 part white vinegar to 4 parts water for an hour. Dump your mordant out before making your avocado dye.
Make your avocado dye and dye your item:
Crush all pits with a stone or brick on a surface that won't break. This helps prepare them to release the dye.
Take your skins/pits and put them in the pot you used for mordanting.
Fill pot with water. Use plenty of water to allow skins/pits to free float.
Simmer for about an hour.
Remove skins and pits with a slotted spoon or pour your dye through a strainer into another pot.
Turn off the heat, add your item to the dye and let it sit, covered, overnight for a strong color or for at least a few hours for a lighter pink.
When it’s done, remove your item and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. If you didn’t use mordant, now is the time for that second white vinegar/salt bath. Soak it in cold water with 1c white vinegar and ¼ c non iodized salt. Let it air dry out of the sun.
As always, wash your item by itself to prevent dye transfer.