Last weekend I was overcome with creative restlessness. That emotion plus rain usually leads to a new project. By Sunday I started three: crocheting a hat with my black bean dyed yarn, a coil basket with mushroom dyed yarn, and a dye.
Perhaps like most dyers, my freezer stores mysterious freezer-burned dye material. Thanks to my Mom, my childhood freezer often stored bags of frozen lumps labeled POISONOUS MUSHROOMS-DON’T EAT. My freezer is a bit more tame. All I have are blackberries so old they’re more ice than berry. And a collection of avocado pits and skins.
Before I continue with last weekend’s dye, let me backtrack to the summer of 2014 when I first played with avocados in a series of solar dyes, just for a quick comparison.
To read about my process dyeing pits, here’s the link on my site, and here’s the result.
For the avocado skins, I’m sorry to say, my notes are limited and I didn’t document proportions. (Always take good notes.) I do know this: I soaked them in a vinegar/water solution in a tightly sealed jar for a month. (Guessing a few glugs of vinegar?) The vinegar makes the dye acidic (opposite of dyeing with the pits, which you want alkaline). A month because I forgot about it in the garden. I added the wool, let the sun work it’s heat making magic, and there you go.
Fast-forward to last weekend. I was curious to see what would happen if I threw the pits and skins into the pot together, since when I dyed them in the past, I changed the pH of the dye in opposite directions. For the pits, I went alkaline. For the skins, I went acidic.
The frozen pits and skins together weighted 2lbs; I counted 11 pits before I chopped. Notice how the pit color changes once cut – neat stuff! After they simmered in water, I added 1 teaspoon of washing soda to raise the pH. I didn’t have testing strips, so I used my eyes: the color changed from uninteresting to fusia. I called it good. I added my 2 oz skein of wool.
*Washing soda is a cleaning product that contains sodium carbonate. You can also use ammonia. Both should be easy to find at a grocery store.*
This dye takes patience and works best done in stages. I heated it for 30-40 minutes (simmer is okay, but don’t boil, it wrecks the yarn) then removed the pot from the heat with the yarn still in, absorbing as much as it’s little fibers are able. Wait a day. Carefully simmer it again, take off the heat, let it cool, wait a day or so and repeat. Honestly, I’m not sure if I had to wait a day, or a certain amount of hours. I worked it around my weekend schedule. It’s not going anywhere.
I did this three times. Each time the color deepened.
Then the work week began again, and it was forgotten in the pot for two more days before I thoroughly rinsed it.
The color is similar to how the cut pits looked after oxidizing in the air. It isn’t a clean pink, it has hints of brown. Is that the influence of living in my freezer for a few years? Or from the dye of the skins? The pondering, guessing, and repeating of experiments continues. Perhaps next with the ice berries. I mean blackberries.
- Use wool, ideally with an Alum mordant. I always have better luck using animal fibers. Plant fiber might work, but it will be harder to achieve something darker than a light pink.
- Change the pH. If you don’t have pH strips, that’s fine, don’t let it stop you. Add small amounts (one teaspoon or less) of washing soda or ammonia at a time, and watch the color change. Do this away from the heat and before you the add the yarn.
- Patience. Do this dye in stages.
- Take good notes so you know what (or what not) to do next time.
- Good Luck!