We're finding our way with homeschooling Ada this year, and because she's home all the time it's stretching me to find ways to include her in my artist practice. A happy place for us is outside, she bumbles around with imaginary play and I'm near my dye studio. I've been wanting to film more spontaneous and informal videos to share my creative process, and Ada's been asking to film videos together - so here we are - giving it a go!

This is a relaxed and friendly guide to dyeing with avocado pits and madder roots, both lovely shades of pink. We save our avocado pits in the freezer until we have a few bags full, then it's time to dye fabric! We harvest our madder roots once the plants are 3 or more years matured, the roots should be the width of a pencil. We dry the roots for a couple of days outside in the het but out of direct sunlight, then dust the dirt off the roots, break them into smaller pieces and save the dried roots in jars.

*Note* We started the dye process by preparing our fabric by mordanting with Alum. For more information on mordanting you can reference the previous blog post Preparing Fabric for Natural Dyes.

Dyeing Fabric with Avocado Pits and Madder Roots

  1. Collect your dye! For avocado pits, the skins give color too but yield more of a beige yellow tone color. The pits yield a red tone pink.
  2. In separate pots add water to the avocado pits and madder roots. It's best to soak the madder roots overnight but not necessary to soak avocado pits, we did them alongside each other so they both soaked overnight.
  3. Heat the water with dyestuff to a low boil, cook the color for an hour.
  4. Strain the dyestuff out with a fine mesh strainer once the bath is cool enough to handle. Line the strainer with fine mesh cheesecloth to catch every loose particle. The colored water is the dye-bath!! Save the grounds if you feel you can extracted more color from them, otherwise compost them.
  5. Add the fabric to the cool or warm dye bath. Squeeze and massaging the fabric to remove air bubbles. Try to avoid the fabric rising to the top and floating on the surface, that would create uneven light splotches. the fabric should submerge fulling in the dye. Soak for or as little or long as you like, checking the color throughout. I often soak my fabric overnight. If your aiming for saturated color results heating the dye with the fabric for an hour or so will help the color bond to the fabric.
  6. Rinse and dry. For the life of the fabric wash with like colors using a gentle detergent. Hang fabric to dry out of direct sunlight.

The results from our dye baths: The lightest beige fabrics are dyed with avocado pits, the light and medium pink are dyed with madder.

Harvesting madder roots from our garden. We planted these 4 years ago. We sourced the transplants from Sandy Mush Herbs.