How to dye even colours (and why you might not want to)

One of the most frequently asked questions I get is something along the lines of, “How can I dye fabric with natural dyes and get more even colours?”

The truth is that is is very tricky to dye with totally even results; it’s a challenge even for experienced dyers. However there are certainly some tricks for getting more uniformity across fabric and garments that you are dyeing.

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New logo!

I’m so excited to start using my new logo designed for me by Sierra Johnson of Letter Lodge!

This week I’ve been busy making new business cards and tags and stamping my new logo.

I used watercolour paper and presoaked it in soya milk and left it for a couple of weeks before using it. The dyes were very concentrated which I made by boiling off lots of liquid to leave a small amount of super concentrated colour. The purple is from mahonia berries and the pink is from avocado skin.

Dyeing beads with avocado skin

I had a jar of avocado skin dye in the fridge and decided to try dyeing some beads with it. The beads were soaked in soya milk twice and left for about a week before dyeing.

Then the beads were left in a simmering dye pot for a while, then left for 24 hours in the dye as it cooled.Β 

Once dry, the beads were oiled with flaxseed oil to protect them and help seal in the colour. The beads have such an intense colour and actually look like they are glowing. It was definitely a successful experiment!

The photo below shows avocado skin dyed beads on an avocado skin dyed cotton scarf.Β 

Bundle dyeing with avocado skin

I was intrigued to find out if bundle dyeing with avocado skin would make the same pinks that were produced in the avocado dye bath. And would the addition of rusty iron produce purples? I really needed to find out!

I laid out some defrosted avocado skin onto a length of fabric and folded it in half, then rolled it around a rusty rod and tied it up really tightly. It was steamed for about 2 hours.

The fabric is a blend of soya and organic cotton. Soya is a protein based plant fibre, so it is interesting to dye with as it should dye like other protein fibres like silk and wool. I still pretreated the fabric in soya milk and left it to cure for two weeks, due to the cotton content in the fabric.

Well, it is without doubt the strangest pattern I’ve ever dyed, but it is quite intriguing to look at.Β  The dark areas are from the rust reacting with the avocado skin. The colours produced from bundle dyeing are completely different to making a dye bath ‘soup’ and straining it.

Dyeing with Avocado Skins

Avocados are probably my favourite food ever, so it hasn’t been too much of a hardship to eat lots of avocados over the past few weeks! I saved the skins (and also the stones for future use) and stored them in the freezer.

The fabric was mordanted in soya milk, left to cure for over a month. The avocado skins were soaked and heated in water and after 24 hours, the mush was squeezed through a muslin cloth to reveal a beautifully deep red dye.

I used a 1:1 ratio of avocado skins to weight of fabric, but I could see that there was still a lot of dyeing potential in the dye bath so I dyed two more scarves afterwards.

The fabrics left to right are bamboo silk, organic cotton and hemp/cotton jersey. I also dyed another cotton scarf that’s not pictured. The markings are all created through various methods of tying and clipping to form resists.

The fabric swatch on the top left was modified in iron water which produced a beautiful deep mauve colour.Β 

I am currently carrying out lightfastness tests on the aldercone and avocado skin dye. The swatch at the bottom on the right is madder mordanted with aluminium acetate as a control.