What I’m Making: Dyeing Yarn with Avocados (and Tea)

What I'm Making: Dyeing Yarn with Avocados (and Tea)
Top-left to bottom-right: Avocado-dyed wool roving, avocado-dyed superwash wool yarn, black tea-dyed superwash wool yarn (second through the dye bath), black tea-dyed superwash wool yarn (first through the dye bath).

Last weekend, when my kid was sick after missing a few days of school, and we were all stuck in the house despite the first sunny days in ages, it was the perfect time to finally try doing some natural dyeing in my kitchen.

I'd purchased the yarn and rovings blanks years ago, thinking the kid would join me in dyeing them up with Kool-Aid, but my kid is not crafty and had no interest in doing such a thing, so the package sat in my closet. When I learned a while back that avocados produce a pinkish dye, I knew the yarn was destined for some kitchen experimenting.

And oh my goodness, I had no idea how dead simple and fun it would be.

Because, to put it simply, to naturally dye yarn or fabric or roving with avocados here's what you do: simmer the avocado pits and/or peels in water, add natural-fibre yarn or roving or fabric, let it sit, rinse.

What I'm Making: Dyeing Yarn with Avocados (and Tea)
Yarn and roving blanks from Knit Picks.

Here, I'll put it into a list so it seems more official:

Step 1: Prepare the Avocado Dye Bath

Using a stainless steel pot that's large enough to hold all the stuff you're going to dye, bring water almost to a boil (but not to a boil). Put clean avocado pits (alone they'll produce a pinker colour, from what I understand) and/or peels (alone they'll produce a peachy colour) into the water and simmer for a long time. The water will almost immediately begin to take on colour, yippee!

I let the dye pot simmer for about three hours before I put the yarn in, and in my research learned that folks wait anywhere from under an hour to letting the dye steep overnight. This kind of variability is part of what I love about doing things like this – pick a time frame, see how it goes, adjust for the next time based on the results.

Step 2: Put in the Yarn or Roving or Fabric

Unlike for many plant-based natural dyes, you don't need to use a mordant to set avocado dye. I've read that this is because the pits contain tannins that do the job, but I haven't read this definitively so if you have a good source for info on this, please hit reply and let me know.

The yarn I used is superwash wool, so I wasn't concerned about it felting. The roving, however, which I added to the pot a while after I put the yarn in, was straight-up wool, and after I gently put it into the dye bath I realized I had no idea how to get it out without felting it.

So I asked on Twitter! And my friend Jill, who dyes stunning yarns, replied:

Ok! Armed with this advice, I removed the pot from heat after a few hours and left it to cool.

Step 3: Gently Rinse

I took the yarn out before the water had fully cooled, and let the yarn cool on its own. Once it was cool, I rinsed it in cool water until the water ran clear, which happened almost immediately. Then I gently rolled the yarn in a towel as I would a knitted or crocheted item I'd handwashed, and hung it to dry.

I left the roving in the pot till it had all cooled to room temperature, then I very gently removed the roving and gave it a gentle rinse in cool water. As Jill recommended, I put it in a lingerie bag and put it on a spin cycle, which worked like magic. (I'll do that with the yarn next time, too.) By morning, the roving was ready to start spinning.

Dyeing Yarn with Black Tea

The brown yarns in the photo above were dyed in black tea. Unlike with avocado dyeing, you do need to use a mordant when dyeing with black tea. Here's the gist of what I did:

While I soaked the yarn in the sink with about 1 part white vinegar to 4 parts water, I brewed about 15 black tea bags in half a large stock pot full of water boiling water. I let the pot simmer and steep for about half an hour, then I removed the tea bags, drained the sink and squeezed the liquid out of the yarn. I put the first hank of yarn in the tea dye and it soaked it up immediately (resulting in the darker brown colour in the far right of the photo). I let it sit in the dye bath for around half an hour, removed it to cool, and put the second hank in (the lighter brown one in the photo). There was dramatically less dye left in the pot at that point, which was super cool to see. Then I rinsed and dried the yarn as I did with the avocado-dyed yarn.

The vinegar here serves as a mordent, to set the dye.

Have you experimented with dyeing yarns or fabric with kitchen scraps or other edibles? I'd love to hear about it!

Mighty Creative Podcast Episode 102: Derivative Crafts & Remixing

Mighty Creative Podcast Episode 102: Derivative Crafts & Remixing

My husband sent me a screenshot the other night, of a comments thread on a NY Times recipe for Spicy Sesame Noodles with Chicken and Peanuts:

Screenshot of comments thread

He sent this to me because he knew I'd appreciate it from my crochet editorial days. And boy did I.

What he didn't know is that I'd already recorded this podcast episode, and that I talked about this very thing in it.

The episode is about the derivative nature of crafts – and not in a bad way. In a good way, which involves learning from each other and remixing what we learn to create new things. And it's about craft instructions being guidelines that are not the law! We can chose to change anything we want in the projects we make. Sometimes things may not turn out like we want them to, but that's half the fun.

Hit reply and tell me about a project you made by mixing in elements from a few different sources, or by going off-book from a pattern!

Show Notes

  • Each episode this season begins with a short clip of a maker or artist talking about a recent project they were obsessed with. I recorded all of these in April of 2019 at Camp Thundercraft, a retreat for creative businesspeople held each spring and hosted by the folks behind Urban Craft Uprising. I'm very excited to be going back to teach two classes at the 2020 retreat coming up.
  • Today we hear from artist Zoe Osenbach, who makes incredible works out of found objects.

Discuss this episode in our online community right here!

Support the podcast by becoming a Supporting Member, and enjoy super perks, too.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple PodcastsGoogle PodcastsStitcherTuneInSoundcloud or search for it in whatever podcast app you love. And if you're enjoying it, please rate it so more people can find it and get more in touch with their creativity.

Mighty Creative Podcast: Episode 101 – Prerequisite Procrastination

Mighty Creative Podcast episode image reading: Episode 101: Prerequisite Procrastination

Welcome to the new podcast!

This episode is about the very thing that kept me from making the podcast for nearly three years. Prerequisite procrastination. What a pain.

I put my finger on what to call this particular subspecies of procrastination during a video conversation with members of our online community (we do things like talk about the specific ways we procrastinate; you should get in on this).

Listen for what this wee beast is, and what we can do to defeat it so we start making things we really want to make (like, as I said, this podcast).

Show Notes

  • Each episode this season begins with a short clip of a maker or artist talking about a recent project they were obsessed with. I recorded all of these in April of 2019 at Camp Thundercraft, a retreat for creative businesspeople held each spring and hosted by the folks behind Urban Craft Uprising. I'm very excited to be going back to teach two classes at the 2020 retreat coming up.
  • Kicking things off is a clip of ceramicist Sean Forest Roberts of Forest Ceramic Co. talking about some incredibly intricate mugs he makes out of dozens of layers of colour. You have to see it to really get it. Since I met him and learned of his work, I have been desperately coveting a Galaxy mug 😍.
  • Here are some of my favourite things to do when I'm stuck in a procrastination rut:
    • Set a timer. I can do anything for 20 minutes, and often all I need to get out of my head and into making something is decide to just do it for a few minutes. Doing it a little bit is far better than not doing it at all.
    • Along similar lines, this tired cliche: Done is better than perfect. It is so tired. And it is so true.
      • (You will notice that the sound quality of the Camp Thundercraft clips this season are not the best. I considered the task of cleaning up the audio one of the prerequisites that kept me from making this podcast for ten months. I have cleaned them up, believe it or not, but really, I just needed to stop worrying about it and just make the episodes.)
    • Consider whether I really want to do the thing I'm putting off. There's a section in Make It Mighty Ugly where I write about gut feelings. Sometimes we need to do something that makes us uncomfortable, because we grow from it. Sometimes, though, we feel uncomfortable because it's a terrible idea. We do ourselves a great service when we get to know the difference.
    • Throwing my first try under the bus. Sometimes, I procrastinate because I'm so excited about the idea of making something that I become terrified that the thing I make will be awful. So I make my first attempt an effort at making it terrible – doing it too fast, or not reading the instructions closely, or using crap materials, or whatever. This way I can't be disappointed, and I will at least be making something. After this first terrible attempt, there's nowhere to go but up.

Discuss this episode in our online community right here!

Support the podcast by becoming a Supporting Member, and enjoy super perks, too.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, Soundcloud or search for it in whatever podcast app you love. And if you're enjoying it, please rate it so more people can find it and get more in touch with their creativity.

None of the things I'm mentioning here are ads, but in some cases I am using affiliate links – these help to support my work and the podcast.

What I’m Making: Find Your Fade Shawl

In a super rare move, I've finished a massive knitting project just over a year after I started it. (I've had some crocheted blankets on the go for nearly a decade!)

Last week, after working on it in fits and starts during the cooler seasons, I cast off my Find Your Fade Shawl. And though at first blush I was thoroughly intimidated by even the thought of weaving in my loose ends, one conference call and I was done. Done! Completely finished.

I used eight different yarns for it, all odd skeins from my stash. How lovely to be reminded that my colour choices are so consistent that I had eight random skeins in shades of purple, grey and turquoise.

Seven of the eight skeins were fingering weight sock yarn; the eighth was sport weight, and I didn't realize it till I was nearly through knitting that part. Ah well. That bit of the scarf is a little misshapen to accommodate the heavier weight. But that's fine.

The finished shawl is massive. I haven't measured it, but it's far longer than my wingspan. When I put the widest part at my chest and wrap the ends around the back of my neck to the front again, the tips fall to my knees.

And I haven't blocked it! There are some simple lace sections that would really benefit from even a light blocking (not to mention that misshapen bit that could be bandaided by some strategic stretching), but I think I'm going to have to wait for summer. And the ability to take up a huge amount of floor space.

So for now, I'm wearing it pretty much every day. I love it so much.

Pattern: Find Your Fade Shawl, by Andrea Mowry
Ravelry Details
Yarn: Seven skeins fingering weight sock yarn of different makes and colourways; one skein sport weight.
Needles: 3.75mm
Modifications: I used eight yarns instead of the called-for seven because I didn't have enough of one colour to use it for an entire section; I improvised! Also, I was so sick of the final lace section that I cut it short and worked some additional decreases as needed in the final section to finish it all off properly despite having skipped a few rows of the pattern.

Mighty Creative: The Podcast Is Back

Mighty Creative: The Podcast Is Back

The podcast is back, with a new name! It's still about what motivates us to make things, how to make space in our lives for creative adventures, and how to have more fun with it all. But the format will be simpler than it was a few years ago and the episodes will be pretty short. Listen for more details!

Look for new episodes of Mighty Creative in February, 2020. For now, be sure to search for the new name in your podcast app, and subscribe!

2020 Community Survey

It's been a long while since I asked you for some insight into how I can do my best work for you. Please let me know a little bit about your creative experience by filling out the very short 2020 Community Survey. It's only three questions, and should take no more than five minutes.

Thank you!

Nine Books I Loved in 2019

Whether utterly entertaining, deeply informative or just downright riveting, these are the books I read in 2019 that have stayed with me. Enjoy!

Nine Books I Loved in 2019
Nine Books I Loved in 2019
Nine Books I Loved in 2019
Nine Books I Loved in 2019
Nine Books I Loved in 2019
Nine Books I Loved in 2019
Nine Books I Loved in 2019
Nine Books I Loved in 2019
Nine Books I Loved in 2019

These are affiliate links to books I truly love and think you'll enjoy.

And for a bit of further detail: Hands-down my favourite book of the year was Red, White & Royal Blue. It's a spectacularly well written political love story that takes every aspect of our real-life dumpster-fire society and sets it right. Read it yourself and give a copy to everyone you love.

Also: Listen to the audiobook of Becoming. It's like spending a weekend with your BFF the former First Lady. And Educated is everything it's hyped to be.

Make It Mighty Ugly in 2020!

Start off 2020 the Mighty Ugly way – book club/workshop!

It's a new year coming up – heck, it'll be a new decade! – and there's no better way to start fresh than to do it by embracing the imperfection and occasional downright ugliness that comes along with doing creative things.

Join me from January 6 – February 7th, 2020, and together we'll work through my book Make It Mighty Ugly.

Through guided discussion, prompts and live chats, we'll fight our creative demons and kick the new year off with a focus on prioritizing the meaningful creative projects that make us happy so we can spend the rest of the year making and learning and not worrying about it all ending up perfect. Because perfect is boring and imperfect is fascinating.

Early-bird registration, with special pricing, is open through December 20, 2019. To register, click to join the group and follow the steps.

If you're a supporting member at the $5-or-up level, be sure to enter your discount code.

Once you've registered, you'll gain immediate access to this group, and you're welcome to get to know your fellow adventurers before the workshop begins.

Be sure to grab a copy of the book before January 6th! (And please do feel free to request a copy from your local library. We love libraries!)