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!

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.

Join Us for a Month of Weaving

October is for weaving! At least, that's what we've declared it to be over in the forums.

Since one of the most amazing things about connecting with other makers is learning from each other, we wanted to see what would happen if we set aside some time to focus on a particular kind of craft.

So this month, we're diving into weaving. (Most of us know nothing about it!)

Community members who know a thing or two about weaving will be sharing tips, tricks, tutorials and projects. And even those of us who are total newbs will be sharing our trials and errors and successes as we give weaving a shot for the first (or second or third) time.

No fancy equipment required! Just a desire to try a new thing, cheer people on, and learn something new.

Our forums are free to join! Just head on over, create an account, and dive into Weaving Month.

Our community is free to join because it's supported by Patreon members who kick in a few bucks each month to cover our operating costs (which include my time and skill); as such, Patreon members enjoy live video chats with me, their own private video chat room, a monthly newsletter, and more.

What I’m Making: A Crocheted Pi Shawl

Photo of crocheted pi shawl in progress

I picked up a cake of Sheepjes Whirl yarn a couple of weeks ago, and it whispered to me that it wants to be crocheted into a pi shawl.

Now that I've been working on it for a while, and have ripped back to the third row a couple of times, I'm accepting that it's not a true pi shawl, because the proportions of my stitch pattern aren't working out exactly. Which is fine by me.

It's a simple v-stitch pattern and I'm loving every minute of making it, even with the ripping back. ❤️

2018 Gift Guide for Creative Adventurers

Approaching a new year is a giant blazing invitation to get our priorities straight, whether we love or loathe setting New Year's resolutions. This list includes all kinds of things I truly love and that will help any sort of creative adventurer prioritize their creativity and making stuff in 2019. (Some of these are affiliate links.)

 

Gifts to Spark Imagination & Making

 

2018 Gift Guide for Creative Adventurers
2018 Gift Guide for Creative Adventurers
2018 Gift Guide for Creative Adventurers
2018 Gift Guide for Creative Adventurers
2018 Gift Guide for Creative Adventurers
2018 Gift Guide for Creative Adventurers
2018 Gift Guide for Creative Adventurers
2018 Gift Guide for Creative Adventurers
2018 Gift Guide for Creative Adventurers

For More Books, Kits, Tools & Materials for Your Favourite Creative Adventurer ↡

2018 Gift Guide for Creative Adventurers
2018 Gift Guide for Creative Adventurers
2018 Gift Guide for Creative Adventurers
2018 Gift Guide for Creative Adventurers
2018 Gift Guide for Creative Adventurers