Natural Shades of Pink :: Dyeing Fabric with Avocado Skins with Rebecca Desnos

Saturday 12 September 2015

I am really excited about this tutorial as I have been wanting to dye with avocado skins for a long time - and Rebecca's step by step tutorial is making it easy for me (and you) to try . I dyed naturally yarn in the past – but my results (and process) are so random that I have not tried again. But now that the key ingredient to this tutorial is something I eat a lot of is brilliant, so it should be quick (and easy) to get enough dyestuff!

If you use her tutorial, please let us know and share your makes! 

My name is Rebecca Desnos and I'm a natural dyer who works exclusively with plant dyes and plant fibres. I'm vegan so I don't use any animal fibres such as wool or silk, or animal-derived dyes such as cochineal.

Several years ago I began dyeing with plant extracts such as madder, which produce beautiful and reliable colours, but I discovered that it's much more exciting and rewarding to make my own dyes from scratch.

Avocado skin dye is my current favourite dye and I've always got a jar of dye in the fridge ready to use. The colour is so pretty and I'm always finding new things to put in the dye pot. I think it helps that avocados are one of my favourite foods, so I manage to save up the skins quickly!

I have an Etsy shop with a selection of plant dyed scarves, bags, cushions covers and wooden beads.

This is just my own method of dyeing with avocado skins, but it’s not the only way to do it. It’s through experimentation that you will find what works well for you and you might find an even better way of doing things. For example, how about using rainwater instead of tap water? Try a different type of saucepan to see if that affects the colour. The possibilities are truly endless.

To prepare the fabric for dyeing:

These instructions are for dyeing cellulose (plant) fibres, such as cotton, linen or bamboo.

1. Prewash fabric in the washing machine in a natural laundry liquid (I use ECOS Earth Friendly laundry liquid). Either allow to air dry or go onto next step.
2. Pour a litre of unsweetened soya milk into a bucket and dilute with water. I usually do roughly 1:1 ratio of water to milk. Drop fabric into the bucket of watered down milk and stir. Leave to soak overnight, stirring it a couple of times before going to bed.
3. In the morning, lift out the fabric and squeeze out as much of the soya milk as possible, then put on a spin cycle in the washing machine.
4. Leave to air dry.
5. Drop the fabric back into the bucket of milk for a quick dip. The aim is to coat the fabric evenly with soya milk, without removing the previous dried on layer. If the fabric sits in there too long, the first layer of soya may rinse off.
6. Squeeze as much milk out of the fabric as possible and put on another spin in the washing machine and then leave to air dry.
7. Do a final quick dip in the soya milk, then squeeze out as much milk as possible hang up to drip dry. Depending on the weather, this final stage can be a bit smelly, so it’s best to dry outside if possible.
8. Once the fabric is completely dry, place it in a plastic bag and store it for at least a week before using.

Note: This soya milk method is not my own, and I first read about it in India Flint’sbook ‘ Eco Colour’. The idea is that the protein in the milk coats the cellulose fibres and makes them more protein-like, increasing the absorption of the plant dye. From my own tests I’ve found that this method really does help achieve darker shades.

To prepare the avocado skin dye bath:

I collect avocado skins over the course of a few weeks. I scrape and rinse the skins then place them in a bag in the freezer. I’ve only dyed with hass avocados as these are the only ones available in my local shops, but I’m sure that other varieties produce equally beautiful shades.

1. Weigh the dry fabric and use at least this weight of avocado skins. The higher the ratio of avocado skins to fabric, the more concentrated the dye, and therefore the deeper the colour. I often use 2:1 ratio of avocado skins to fabric to get a really deep colour.
2. Place the avocado skins in an aluminium saucepan and cover with tap water so that all skins are submerged. 
3. Heat for at least an hour and stir from time to time. The skins will soften and break down.
4. Leave to cool, then strain the mixture through a sieve lined with a fine cloth such as muslin. The colour of the water should be a deep red. Squeeze the pulp in the cloth to extract as much of the concentrated colour as possible.
5. The dye is now ready to use. If you’re not ready to use straight away, it can be stored in the fridge.

Dyeing the fabric:

Decide how you will dye your fabric. Will you dye it an even shade? If so, you may need to add extra water to the dye pot so the fabric can move about freely. Will you fold up and tie the fabric to create patterns?

1. Drop the fabric into the aluminium saucepan (reserved just for dyeing) and add extra water to make sure all the fabric is submerged and can about move freely. 

2. Heat the saucepan for at least an hour and allow the dye bath to simmer, ensuring the fabric is always submerged. Stir from time to time with a wooden spoon (never to be used again for cooking!) and keep a close eye on it to make sure that it doesn’t boil.
3. Leave the fabric to cool in the dyebath over night. 
4. Further heating may deepen the shade, but may not be necessary if you already have a deep shade. 
5. Take the fabric out of the dyebath and squeeze out as much liquid as possible and leave to drip dry.
6. Once the fabric is dry, it’s best to be patient and let the fabric sit for at least a week (the longer the better) before rinsing. This should help with the fastness of the dye.
7. Once I’ve rinsed the fabric, I usually put it on a short wash cycle in the washing machine, then let the fabric dry naturally. Then it’s ready to use for whatever you’d like!

Note on light and wash fastness:

According to my own tests, the colour lasts well using this soya milk method, but it is dependent on so many variables, so you would need to do your own tests to see how fast your colour is.
Please bear in mind that all dyes, even synthetic ones, will fade in bright sunlight, so it’s important to treat dyed fabric with care. I always store naturally dyed scarves in a cupboard to avoid fading. I also avoid washing naturally dyed fabrics too frequently and will often air out a scarf rather than washing, to help preserve the colour.
I’ve found that avocado skin dye fixed with this soya milk method to fair well in light fastness tests (actually better than some other dyes fixed with chemical mordants!) and it actually yellows if it’s exposed to sunlight, rather than fades.

Thanks Rebecca for this amazing tutorial, please share your makes with me and Rebecca, she is on IG and twitter @rebeccadesnos! 


  1. Fabulous tutorial ... I was wondering what colour they would produce when I saw it on Instagram, beautiful soft tones.

  2. That is so cool how avocado skins give off this color! Who would have thought?

  3. this is such a great idea- I tried dying with avocado pits alone, but it was very pale- next time, I'll use the skins, as well! thanks for a great guide.

  4. Oh my, what lovely colors! Thanks for sharing this!

  5. Oh my gosh, that is amazing! That colour is so unique. Can't wait to try this.

  6. This is another great tutorial I've seen online! who would have thought that avocado can produce a good color when you use it to dye your fabric. Such a great idea. Anyway, many of us do fabric dyeing when we want to give our old fabrics a brand new look, but it seems many are not aware of different dyeing process that's why, when they dye their fabrics, they tend to get an awful result. However, the only key to get a worthy result when doing the fabric dyeing is to know first the things about dyes in order for you to understand the process and to achieve what you want for your fabrics.

  7. Thank you this is great! A quick question though, this beautiful pink shade, does it ever wash off, or changes shades? or it is permanent?

    Really appreciating this tutorial :)

  8. Puede que la leche de soja este aportando taninos que actúan como mordiente

  9. Does the aluminum from the pot remain in the fibers after washing? It does with food cooked in these..I’ve heard of using tamarind leaves which have a high aluminum content as well as medicinal properties for mordanting...I have the same question about this. It seems like the aluminum pot is the main mordant here

  10. I don’t really see how the aluminum pot is any different from adding alum...

  11. Back in the '70's girls soaked their jeans in cold salt water to prevent fading. Have you tried this?

  12. You have outdone yourself this time. It is probably the best, most short step by step guide that I have ever seen. custom embroidered keychains