Dyeing with Avocado Pits, Walnuts and Osage Orange Wood Chips

I had a little space recently, in between coats of paint on the exterior of the house, to brew up a pot of natural dye.  Both avocado pits and osage orange wood chips.  Then we found some walnuts in the park in town.  Not enough to dye with…yet…but I have my eye on them.  In fact, my nearly 4 year old spotted them and said, “Mama we can dye with these!”.  (be still my maker’s heart)

I am loving this osage orange wood that I got from a friend.  My friend is a spoon carver, among other things I’m sure, and had these chips as waste.  I became the very lucky recipient of them.  Honestly, I’ve never loved yellow as a color to wear…until now.  If you’ve every dyed anything, whether with natural dyes or chemical dyes, then you know the addictive and magical nature of it. 

You never really know what you’re going to get.  You gleefully drop your (mordanted!) fabric or yarn into the pot and viola, out pops a whole new beast.  Sometimes, it’s what you expected and sometimes, it’s not.  Sometimes it’s better.  Sometimes you have to dye it again…two or three times.  That’s the curse of being very discerning about color.

It’s lovely, in the way that slow cooking a pot of soup on the stove is, to take a few days to leisurely make the dye pot while mordanting you fabric/yarn, strain out the dye stuff and sink your fabric/yarn in. 

Apply a little heat, stir it a bunch (shouting…”oh whoops, I forgot I have to stir my fabric, as you bolt out of the house to your dye “Studio”!”  Getting your small child all cranked up and shouting too.), pull it out, let it dry, rinse it and wash it and let it dry again!  (what?!  Yes, I let my naturally dyed fabric dry before rinsing in an effort to get a better color fastness) 

And finally, bask in the glow of a whole new fabric/yarn…magically created with your own two hands.

This leisurely way of dyeing I find limited to natural dyes.  Chemical dyes seem to be a bit more sensitive to time and demanding of your attention. 

Do you dye your fabric?  Have you ever tried dyeing with natural dyes?  What’s stopping you?  

Some of my favorites, and oh so easy to get, are onion skins, avocado pits and walnuts

Basically make a tea…simmer the dye stuff for an hour or two. 
Strain it out and dye your fabric/yarn that has already been mordanted.  (Alum Acetate for plant based fibers {cotton, linen, etc} and Alum Suflate for protein based fibers {wool, silk, etc})  

Stir it around periodically, warm it up (not too hot for wool!) and let it be for a good long time.  (maybe overnight)   Squeeze out the excess (and throw some more fabric in for crying out loud…you should have just mordanted all of your white socks and undies while you were at it, for just this emergency.  yes, all of those white napkins too.)  and let it dry before rinsing, washing and drying again.

You can see my latest experiments below, along with my dye “studio”! 

Oh, that yellow striped sweater…it’s a ready to wear merino wool sweater that I thrift-ed and my husband says…wow, you like a tiger in that!  Great, that’s just what I was going for!  

You can also see me “trying” on my wool yarn – which was dyed in avocado skins, onion skins and then osage orange.

In Kinship,