How to Solar Dye Fabric at Home (natural dye DIY)

Supplies you will need:
Natural (cellulose) fabric such as linen, hemp, or cotton
Two big glass jars with lids
10-12 avocado pits (and/or skins)
Fabric mordant (I used Alum)
Stovetop Pot

1) Get a big glass jar with a lid.
solar dying with avocados step 1
2) Pull your bag of saved avocado seeds from the freezer and let them warm to room temperature. Then transfer them to the glass jar. 
solar dying with avocados step 2
3) Boil enough water to fill the glass jar and cover the avocado seeds. 
solar dying with avocados step 3
4) Pour the boiling water over the seeds, filling to the top. 
solar dying with avocados step 4
5) Set in the sun outside, or in front of a sunny window in your home. The warmer the better! You can agitate it a few times a day if you'd like. Let it sit for 1-3 days to get the most color. 
solar dying with avocados step 5
6) Mordant your fabric to prepare it for dye (see notes below). 
solar dying with avocados step 6
7) Gather supplies to strain the dye once it's finished sitting in the sun.
solar dying with avocados step 7
8) Strain your liquid (yay you now have avocado dye!)
solar dying with avocados step 8
9) A side by side of your dye (left) and fabric soaking in mordant (right). 
solar dying with avocados step 9
10) Remove fabric from mordant, wring it out, and place it into the dye bath. (Fabric takes dye better when it is wet, so if your fabric was previously removed from the mordant and is now dry, you can wet it in the sink first). Let the jar sit in the sun again. Make sure the fabric is as fully submerged as possible. 
solar dying with avocados step 10
11) Pull fabric from the jar after letting it sit in the sun for 1-3 days (depending on the color you're wanting to achieve) and rinse it out! Keep in mind that wet fabric appears darker than it will be once it is dry. Wash with a mild detergent in the washer. Dry on low.
solar dying with avocados step 11
12)  Enjoy! Show it off! Remember, this is an experiment and is meant to be fun! 
white shirt naturally dyed with avocados
13) Additional step: The color wasn't quite as dark as I'd wanted, so I submerged my fabric in a quick iron bath at the end to help darken it. It really helped! Read below to learn more about iron baths. 

Professional dyers say to scour your fabric as the very first step when dying. Souring cleans your fabric so it can be evenly dyed, and is more than simply hot washing in the washer. To learn about scouring, you can read more here from the Botanical Colors website. They are a wealth of information and have all the details. This was just a fun experiment so I only hot washed my fabric with a neutral detergent, which worked for me. 

The step of mordanting fabric is done so you can wash your dyed item in the future without color fading. Mordant bonds the fabric with the dye. If you do not plan to wash your dyed item (perhaps it's going to be a wall tapestry and kept out of the sun) you could technically skip the mordanting step, but honestly it's worth the time. A general rule is two teaspoons alum to one gallon of water. I let my fabric sit for 4 hours. If you do not want to buy Alum, you can also use soy milk according to the book, Botanical Color at Your Fingertips.

An iron bath is an additional step you can add at the end of a dye project. Iron is really just that- iron water. It helps set your color even further, and will make colors darker. But beware! It happens very quickly (just a few minutes) and will truly change your color. For example, my light pink avocado color changed to a medium grey. You can read all about using an iron bath on the Dharma Trading site here under "instructions." You can make your own iron water with a rusty nail and some vinegar, or you can buy the powder online. 

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