Friends and Family, Make, Plants, Science
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Once upon a sunny (ish) weekend, Giulia and I sat down to brew some potions….

….And make some magic.

It began with a natural dyeing course, which I took back in Summer last year.

As a lover of plants, chemistry, fabric and magic, I fell instantly in love, and quickly (in a rather self serving act), bought Giulia some potion ingredients for her own birthday.

It took us a while to get together and start the brew, and in the meantime I dabbled a bit in the magical art of avocado skin dying, applying the infusion (tea?), to a silk nightgown that had started to look a bit shabby.

This time around, I wanted to overdye the nightgown (and some random silk offcuts) to get the colour a bit darker, and also dye some cotton muslim I had just bought.

So we started with that.

Take some Avocado skins (and pits), and simmer in water. Don’t boil, as this will brown the pigments. Wait for the water to slowly change from green to pinkish brown.

It may help to add some bicarb (alkaline).

It may help to have a familiar watch on.

As we waited for the avocados to do their thing we started on the indigo.

If you don’t have a super appropriate cauldron on hand, a compost bin will do!

We added the indigo powder, the Thiox to reduce it, and the soda ash (alkaline base).

And we stirred…. slowly clockwise and then even more slowly anticlockwise….

aaanddd… it didn’t really look right.

In the course I took, they had used a different method, which included fructose as the oxidiser, and used much warmer water.

Our vat was blossoming, but the liquid underneath was blue, which wasn’t great. Ideally, you’re going to need to to reduce the blue into its soluble form, a yellowy green, so that it can soak into the fabric, before oxidising again in the air.

Our potion wasn’t working, and our cat had left the kitchen.

When in doubt, a good witch waits.

So we returned to our avocado, which had obediently turned a nice dark pink.

As part of the (highly scientific) testing, I had pre ‘mordant’ed my cotton in soymilk, using an online recipe. The scientific part is that of course I wanted to compare the mordanted to the non-mordanted cloth.

True mordanting involves the introduction of (metal) ions, that help the dye chemically bind to the cloth. In this case, the soy milk is more of a ‘pretreatment’, that coats the plant-based (cellulose) fibres in protein, and helps them act more proteiny (which binds better to the dye).

It’s kind of a weird concept to me, because it’s working on the idea that your fabric will always be just a little bit tofu-y in the future.


We carefully strained the avocado through some cloth, and then added more cloth to it into a bucket, topping everything up with some hot water.

Back at the indigo, things still weren’t looking super good:

I googled a bit, and then went rogue, adding some warmer water, as well as some fructose to the vat.

Then some more.

Ok and then (when it started to turn clearer), a little bit more.

Meanwhile, the avocado was making its magic, and the skins were releasing a second batch of dye.

At one point, Giulia decided enough (fructose) was enough! And we began to FOLD.

And then we dipped…

.. and aired…

And watched as it all became blue in front of our eyes!

I re-dyed a top I’d made many years ago:

… and Giulia tie-dyed a top:

… and we both did a few rounds of Shibori, experimenting with different folds.

Are you ready for a dyeing montage?

Try to imagine ‘eye of the tiger’ is playing in the background.

When we weren’t sure what to do, we turned to youtube, which helped up come up with this funky pattern:

Kind of wood-like no?

All up, it was a pretty successful day of dyes, and our indigo blue and avocado pinks looked beautiful drying in the evening sun.

I’ll have to get back soon with some of the related makes….

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