2. What is the best way to store avocado peels and stones until ready to paint?
You can freeze them or dry them on a sunny windowsill and then store them in a paper bag or shoe box. Cardboard breathes, so they dry well and won’t get moldy. If you store them in a glass container, you will likely find that they will go moldy.
I regularly paint with avocados, so either freeze the skins and stones or store them on a plate in the kitchen for a few weeks until you have enough. When drying them, I place them on a sunny windowsill (if there’s sun!) or near a radiator or on top of my heated tumble dryer. If you do, don’t put it in a dangerous place where you could cause a fire! To prevent mold growth, it is best to dry each skin or stone completely before storing it with the rest of the collection.
3. Are the best colors from fresh, dried, or frozen avocado skins and stones?
In general, I always feel that fresh plants produce the most vibrant colors. The next best option is to freeze the plants. Avocado skins and stones freeze very well and do not disintegrate in the freezer like some plants do (for example, some flowers turn brown with age when frozen). I have never been disappointed with paint from frozen avocado skins or stones.
I also like to dry avocado skins and they can still produce exceptional pinks after a while. For the avocado stones, I prefer to freeze them because it’s the safest method… You can still dry the stones, but don’t leave them too long before painting. Skins dry well for months and still produce good pinks.
Avocados are not a local fruit to me and I am limited to what I can find in the supermarket. As the fruits come from different countries according to the seasons, my colors change throughout the year. It is impossible to tell if the colors are caused by the storage method, or if they are simply colors from the type of avocado, such as the fruit of that season, the country, the area, the weather, or the individual tree. The variables are almost endless.
In general, this is very difficult to do know for sure if one storage method is superior to another. If you had your own avocado tree, you could do some controlled experiments to see. In the meantime, just do the best you can.
4. Why do colors change so much?
As mentioned above, avocados are not a native fruit to me and there are many varieties and factors that can affect the colors. If you have your own avocado tree in your garden, then you can learn how the colors change with the seasons (if that’s even a factor – I don’t know for sure). But when we buy avocados at the grocery store, they come from countless different sources around the world, so it’s just luck of the draw how they end up in the paint pot.
At some points of the year, I find the skins give the best pinks, while at other points the stones look better. Other times I only achieve peachy shades of both and true pink eludes me. It can be frustrating, but I’d rather see beauty in all its colors than be disappointed. When dyeing with whole plants (as opposed to concentrated dye extracts) there are no guarantees and the color is always a surprise. It’s all part of the process.
5. Does my tap water affect the color result?
It certainly does, but I’m afraid I don’t have a magic answer for changing your water to get the perfect shade of pink.
I did some of my brightest pinks ever when I did some coloring on holiday elsewhere in the UK (Dorset). Maybe the stores had extra special avocados that week, or maybe the water was different. I suspect it was later. The pH was the same as my home tap water (about pH 7, which is neutral), but the water contains dissolved gases, mineral salts, and impurities that will affect the color result. Of course, I can’t say exactly what is causing your colors, as there are many possibilities, but the presence of iron in the water is a potential culprit. Some areas have a higher concentration of iron, which will darken (or “sad”) the colors, and your pinks will come out darker and more “muddy” than you’d expect.
If you’re really hoping to get brighter pink colors and your tap water isn’t doing it, try filtered water, rainwater, or seawater. One of these can change everything for you.
You can also try alkalizing the pH with some bicarbonate of soda.
Experimentation is key, so you should see what works for you.
6. Is it necessary to stain the fabric when dyeing with avocado?
When I dye with cotton and linen without any mordant, I get a light pink or peach. It’s a nice color and lasts well after washing, but I can’t get very deep shades. So I choose to pre-treat my fabric in soy milk, which is my mordant of choice. (Details of this in my book Botanical Color at Your Fingertips). So yes, you can dye without a mordant, but without some kind of mordant on the fabric it will be very difficult to go beyond a light shade. But if you’re dyeing wool or silk (which I don’t because I’m vegan and choose not to use any animal materials), then you probably won’t need to premordant with anything since avocado skins and stones are rich in tannins. animal protein fibers will be sufficient.
7. How well does the color last over time?
I find the colors to be incredibly long lasting. I accidentally splashed avocado dye on my clothes a few times and the color stayed for years, surviving many, many washes. When dyeing clothes pink, the color stays well and will probably lighten a bit over time, as you expect any garment to fade with use (remember: even synthetic dyes fade). I have a few avocado painted items that are still beautiful after a lot of wear. Very pink shades can turn a little yellow when exposed to too much light. I like to think of it as a maturation of color rather than a negative; plant dyes are living and it is natural to change over time. So if pillow covers or bed linens are being dyed, potential slight yellowing is something to consider, but is likely to occur if the fabric is kept in direct sunlight for long periods of time. Personally, I find that if the dress is kept out of light when not worn, it retains its pink tone. The intensity of sunlight in your area of the world will also determine how quickly the colors fade. I’m in England, which isn’t known for the most intense levels of sunlight 😉
8. Can I see dye potential just by looking at an avocado?
Yes! I actually love doing it! It’s not really possible to do this when an avocado is unripe and very green, but the skin will darken as it begins to ripen. Some avocados will turn almost black and have a pink/purple tint – great for coloring.
If you’ve noticed a small scratch on a stone while slicing an avocado, you’ll notice that after a few minutes the cut will oxidize and turn orange. This is the paint inside the stone.
9. Which types of avocado are best for dyeing?
Personally, I’ve only dyed with Hass avocados as I’m very limited by what’s available in UK shops. If you see the skins developing a pink color as the fruit ripens and darkens, they will give you some color in the paint pot. Go and try it for yourself. Some types of avocados stay very green and thin-skinned when ripe, and I suspect they won’t produce a pink dye, but they might have stones inside. Always worth a try.
10. Do you need a lot of avocado peels and stones for a paint bowl?
No, not at all. Try making a pot of paint with just 3 or 4 avocado stones and see how much the color thickens when you soak them in water for a day or two. Of course, it depends on many factors and some stones give more color than others, but if you have good stones, you probably won’t need much to color a dress or short length of fabric. I think I need more avocado skin to get a deeper color. Maybe 8 avocado peels for a large pot of paint. That’s only a week’s worth of avocados for my family, so if you enjoy eating them, you’ll find they pack up quickly.