I’m so excited to introduce you to one of my favorite artists today. Almost a year and a half ago, I was chomping at the bit to try traditional Shibori dyeing. I had tried some various Shibori binding methods with traditional dyes and wanted to know more. I never expected on my search that I would find someone working with this method at the level of curiosity and integrity that Melissa of Happy Mess Studios possesses. I can assuredly say that my February 2020 private lesson with Melissa was the best I felt that year. Melissa works out of her home studio and, for workshops, the very cool Arts Mission Oak Cliff. I could tell from working with her in my lesson that Melissa brings a confidence to her teaching and style to her work that shows she’s logged some serious studio hours, which feels in line with her coveted Savannah College of Art and Design pedigree. (Plus, she is a Phish fan which always gives you bonus points at our house!) Most importantly, she has inspired me to remember that nature is not only meant to inspire art but resource it. Her ability to create such beautiful things from plants always motivates me to see sustainability as a creative art form in itself.
Hi! My name is Melissa and I am the creator of Happy Mess Studio. I’m going to walk you through the process of upcycling garments with natural dyes. Ever since I was a little girl I was fascinated with crafts and making things by hand. My Granny taught me how to sew and crochet at 6 years old and I never looked back. After studying textile design at SCAD, I joined the corporate world, which has its ups and downs. A decade of working in the industry and traveling the world, I grew to realize how wasteful and polluting the textile industry is. For way too long we have lived in the world of fast fashion and cheap goods. Over time it became heartbreaking to see what my industry was doing to the world. This led me to rediscover my passion for natural dyes and the importance of slowing down to create things more mindfully and sustainably. There are so many ways to do this and I am so excited to share one sustainable craft here with you!
Today we’re going to focus on dyeing fabric with avocados! If you’re anything like me avocados are a staple in the house. Instead of tossing the pits and skins, keep them in the freezer for this sustainable craft later on. The exact color that can be extracted will vary based on the type of avocados, material, and PH level of the water; but that’s part of the fun and beauty of this process. Overall, we’ll be able to achieve a soft pinky/peachy hue.
During COVID-19, I have shopped much less and have looked for ways to upcycle items I already own to keep things feeling fresh. What a better way to add some trendy tie-dye to your wardrobe without spending the big bucks. I’ll walk you through how I upcycled a few tops and I can’t wait to see what you upcycle too!
What You’ll Need:
- Avocado pit’s (also called stones) and skins
- Large pot
- 2-3 garments
- Rubber bands and/or string
- Wooden spoon
- Cheese cloth
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Tips before Starting:
- Clean those pits and skins well! I like to clean them right after using them and then put them in the freezer in a paper bag until I’ve collected enough.
- Fabric/ garment types: it is VERY important to use natural fibers like cotton, silk, linen, or hemp. Polyester fabric will not take natural dyes.
- You can use a blended fabric like 60% cotton and 40% polyester but know that the color will be much fainter due to the synthetic fiber content.
- Avocados are pretty special in the natural dye family. They naturally contain tannins which help the color fastness (AKA longevity of the color) Most other natural dyes require an additional step to mordant the fabric in order to achieve the same color fastness. This is why Avocados are one of my favorite natural dyes to work with.
Step 1: Make The Dye
After you enjoy that avocado toast, remember to clean and properly store the skins and pits. Once you have collected about 6 avocado’s worth, put them all in a large pot and completely cover with water. We will want to bring this to a low simmer for about 1.5 hours. Coaxing the color out slowly will create more of a pinkish shade. If you cook the skins and pits to hot it will shift your color more brownish.
I like to leave my dye pot with the pits and skins overnight to extract as much dye as possible. But if you’re really eager you can wait a few hours and jump to straining the dye.
Use the cheese cloth to strain the pits, skins and any small particles that might have broken down during the dye extraction. Return the filtered dye back to the pot.
Step 2: Prepping Your Fabric
Weather your dyeing new fabric or upcycling something from your closet; like I am today, you’re going to want to wash your fabric with a mild detergent in hot water. Clean fibers will take dye much more easily.
Step 3: Tie-Dye
If you’re interested in adding a little pattern and texture to your project, I will walk you through 3 different folds. But don’t be limited by the below! Feel free to experiment and come up with your own folds.
*Once you have made your beautiful tie-dye creation, wet the fabric completely before starting the dye process.
Crinkle Fold: Everyone has seen this beautiful trend going around. Randomly scrunch up the fabric into a ball and wrap with 4-5 rubber bands or string. This Gap brand top had a couple small stains, so over-dyeing this top will be the perfect way to keep this garment in my wardrobe rotation.
Side Burst: Start on the center side then pinch/gather the fabric and place a rubber band wrapping it around until tight. Repeat the step and space the rubber band out by a few inches. This style can be done from any side of the garment, so play around and experiment.
Galactic Burst: Randomly pinch pieces of fabric and place the rubber bands all over the front and back of the garment. This button up top was bought at Salvation Army for $2 and now I have a nice work top.
Step 4: Let’s Get To Dyeing!
We have made it to the most exciting part! Now that our fabric and dye are both prepped, we are ready to dye our fabric.
Make sure your fabric is completely wet before adding it to the dye bath. This will allow the dye to better penetrate the fibers.
Add your fabric to the dye bath and bring it to a simmer for 1.5 hours. Next, turn the heat off and let the fabric sit over night for the best color results. But again, if you’re feeling extra excited to unwrap your creation you can let the fabric completely cool (a couple hours). Unwrap your rubber bands or string and wash your fabric in cold water with a mild detergent.
This is such a fun, sustainable craft that can be shared across the entire family. Giving avocados a second life.
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