Introduction: Naturally Dye Yarn With Avocado and Knit a Simple Scarf

About: MLIS student at OU, Associate Librarian, Painter

Here are all the instructions you'll need to dye natural yarn a lovely shade of peach-pink and knit it up into a simple, no-purl scarf.

This is a fairly time-consuming project. The scarf will require approximately 60 hours of knitting for a beginner, plus the time to dye. Dyeing takes approximately 1-2 days.

Despite the time-consuming nature, this is a simple project and suitable for both beginning dyers and patient beginning knitters. Avocado pits contain a natural mordant so you won't need to purchase any (potentially hazardous) metals like iron or alum to fix the dye to the fiber. The scarf contains only the one stitch which makes it a great second or third project for beginners. This is not an inexpensive project. If you'd like to make the scarf but spend less money, I recommend opting not to dye and instead selecting a man-made fiber like acrylic (in a color you like) to help keep costs down.

You will need:


-The pattern for the scarf, found here:

-436 - 545 yards of yarn, natural undyed fiber (I would recommend a plant fiber rather than wool because wool is a little harder to dye. I used a bamboo-cotton hybrid found here: Please note that plant fibers are stiffer than animal or synthetics, so that may affect how you knit.

-US Size 8 knitting needles (find at any craft store - if you can get nickel-plated needles, do; they are very smooth and help slide the yarn off more easily)

-Tapestry needle (craft store or amazon)


-Soda ash, to thoroughly clean the yarn before attempting to dye (

-10-15 avocado skins and seeds, thoroughly cleaned and chopped into small pieces (from any grocery store)

-A large non-reactive stainless steel pot, reserved for dyeing (found most cheaply at restaurant supply stores or on amazon) (two would be best)

OPTIONAL: digital thermometer

Estimated costs: $75-$125

That's it!

Keep reading for the next steps.

Step 1: Soak and Scour Your Yarn

When you get your yarn, it could be covered with any number of yucky substances from the factory where it was produced and from packing and shipping. You'll want to soak and scour it to get it nice and clean and ready to accept dye evenly.

Your yarn will need to soak for at least an hour, and as long as overnight. Untwist it carefully so it can soak evenly, being careful not to tangle it. Fill your nonreactive stainless steel stock pot with enough water to cover the yarn, and weigh the yarn down with a lid or plate to keep it from floating. Let it soak a minimum of one hour. It is important that it is thoroughly, evenly saturated to allow the dye to penetrate evenly.

After it has soaked, time to scour. This is a fancy term for washing it very thoroughly with a mild detergent to remove any substances that might prevent the yarn from adhering evenly. Soda ash will perform this function as well as help fix the dye to the yarn by increasing the pH which enables the reaction between the dye and the cellulose fibers at lower temperatures and causes them to bind.

Use approximately one ounce of soda ash per gallon of warm water (you'll probably only need one) and scrub the yarn in the pot as if you were a washing machine. The soda ash can be mildly irritating to skin so you may need to wear dish-washing gloves.

Scrub for a bit, and then pour out the water. Add in more warm water and continue to scrub. Repeat this process until the water runs clear.

Step 2: Prepare the Dye

Fill your nonreactive stainless steel stock pot with enough water to cover your yarn.

Bring it to a low boil, and then reduce to a gentle simmer. Add your chopped avocado pits and skins. Let them simmer gently until the dye bath reaches a wine-red color. The longer you allow the pits to steep and the more pits you use, the more intense the color will be. The dye can produce anywhere from the softest shell pink to warm mauve to pinkish-camel if you boil the pits instead of simmering them.

Once the dye bath is your desired color (the darker and more intense the better, as the color will soften as it dries), it's time to add the yarn.

Step 3: Dye the Yarn

Place a strainer over the pot that has your damp yarn. Pour the hot dye bath through the strainer, which will capture any bits of avocado pit or skin and keep them out of the yarn.

Transfer the pot, now filled with yarn and with the dye, back onto the stove. Put it on medium heat, keeping the temperature hovering around 190, adjusting as necessary. Do not let it boil. You may want to aim for a darker color than you think you want, as it will lighten significantly upon drying.

Allow the yarn to steep/simmer for approximately 40 minutes, or until all or most of the dye has been absorbed by the yarn, leaving the surrounding water clear or light pink. For a deeper color, allow it to sit overnight.

Remove the yarn and gently wring the moisture out of it. Spread it out on a plastic hanger or shower rod (NOT metal, it can react with the dye and change the color) and leave it in a well-ventilated area to dry. Only after it dries will you be able to see the true color.

Step 4: Wind the Yarn

Take your beautifully dyed, completely dry yarn, and find the end. Start out by looping it 10 or so times around two fingers. Slide it off your fingers, and then make 10 more loops in the opposite direction so you have a sort of + of yarn.Then keep wrapping it around, alternating directions every 10 or so loops, until your yarn has formed a ball. This will help you knit it easily without tangling.

Step 5: Cast On

To start any knit item, you'll need to cast your yarn onto a needle to begin making knit stitches. Here is a short video showing you how to do just that. You'll need to follow the pattern and cast on 47 stitches. Count carefully and double check yourself by counting each loop on your needle once you've finished.

As you knit, you'll be transferring stitches from the needle in your nondominant hand to your dominant. Once you finish a row, all 47 stitches will have been transferred onto the dominant hand needle. When you get to the end or a row, switch the needles in your hands, putting the full needle in the nondominant and the empty in the dominant hand. Then begin knitting and transferring stitches again, following the pattern.

Step 6: Begin Knitting!

After you cast on your stitches, you can begin knitting! This pattern includes only the basic knit stitch and a slip purlwise with yarn in front.

Hold your needles loosely, with the empty needle in your dominant hand. Slip the tapered end of the needle underneath the top stitch, and push it behind the so the two needles are crossed inside the loop with the dominant hand needle behind. With your nondominant hand, pick up the yarn that is attached to the ball (Working Yarn), and make a little loop around the back needle. Pressing the tips of the needles together so the yarn doesn't fall off, use the dominant hand needle to pull the loop you've just made back through the original loop, toward you. This is the act of knitting. Now push the loop that remains on the nondominant needle off, leaving the new loop you've just made on the dominant hand needle, and you've created a stitch.

Continue making and transferring stitches, following the pattern. Be careful to knit every stitch and transfer them over without dropping them.

Step 7: Slip 1 WYIF Purlwise

This pattern calls for you to slip a stitch every so often. To slip a stitch With Yarn In Front, simply move your working yarn from behind your needles to in front of them, hanging down over the fabric you're knitting. Slide the tip of the dominant needle through the stitch FROM ABOVE instead of from below as with the other stitches. Instead of wrapping the yarn and pulling it through, simply transfer that stitch from the nondominant needle over to the dominant without knitting. Then move the working yarn back to behind the needles and continue onward. That's it!

Step 8: Follow the Pattern

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Follow the steps of the pattern, knitting and slipping, repeating stitches and rows as directed. Count carefully and make sure by the end of each row you've transferred all 47 stitches every time. This will take time, but it will get easier and more rhythmic as you go.

Once the scarf reaches your desired length, we're ready to cast off!

Step 9: Finish the Scarf: Casting Off and Weaving in Ends

Now that you've finished knitting your gorgeous scarf, it's time to get it off the needles and onto your neck!

To cast off, start by cutting the work off from the ball of yarn, leaving yourself plenty of tail. Then, knit two stitches and transfer them as normal. Then, using your nondominant needle, pull the bottom stitch loop OVER the top stitch and off the needle. You'll be left with one stitch on your dominant needle. Then, knit one more stitch as normal. Then, once again, pull the bottom stitch on the dominant needle over the top and of the needle, leaving just the one stitch. Continue this pattern - knit, pull over, knit, pull over - for every stitch until you're finally left with your work fully moved off the needles.

To weave in the two tails you now have (in order to secure them), thread the yarn through your tapestry needle, and then sew the ends into the fabric in horizontal V patterns until it is secure.

Step 10: Finished!

You're finished! Enjoy wearing your beautiful scarf!