Friday, 1 October 2010

Walnut Dyeing

Last Friday we had fairly strong winds on a sunny day.  I was coming home from running a few errands and notice several places where walnuts were being blown from the trees.  Having a sweetie who is very supportive of large buckets of who knows what soaking, fermenting and creating colour chaos in the kitchen, who also had a day off, we headed out again to harvest.  It's much easier to have him drive and me scout the dye stuffs, gather and not have to worry about my truck parked on a narrow shoulder on the road.

I thought I'd grabbed a few more bags, but only had two for some reason.   It was a tad disappointing when I got to one place with fresh, unbruised, non-wormy walnuts and the very nice farmer came out yelling at me, to just go on his property and take all that I wanted!  I would have gladly filled more than my two bags if I'd had more with me.

At home, I grabbed a hammer and headed outside, remembering my gloves and an apron.   Walnut doesn't need a mordant and dyes hands and clothing with as much ease as it does wool!    Despite precautions, my thumbs and a couple of fingers on each hand have been brown since last Friday afternoon.   With the hammer, I cracked open the husks and discarded the nuts.   The dye is in the outer green husks.   I filled my large dyepot  with husks and had to put the remainder in the medium pot.   I filled the pots with water and put them on the stove to soak and heat.   I'd every intention of getting to the walnut dye in a timely fashion, but didn't have time to get them strained and used until yesterday!  They were soaking, with an occasional heating to keep any moulds down for almost a week.

I used wool yarn, not fleece or rovings.   My past experience with Walnut suggests that it takes more than a few soakings to rinse out the excess.   I really didn't want to risk felting rovings or fleece by needing multiple rinses so I dug out about 400 grams of wool yarn which had been excess from a previous dyeing project.      I put in one skein, unmordanted into the pot and let it cook and then added about 12% alum to the pot for the next two skeins and the final one, used whatever was still left in the pot.   I found that with the alum, the fibres picked up the yellow undertones and made a softer, warmer colour.   The darker skeins on the right were the first into the pot and the lighter colours on the left were the exhaust colours.  I'm sure there were many more shades of brown, but I was out of handily available yarn and out of time. 


Sharon said...

Alas, walnuts don't grow here. Have you ever used onion skins?

Leigh said...

Beautiful colors from walnut! I didn't think you could get those. We don't have walnut trees here either. Not sure what pecans would do.

Sara Lechner said...

I love the colors of walnut. I should try this once more.