Natural Dyeing With Black Walnuts

Last week, on our way through town, I spied a giant pile of freshly fallen walnuts gathered in a street gutter.  I decided people might question my ability to parent, if Luke and I dodged traffic for organic dye stuff, so we went home and headed back out well after dark.  Main Street was deserted and we had the best time collecting handfuls of walnuts under the warm glow of the street lights.

You know you're a fiber artist when, your eight year old doesn't even ask what you're going to do with the bushel of walnuts, he just knows.

I used my Natural Plant Dye Recipe, but made a few changes:

* I smelled lanolin in the yarn, so I washed it first with a little soap.  Lanolin will act as a barrier to the dye.  Obviously, I don't want that to happen.  (The yarn is Quince and Co. Osprey.  They had a sale on irregular bare skeins a while ago, so I bought a few.  It. is. amazing.)

* I skipped the mordant.  Walnuts have a natural tannin, which acts like it's own built in mordant.

* I filled a giant canning pot with walnuts and added water within an inch of the top.  When some of the water cooked down, I added more.  Total simmering time: 2 hours off and on (I had to leave town in between, so I couldn't leave the stove on.)

* The whole slurry sat overnight to cool.

* I poured the dye into my dye pot and added a skein of the pre soaked yarn.

* Yarn and dye simmered for 90 minutes

* When cool, I washed it again.

* Not quite dark enough, so into the dye pot it went, along with another skein.  I thought it would be neat to have different shades of brown.

* Simmered another 90 minutes and washed.

Final notes:

* I didn't use fresh dye stuff.  I actually forgot about it for a week, so the walnuts got moldy.  Rebecca Burgess recommends fermenting the walnuts for three weeks, but I've been there - done that, and it stinks.  I think the rotting walnuts may have actually been sufficient.

* The colors are gorgeous, but I was hoping for a deeper brown, so I'm going to let them sit overnight and check them in the morning.

Have you ever dyed with walnuts?  What was your experience?

Labels: , , , ,