Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Dye lot 26 - Black Walnut

Our neighbor asked if I wanted black walnuts which grew an abundant crop this year. I eagerly agreed. He mentioned a recipe his mother made, some kind of hard candy with black walnuts on top.  I mentioned that my purpose for gathering the walnuts would be to use their husks for dyeing wool.
Now that the trees have dropped their leaves, if you don't know where the trees are, they are a little more difficult to spot.  The bark is deeply furrowed, and older trees are tall.  For some reason, most of his trees had poison ivy on the trunk but I am not sure if there is any real relationship.  I found the trees by finding the walnuts in the fields and on the lane, many were hiding among the leaves. 
I gathered about a bushel of nuts and their hulls into an empty feed sack, then made sure that there was plenty of plastic and cardboard and plastic under the sack in the back of my car, so that the liquid pressed from the hulls would not seep into the carpet. I noticed that just carrying the feed sack along resulted in my jeans being stained with the brown-black dye.   After separating the hulls from the nuts, I added water to wash some of the remaining dyestuff into the kettle.  After letting the hulls sit in the water overnight, I strained the hulls out and poured the resulting dyebath into a plastic 5-gallon bucket.  I am trying the cold dye method, because after the experiment with the dandelion roots my husband objects to cooking any dyebath on the stove, claiming that "it stinks up the house".  It is too cold and windy outside to consider using the Coleman stove, so the cold water option will be first choice. If I can achieve a desirable color, I won't simmer the yarn in the dyebath. Note that I used nitrile gloves, the walnut stain is fairly hard to get out.

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