Thursday, September 20, 2012

Dyeing to dye with walnut hulls

It's that time of year again when walnuts are falling off the tree and into my greedy little hands. I love dyeing with walnut hulls because I don't have to mordant my fiber. Believe me, that dye will work on just about anything, unlike many (most?) natural dyes.

This was all I could find at Greenbank Mill on Monday. They're kind of battered, but that's OK for my purposes.
I pulled out my trusty soup pot, which is used only for dyeing. It used to be nonstick -- not so much anymore.
Next, I located my technologically superior bashing tool. Sure, I could use a hammer, but then I'd have to clean it up. Besides, with the larger surface area, it's impossible to miss whatever it is that I want to hit.
I have no idea how I managed to take this (i.e., it's sideways). It's also out of focus, which is probably a good thing. This particular nut has already begun decomposing. See those white lines just above my middle finger? Yeah, um, those are larvae of some sort. Alive. For now.
This shot is marginally better. No critters but still out of focus. My bashing tool deposited some of itself, but that won't affect the outcome at all. This nut is in really good shape. I prefer to use the nuts while they're still bright green and with minimal to no black spots.

Be sure to put the nuts out for the squirrels or chipmunks. Important safety note: put those nuts somewhere where the lawnmower won't turn them into lethal projectiles.
I should mention that it's really important to wear gloves while you're handling these nuts. Of course, if you don't mind black stains on your skin and under your nails, then go for it. Walnut hulls stain like crazy, which is one reason why I'm smushing them on the driveway. Another reason is that I'm too lazy to find something else to do it on (e.g., newspaper, an old shower curtain, etc.).
Here are all the hulls in the pot. Ideally, you should probably break them into smaller pieces, although, now that I think about it, I don't know if it matters, especially if you have a ready supply of walnuts. Don't worry if leaves, "helicopters," or some dirt winds up in the pot.
I'm good to go!
I took a stroll over to the wading pool (aka our dog's pool) and put some rainwater in the pot. You can see that already the dye is starting to leach out into the water. Excellent!
It's now the next day. Just so you can see the kind of color you might expect, I grabbed a small handful of grayish white Wensleydale and put half of the fiber into the pot.

Just look at all that dye!
Right out of the pot after about 10 hours of just sitting and soaking.
And this is how it looks after a quick rinse under running water. Mmm! A lovely orange-brown, which is exactly what I was going for. I've seen a lot of muddy (to me) browns from walnut hulls, but I got this surprising color last fall, so I knew the key: use those green hulls. Caveat: your mileage may vary. In other words, I'm sure it all depends on what kind of walnut hull you use, the condition it's in, and whether you heat the dyebath.

I'm an imprecise dyer. I prefer to just throw things around (safely, of course) and be surprised by what I get. I suppose it's a good thing I didn't go into a profession where precise protocols are required. Hmm ... although as a writer and editor, I do try to be precise. The difference must be that I don't have to measure and record data.

There you have it. Embrace dyeing with walnut hulls. Just remember to wear something you won't mind being stained!

1 comment:

  1. Hey Laurel! I didn't know you started blogging again! Now I can come pluck your nerves over here too, lol! Thanks for the tute "toots". :)