Friday, 15 November 2013

Studio Series: Black Walnut dye results

Pearl cotton over-dyed with black walnut; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2013
For six weeks I've been exploring the potential of natural dyeing with Black Walnut. At first I got a lot of deep browns and now, as the vat approaches being exhausted, I'm getting tans. At first I dyed with the 18 pounds of walnut hulls and set the 9 pounds of walnuts aside for eating. I let them dry for 5 weeks and then cracked 4 open with the help of our vise and toasted them. The smell was divine. The taste was disgusting. They tasted like what acrylic paint smells like. No worries, I was then free to use the walnuts in the dye vat. 

Originally I was going to pass on using the walnuts since I read that they only yielded tan, and who wants that? To my surprise, tan is very useful for over-dyeing commercially dyed materials. Above are 5 skeins of pearl cotton over-dyed with a weak black walnut dye. My friend Michelle popped these into my mailbox last week and immediately I soaked them and plunked them into the dye vat encased in a mesh bag. If you look carefully, you'll see a small strand of each of the original colours. I can't wait to stitch with them.
Linen napkins over-dyed with black walnut; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2013
I dyed the linen napkins in early October, when the vat was still fresh and strong. They were originally pale yellow. I was surprised with how well the linen absorbed the black walnut.
Cotton fabrics over-dyed with black walnut; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2013
Above are before and after samples. Black walnut dyed over indigo yielded gorgeous greys. I've been keeping a dye journal where I record the process, but there's no space for samples. The past six weeks of tending dye vats has been wonderful. Dreams of natural dyeing invade my sleep and each day I wake up eager to get back into the garage. Many evenings I've got my nose buried in my dye books. I've added India Flint's Eco Colour to my collection. I can't wait for next year's black walnut crop.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

beautiful colours - love your enthusiasm

Judy Martin said...

I collected fallen walnuts after my Tuesday dentist appointment from my dentist's tree. I did this two years ago and loved the walnut colour. So one of these days, I will process them - even though they smell sweetly rotten...I think they will still work. Those and the onion skins I've collected from the kitchen all year.

One of these days.
x

Karen said...

Judy, be sure to share your results. There are no black walnuts left on the ground. Have fun!