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.


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.

Karen said...

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