Saturday, October 16, 2010

Black Walnuts

Black walnut.
From the left: handspun Suffolk x Corriedale
dyed with alum mordant and just above it,
cotswold with no mordant, a dye note showing
the colours achieved by using various mordants,
nuts, husks and walnut leaves, 
It's fall and the fall storms haven't yet rolled in. They have threatened but have not quite come ashore here. I swore last year that before they did and trees are blown bare, I would find some black walnut hulls and leaves to so some natural dye experiments. And while I was at it, I would gather some chestnut leaves while they were still somewhat green and hanging onto the tree. I suspect the colour is richer before they start to dry and fall off the tree and last year I got a nice silver grey from some dried out leaves. So just before a big storm that, in the end, petered out, I visited a friend's walnut trees, then a chestnut tree, and laden down with bits of tree, went home to experiment.
The first Black Walnut hulls experiment turned out to be, well, successful and interesting but a bit of a blah brown. If you like browns, it is just okay, not a rich deep brown, not a subtle tan although the Cotswold with no mordant has a nice sophisticated camel that grows on you, but then again, Cotswolds large cellular scale structure reflects light so well that any dye becomes lustrous, no matter how blah.
The dye room with black walnut hulls soaking,
black walnut ,leaves soaking and some drying,
elixir of black walnut in jars,
fibre being dyed in a crock pot with black walnut
elixer and a bucket of chestnut leaves soaking.
I went back to the books, and to Google and read up on how to get a darker colour. After all, it is called Black Walnut and I'd like a black or at least a deep deep chocolate brown. Turns out my blah brown is loved by many according to Google and satisfied with it, that is what they aim for. However, others have discovered that a heavy influx of iron: rusty nails, or using an old iron dye pot, failing that, spoonfuls of ferrous oxide added to the brew will get you to that more satisfying deep dark brown to almost a black. That is tomorrows attempt.

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