Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Dyeing With Walnuts...The Results

When we last left our intrepid walnut dyers they'd were simmering a pot of wool roving. For about an hour.

Note: All the wool we dyed had been washed and, with the exception of the handful of Keebler curls, processed into roving. We couldn't tell if the anti-static spray Ohio Valley Natural Fibers uses affected the dye process any.

This was actually a later batch. That is not Keebs on the top, but I wanted to show how dark the dye water stayed the entire time even as the wool got progressively lighter and lighter as the days went on. It looks black in the pot, but when the black water drained off the wool, it was always a good deal lighter...after the first batches.

The first batch. We'd pulled the lingerie bags out of the simmering dye pot (insulated rubber gloves - worth every penny) and let most of the dye water drain back into the pot, then squeezed the bags to remove even more. We then carefully removed all the dyed wool and set it on the handy strainer thingy.

In the beginning we heated rain water to rinse, trying to match the hot temperatures so as not to felt our fiber. For later batches we just let the wool sit for a few minutes to cool off and then could use unheated water for the initial two rinses. Worked fine.

We then carried it into the wool house wash room and ran a small amount of cool water into the washing machine, soaked the already mostly rinsed wool in it for a couple minutes and spun it out.

For one more final rinse in the washing machine I added a small amount of Fibre Rinse. This worked fine for cool water, but on later batches when the water was cold, it didn't disperse as well.

Note: In several places we read that the walnut dye smelled god-awful. We actually thought it smelled pretty good - kind of citrus-y . This may be due to the fact we were using fresh, green walnuts and not black, decaying hulls.

Note: The colors darkened some as the wool dried.

As I said in the beginning, I was really only mildly interested in dyeing wool. You can see that I must have developed a little more interest ;-). By the end of three days I had dyed a little over three pounds of wool.

Part of that was because I hated the thought of wasting the dye, but also because I got curious to see how different types of fiber would react, how much you could stick in the pot, how far you could stretch the dye...

Having the hulls safely ensconced in the painter's strainer bags allowed me to re-cook them for the next two mornings. I'd simmer them for an hour or so and stick some more wool in the pot.

Note: On one batch I got to talking with a friend and accidentally let it boil. I mean rolling boil. I thought that pot was ruined, but it wasn't. It was part of the Clun Forest fleece - a medium to coarse wool.

Slow learner note: I boiled a second batch - some Cotswold. The fiber itself didn't felt, but some did felt into the mesh bag. Most was salvageable.

Possibly helpful hint: I always recommend a less than fine fleece for anyone washing a raw fleece for the first time. Apparently the same is true for dyeing. Set yourself up to succeed. Stay away from a less forgiving fine wool when you are starting out. I think the Cotswold can be a little tricky too sometimes. Those "boring" medium wools are just about fool proof.

So, how did it all turn out?

Here we have a ball of Emerin (the white part of her Jacob fleece), a small skein left from the Buddy lace sample, the Keebler curls and a sample of Keebler yarn spun from the lock. Keebs was in the first batch, the rest about mid way through.

Buddy as a redhead ;-)

Heidi's gray roving in the foreground. You can see the heathery look the gray gave us. The batt and yarn behind is from the first batch of Clun Forest. I only re-carded these two batts. Everything else was left as it came out of the pot.

A later batch of Clun Forest.

Note: we kept coming up with these dark spots and finally determined that was from the bottom bag resting right over the hot burner. We took a glass pie plate, turned it upside down in the bottom of the pot and did not have any further trouble.

I tossed wool into the pot for three days. The light brown Cotswold on the left was the last batch and where I decided to stop. I poured the dye out so I wouldn't be tempted further ;-).

I think the medium/bright red color is my favorite, but would like to try again sometime for more of the darker brown/nearly black. And maybe some more Keebler curls :-).

The driveway still has two black lines in the gravel. Even after a couple rains. Is this a limestone reaction or why is it so dark...without all the cooking?

Final notes (and I'll probably add to this as I remember things I've surely forgotten):
  • We started with a bucket and a half of green walnut hulls.
  • We completely covered the hulls in both buckets with rain water and I don't remember adding any other water - just strained out the hulls and used what we had.
  • We started out with just 4 ounces of wool in the 4 gallon pot. I put up to 10 ounces in subsequent pots. 6-8 seemed like the best amount, especially as the dye water was used up.
  • We started out with two buckets of cooking hulls. We used just the first one the first day and then I added the strained second bucket to the pot on the second day.
  • Did not test a batch with wool that had been pre-soaked in hot, soapy water. Tried to do everything as "good ole fashion way" as possible (well, except for the car driving over the hulls, electric heaters, washing machine parts ;-), but did want to test that and just forgot.
  • It was way more fun than I thought it would be.
  • It was much easier than I thought it would be.
Hmmm - if I wasn't trying to get ready for the Fall Wool Festival, I'd probably go gather another bucket of walnuts.


Lori Skoog said...

A very interesting process. All the colors go together beautifully...nice contrast....smooth.
Would make some spectacular sweater/jacket. Glad you enjoyed doing this...it sure worked well.

Michelle said...

Even though I'm not a "brown" person, those are gorgeous shades! And I know that walnut hulls will blacken my hands -- without any added heat.

Lindy and Paul said...

These turned out beautifully, ALMOST as pretty as the natural browns of alpaca ;) Thanks for sharing the process in such great detail, I just may have to give it a try this year!

dr momi said...

Sounds like you had too much fun! I like the heathery look from the grey....but they are all beautiful!

Alice said...

I doubt that Lady Clairol could have done a better dye job. I’m impressed by the richness of the colors and the amount of wool you were able to dye out of those walnuts. Looks like once you got going, that this was a fun experiment! I’m glad you tested the waters ;-)

small farm girl said...

I think you have something there. It looks really good!

Jennie C said...

Sara I think they came out beautiful...makes me want to give it a try more now then ever...I love all the shades of brown you were able to get.

Anonymous said...

The color from the walnut hulls are very interesting to have started with green hulls.
I noticed there was the mention of alcohol as a chemical used in the dying process. So- how much alcohol does it take to remove the hulls from the walnuts---Tim!

flowerweaver said...

The results look fabulous! Sounds like you have fun and kept good notes. Did you have to use a mordant

Our sidewalk always gets stained by walnut hulls, so limestone would be no different. Some good rains (or powerwashing) will take it off over time.

Christine said...

Oooooh, I love the results! I am absolutely a brown person. I've been tripping over walnuts for a couple weeks now. I think I may need to gather some up this weekend if I get a chance.

I need orange said...

Walnut hulls stain sidewalks. I'm not surprised they could stain your gravel, even after all they'd been through. :-)

LOVE your results!!!

I've been thinking of stuffing a denim shirt into a bucket of walnuts (and water) and leaving it there for a while, to see what happens....

Anonymous said...

I am heading out to pick walnuts right now!!! How fun! I have been looking for a good red/brown and you acheived it with walnuts...who knew??? Good job :)

Cait said...

OOOH. I've got a bag of curly cotswold in the storage closet that I may have to try that with- it'd make LOVELY doll wigs!


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