Daily Archives: October 11, 2011

Natural Dying with Walnuts

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We have a number of walnut trees at our new house, but there is this one in particular that grows huge walnuts. State Fair prize winner sized walnuts. I mean, look at that thing! In the past week, those green hulls have started cracking open, almost like flowers to reveal the walnuts inside of them. We’ve been having great fun collecting them, my youngest son and I. One of his favorite activities at school is the nut cracking activity and knowing that his teacher is always in need of walnuts, he runs out there to collect her a bag as often as he thinks of it.
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The other month, when we took the day to go to Point Reyes, I came across the book Harvesting Color: How to Find Plants and Make Natural Dyes by Rebecca Burgess. Have you heard of her? She started the Fibershed project where she challenged herself for one year, to wear only clothes that were locally produced. And I’m not talking about just sewn locally, but that the fibers were actually grown locally too! Incredible! Well a new friend of mine (and you’ll see why we’ve been keeping in touch if you click over to her blog) recently took a workshop by Rebecca and reading about it left me totally inspired. As if I need another hobby, I wanted to try my hand at natural dying. After some research I found that walnuts are a great and easy start. A gateway drug, if you will.

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With walnuts, you don’t need a mordant or anything fancy to make the dye work. From one tutuorial I read, you just place a handful of walnut hulls (doesn’t matter the variety of walnuts) into a jar of water and leave it for a week. Which I did. A mold started to grow on the top by day 7, which is when I scooped off the mold and strained the dye. I had a whole slew of Cascade Eco yarn that was left over from a Shalom gone very wrong. I had been wanting to dye it for ages. So I cut off a little bit of yarn and tossed it into the dye for about 20 minutes or so. Maybe longer or maybe less. I didn’t keep track, it was about as long as it took to clean the kitchen with a ‘yank-everything-out-of-the-cupboards’ baby following me.
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And this is how it turned out. I liked it, so I threw about half of my stash into the jar. Ran off to go pick the kids up from school, ran another errand and came home and took it out.
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And this is what I had. Pretty, isn’t it? I rinsed it out and hung it to dry.
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Now I have this incredible autumnal looking yarn to work with. I left half of the yarn undyed so I could make something that was striped. I’m thinking maybe a striped Oatmeal? I don’t know, any knitters have any pattern/design suggestions?
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Do any of you dabble in natural dying? What have you learned? Now I’m eager to learn more!

p.s. You can find me here on Ravelry, and I’m now on Pinterest!

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