The black walnuts are starting to ripen so I can finally try the nut hull as a dye material. I’ve tried them before. I think it’s hard to NOT get any color–on your hands or anything the walnut touches. But I wanted to try dyeing with aluminum acetate.
I gathered a few and used a nut cracker to get the hull off of the nut. But, I didn’t have time to decoct them immediately, so I set them aside in a plastic bag. After a couple days, I looked and looked and the bag was gone. WT??? Stolen black walnuts??? Not my dog…it was the squirrels!! They took the bag and the nuts, so, the first batch was a bust! (I wonder what they did with the plastic bag?)
The next batch I guarded more carefully. My samples…one straight from the black walnut “liquor” and the other was “walnuted” and then dipped in indigo. Black is hard to do at home, whether one is using natural or commercial dyes. Elin Nobel gave me the tip of using walnut WITH indigo. I used it on a silk scarf which had been folded and dipped in indigo. Then I pole-wrapped it and dipped it in black walnut and then dipped in indigo. The combination of black walnut and indigo gives a black swatch (or a navy on my scarf.)
And, if you’re worried about the squirrels? They got their share (the residue material) after I had made my decoction!
My friend Judy Dominic is an artist who works with many fiber arts, including mud cloth, book-making and basketry. When I wrote about dyeing with willow leaves, she commented that she had used willow sticks for basketry. She soaks them for some days and observed a reddish color developing in the water. So, the next time I used willow leaves, I saved the twigs, the yellowy ones as well as the older ones with bark. I boiled them and sure-enough the water turned reddy. But the sample was very light. (Willow 1)
Yup, the first swatch was very light, so I ignored it. Well, I left it by my sink to dry and it stayed there for a day or so. Hey?? It got darker. Did something get on it? Or did it darken on its own? So, I set up another pot…more twigs with bark. And, I dyed a swatch for some (15??) minutes and that’s Willow 2. Willow 3 stayed in the dye pot for another day. Now, they’re all out of their pots and in the book and I’m watching to see if they darken. I think that Willow 2 is a tad darker, but it may just be my eyes.
I’ve been googling willow and I have found several references to it. Mostly the basketers claim willow. But there are dyers comments. I have found a couple references to purple/rose dyes coming from willow. Not many specifics but there are comments about the tannin and the reddish colors. (And, note to self…when you find the reference to the historical use of willow to dye purples in France or the recommendation of willow to dye rose-tan on wool save the URLs because you won’t find them again!!)
Willow makes me think that our ancients must have found a place to stay by some water. There was a tree (that we call willow) and “someones” determined that the wood could be used for furniture or homes. And, it could be used to color wool. A special tree, indeed. OOOOH, I wax too poetic.