Saturday, October 12, 2013

Fresh From the Dye Pot

I've had the itch to dye some yarn this week and because of the season I decided to use black walnuts.  My friend's yard gets littered with the walnuts each Fall so I knew right where to lay my hands on some. Her daughter kindly collected a large bagful for me and I paid her a little something for her efforts - a win win!  I placed the black walnuts in my large 5 gallon dye pot along with enough water to fill it within a few inches of the rim.  They simmered for about 2 hours at which time I strained off the walnuts leaving a lovely dark brown dye bath.  While the pot was simmering on the stove I soaked some previously mordanted (I use alum and cream of tartar) handspun and machine spun yarn.  Then I placed the wetted yarn in the dye pot and simmered them for  about 1 hour.  The results were a lovely warm medium brown color.  I wanted to see what other shades I could get from this dye bath so some of the yarn went back in to see how dark I could make it and I added a couple of fresh skein to create a lighter shade.  You can see the processes below.

Black walnuts simmering away.  I kept this covered as it can be a little smelly. 

 Yarn soaking in sink.  If throughly wetted the yarn will soak up the dye evenly with no splotches.  Some skeins were previously dyed with osage orange wood chips or annatto seeds but I didn't just love the color so I decided to over-dye them.

Here are the final results drying in the sunshine outside.

The black walnuts were such a success I wanted to dye more yarn.  Dyeing is just as addictive as knitting and spinning for me, but thankfully I go in waves so I don't permanently overtake our tiny kitchen.  I have been collecting avocado skins for some months as I heard they are used as a dyestuff  and really, since we were eating them anyway it makes them free (just like the walnuts - are you seeing a theme?)

Here is the surprising color made by avocado skins.  I found out later I could have used the pits as well as the skins.  Which would have helped dye more yarn as it's a 1:1 ratio by weight.

Here are my single plies drying outside.  I spun them last spring and it has been satisfying to see I have improved quite a bit since then.  Practice, practice, practice as they say.   

Here is a closeup of the peachy tan color.  It kind of reminds me of dyeing with tea by how the yarn looks more aged than colored.  I think it would make a great skin tone for gnome doll faces.  

I will spin more singles to ply with the walnut and avocado skeins.  I've already made this skein with a confetti colored ply (also plant dyed, but with exotic plants mainly) which is already available in my etsy shop SimplyPlaying.  It's twin skein is still drying, but will probably be listed by tomorrow.  The really lumpy bumpy slubby yarn I will knit with myself probably into some more toys  for the shop.  I'm off to clean up my mess in the kitchen now.  Just on a side note, black walnuts contain a toxin that prevents other plants from growing so it is best to throw it in your garbage rather than composting.  

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