Black Walnut-Dyed Yarn: Gathering Materials
This past November, we walked through my parent's woods to see how the forest was preparing for winter. Checking in on the trees is something my dad and I love to do together, making sure they are healthy and if they need any care. One of my favorite types of trees in my parent’s woods are the walnut trees. In the summer, their branches and leaves look amazing within the canopy, creating fans of pointed leaves.
During the late fall, the walnut trees are bare and walnuts are resting on the forest floor, being snacked on by squirrels or slowly decomposing into the undergrowth. I had read quite a bit on dye materials, and knew fresh walnuts with their thick green skins produce a stunning rich brown color, but had not seen anything on what an end of season walnut dye might look like. So, to use what was available, my mom and I collected a bucket full to test the dye potential.
We had so much fun hunting for the walnuts, trying to find the nuts with the most outer skin and shell in tact, so I could use the skin, shell and walnut meat within the dye pot. We made sure to never take all the nuts from any one tree, as the squirrels would need food to get through the winter.
Gathering walnuts brought back a ton of memories for my mom, as she grew up hunting for black walnuts with her dad, who enjoyed roasting and eating them. The flavor is much stronger than a regular walnut, and is definitely an acquired taste. I can still remember the smell of walnuts roasting at my grandparents' house, and their deep earthy taste in grandma's banana bread.
With the walnuts collected, I was able to get a better idea of how much yarn I could dye with the amount of nuts I had gathered. For dyeing yarn, you will want to use the same weight of dye materials as yarn - so 500g or walnuts will dye 500g of yarn. We had gathered several pounds of nuts, which could make several batches of dye, so I decided to start with four skeins for my first batch.
Since this would be my first time dyeing, I wanted to try out a mix of different fibers, yarn weights and brands to see what dyed best. I used 1 skein Jumbo Andean Handspun by Purl Soho, 1 skein 100% Baby Aplaca Natural by We Are Knitters, and 2 skeins Crazy Sexy Wool by Wool and The Gang. I have a few knitting projects planned for each of these fibers, which I am excited to share on the Acre once completed.
Dyeing yarn is a slow process, and is definitely not a weekend project, but I have found it so rewarding. Taking time to hunt for a dye material, pick out a range of fibers and dream of what color it will produce has been so exciting. I am looking forward to seeing these beautiful white yarns transform into a walnut-y shade in the coming post!