Sunday, September 30, 2012

'Tis the Season for Walnut Dyeing

Time to harvest these

To achieve this

As with pretty much all my friends in the Northeast, it seems, right now I have a walnut tree nearby dropping nuts all over the place. For tree huggers like me who want to know more: the Black Walnut Tree is also called "Stinkweed" when it's small, because it grows fast and just about anywhere, refusing to yield to weeding -- and when you do manage to pull it up, it stinks.

These trees are wonderful, however, because they produce a great hard wood. Also, you can make dye from the hulls of the fruit. You can even eat the nuts, although I found it hard to get much food out of them. You can stain wood with the hulls, as my Dad did with a salad bowl I bought years ago.

The walnuts are high in tannins, which serve as a mordant and make for a very potent dye. Just look at my gloves:

I recommend you wear gloves

Here's a brief pictorial essay on making dye from black walnuts. I did mordant my fabric, by the way, with about a teaspoon of alum in maybe two gallons of water.

First, you harvest about 20 green to green/brown walnuts per gallon of water. Crush the daylights out of them, removing the nuts themselves. Here, I used a big stone tool. A friend of mine insists that you get better results when you put them in a bag and drive over them. I tried that, too. Either way, you're going to have to work to chop them up into maybe one-inch-wide pieces.

Throw all the crushed hulls, minus the nuts, into a vat of boiling water and then simmer them for about an hour. To me, the dye solution has a wonderful, nutmeg-like smell! Let the whole mixture cool overnight.

You're ready for dyeing. While some sites will tell you to add maybe one cup of dye solution to a gallon of water to dye your fabric, I found that this gave me very pale colors. So now I simpy immerse my fabric directly into this solution, without diluting it at all. The results are a warm golden brown, as I showed you in the photo at the top of the page. Here it is again:

The fabric, by the way, is three yards of 100% wool gauze, originally in off-white, purchased at the famed and wonderful fabric shop, Delectable Mountain, in Brattleboro, Vermont. (The name comes from the book Pilgrim's Progress, although e.e. cummings also refers to "Delectable Mountains" in his book, The Enormous Room.) The website, which I highly recommend:

Friday, September 21, 2012

Next on the Loom, Something Simple: Indigo-Dyed Cotton Rugs

Warping from the back, without tension

After working with hand-dyed warps of 60/2 silk and filament-like overtwist weft, it's time for something very simple: cotton rugs! I need a bathroom rug and so does my daughter (I think), so I'm warping with "Newport" pearl cotton from Henry's Attic, 830 yards per pound, sett at 8 epi. The warp will be about 30" wide on the loom, aiming for a 2' wide rug after some shrinkage. We'll see what happens.

The weft is also indigo-dyed, also from Henry's Attic: Pigtail (on the right, at 175 yards per pound) and cotton chenille (on the left, weighing in at 500 yards per pound, which sounds like I'm announcing a prize fight). I'm planning on weaving alternating stripes. The rugs should wind up about a 2' x 3' size each. Again, we'll see what happens!

Friday, September 7, 2012

New on Etsy: Half Moon Jacket and "Fleur de Laine" Scarf

The credit goes to Noro Silk Garden Lite -- a yarn that works magic with colors, in a soft blend of wool and silk -- as well as to the creator of this wonderful sweater pattern. It's the "Sunrise Circle Jacket," available from Kate Gilbert at

The scarf in the photo was crocheted using the same yarn, but the pattern is my own. I call it a "Fleur de Laine Scarf," as it's composed of dozens of small, medium, and large "flowers" crocheted in a circle, just as you would a yarmulke! I'm giving a course on the technique this fall at the Weaving and Fiber Arts Center. (See "The Center" at or check out my page on courses in this blog.)

A few more views of this jacket, which I knitted using size 6 circular needles. It's a size large to extra large, following the directions for size 38 in the pattern.

For many more versions of this wonderful sweater, check out! If you're a knitter and you haven't yet joined, I heartily suggest you do.

What's on the Loom?

More accurately, what's going on the loom? At this writing, I'm in the process of winding on a painted warp for a Jin design on 28 ...