Black Walnut (Juglans nigra) dye report.
First up is the info about the best walnuts for dye or ink. They are the green ones as they fall from the trees (here in Ottawa, that means October). This Fall, my three-year old grandson, Dylan, was my foraging companion. We took a nice collecting walk in a nearby walnut grove and gathered both green and black decomposing nuts.
We collected them “eco” style: picking them from under the trees, and not too many, for the critters need their winter supply. It was charmingly “eco” to get down as close to the ground as a three-year old, to examine and discuss every plant, every bug, every lichen-bearing stick; to take over an hour to collect one bag of walnuts, to choose more black squishy ones than hard green ones because the black ones squirted out icky sludgey goo on Nana…
By January, all the walnuts were black and frozen in our unheated storage. No more green ones that give the most colour. Well. We work with what is at hand, thus respecting another principle of an “eco” approach to natural dyeing. Four walnuts fit in my electric dye pot, a small ceramic slow cooker of one litre capacity. To get the most colour out of the black nuts, I thought I should make several dye extractions. In the end, four extractions were possible before the walnuts became sludge …or Nana's Squirting Goo…
For the first extraction, the walnuts were covered with water and simmered at 180 degrees for several hours, at least six, or until the liquid had reduced to about a cup. (One paper bundle and one small silk bundle were dyed in the first extraction)
The walnuts and liquid were then strained in cheesecloth, the dye saved, the four walnuts returned to the crock pot, covered with water, slow simmered for six more hours, then strained as above. The procedure was repeated once more, to make three times, I.O.W., until the walnuts disintegrated. The three litres of water reduced to just over three cups of black-brown dye. These three cups of dye were combined and strained once more. Then they were returned to the dye pot to cook down yet again until reduced to one cup of rich, thickish liquor, like balsamic vinegar:
So three litres of water, four squishy black Black walnuts and four reductions over a total of 24 hours in an electric crockpot..hmmm…I wonder how “eco” that is? At least the squirrels got the sludge.
So what to do with walnut dye?
The cheesecloth used for straining the walnut stew became…a rose by any other name:
Some watercolour paper first stamped with Oshiwa wood blocks and green acrylic paint:
…then washed over with the walnut reduction ( sort of a la Jamie Oliver):
…to this end: a typical antiquing look. The dye settled around thicker paint and created a drop-shadow effect, reversing the original white ground to green.
Some marks with walnut dye made with a paint brush, the dye painted on, dribbled on, splattered on, dripped on watercolour paper. The darkest marks come from a heavier application or a painting over of previous brush strokes:
Marks made on wool in a 2011 walnut dye bath. Vintage wool panels were immersion dyed, bundled with Baby Blue eucalyptus, iron bits, acorns, corn cob, florist fern:
The euc printed acid yellow mostly but also patches of lime green and orange. Of course the deep browns are walnut dye.
Iron bits printed and so did the green florist fern:
I adore the walnut stripes:
A tad of orange from the euc and a clear green print from the fern. How well protein fibres print!
More stripeys in shades of walnut:
And a print from the dried Indian corn cob over which I had bundled this wool fragment:
Hope to make myself a garment from these panels of walnut and eucalyptus prints!
Last pic of walnut markings:
The brown dye seeped along the edges of the small accordion book above, and washed in over the Chokecherry leaves prints.
So far, I can use the straight dye liquid quite successfully as an ink, paint or liquid dye application.
But not yet sure about the right recipe for an ink thickened with gum tragacanth or gum arabic.
Wondering what would work for use with writing pens.
And what preservative might I need? Should I add alum?
Next post: Some local colour…