Many moons ago at my first ever Royal Fleece Auction I bought two Lincoln fleeces from a shepherd. They were dispatched that day to a wool processing mill, some months later they were returned to me…Being a very new spinner at the time and just learning the intricacies of each sheep breeds fleece, I didn’t realize that this particular mill may not have had equipment that could process a long wool variety so the condition of the fiber didn’t register with me right away. I tried to spin some of it up…to call it “difficult” was a bit of an understatement, after consulting with the experienced spinners of my acquaintance they agreed that the roving was rather felted and felt rougher than a Lincoln should (especially the lamb fleece). Well, Crap! What was I going to do with almost 10 lbs of mostly felted and not so nice feeling roving?
I came up with a solution about two years ago while talking with a co-worker who studied textile arts and my Mum brought me in a few buckets of black walnuts. I had become interested in natural dying, but was not overly keen on the use of some of the heavy metal mordants required to fix the dyes, black walnuts have a naturally high tannin level which means no mordants! As I was heading off to school, any time I had was very quickly absorbed in text books, then came the full time job, but now that we have rearranged things at home, suddenly I have time to dedicate to my little plan!
In a nut shell my plan is to dye this less than stellar roving with my well aged stash of black walnuts and then use it as the weft in either a blanket or rug…am still undecided as to which way that will unfold, guess the final colour will have a large effect.
The first stage was started today when I hauled out the bucket of black walnuts from the garage,
divided them up over 2 pails,
filled with water & have left them to soak in the sun.
I figure in a week (providing the local wildlife leaves the buckets alone!) I should be ready for my first test run/Stage 2. You can see the deep chocolaty brown on the side of the one bucket so I have some high hopes!
Stage 2 will involve a run to the hardware store for some equipment then everything will be strained, the walnuts will be returned to the buckets & soaked again for the next batch. The dye liquid will be placed in a pot with some of the roving where it will simmer away till the dye has been exhausted.
Stage three, is the weaving…