This is a blog about the pursuits of Naturalist Alan Russo to incorporate all things Natural, especially Plants, into his daily life. Living close to Nature has always been a passion of mine and I try, with natures help, to live a Healthy lifestyle for myself and for the Earth.

Monday, January 31, 2011

A Lesson Learned.......Maybe

  Sometimes things don't turn out the way you expect them too.
I have a bunch of Black Walnut dye thats been sitting in my garage for about a year now. Last year at Black Walnut harvest time, I filled a bucket with a bunch of  already brown walnut husks, than I filled the bucket with water just enough to cover the husks. After a few weeks I strained the thick brown liquid through a strainer and bottled the liquid with the intention of doing some natural tie dye. I had over two gallons. I left one in its natural state and after reading on the internet that you can make the dye much darker by adding iron nails to the liquid, I added a bunch of iron nails to the second gallon as an experiment. The shirts came out better than I ever imagined and since the dye is light and colorfast, even without a mordant, the shirts still look good to this day after many washings. I also used the dye to stain a vase I made out of Ash, a light colored wood, and it came out as good as, if not better than, a walnut stain you can by in the store. I also dyed an some raw hide for lacing and drum making and they came out great. Anyway, after playing around with the dye, I decide to keep what was left for future use.
  The weather was exceptionally warm yesterday and conducive to playing with water outside again so I decided to drag out the dye and do some tie dye again. Everything looked normal and the one that had the nails in it (for a year now) was pitch black! I was excited to see the results.I did the usual tie dye thing and the shirts came out of the dyes looking incredible, super dark and even and I couldn't wait to get the rubber bands off to see the design. I rinsed the shirts in clear water as I have always done as not to have the dye bleed into the design. 99.9% of the dye came out! I couldn't believe it didn't work! I did everything the same as I always have done but all the dye washed out and left the shirts just looking really dirty and not at all dyed. I couldn't figure out what went wrong.
 I rinsed the shirts off the best I could and decided to try using Alum as a mordant to see if this would help. Well, after cooking the shirts in Alum I tried the process over again, minus the tyeing . I even decided to let The shirts sit in the dye over night.I started to try to figure what the problem was and narrowed it down (in my mind) to two choices. One, since the shirts were a different manufacturer, I thought the shirts might be treated with something that was not on the label. Two, some unknown process was at work in the dye, over all this time, that rendered it not colorfast somehow. As a control, I decided to dye another shirt with Turmeric to see if it was the shirt was the problem.
  Well, today I took the shirts out of the dye and rinsed them in cool clear water and all the dye came out again! The shirt I did with Turmeric came out beautifully, so I guess it isn't the shirts. Just to continue the testing, I stained a piece of pine with both Walnut stains to see what would happen and the both worked OK, not as well as they did last year, but still usable.
  So what is the lesson here? I'm not really sure, as I still don't know the real reason it didn't work. I will have to wait till Walnut harvest season again next year to make a final conclusion, till than, I will experiment some more with staining wood with the dye. As a side note, I also had saved some Poke berry Dye from last year and instead of being purple it is now an orange yellow! (see photo)

Walnut Dye
Turmeric Dyed Shirt (after washing)
Top: Left Side- with nails.  Right Side-Plain Walnut
Bottom: Left Side- Fresh Poke Juice   Right Side- Old Poke Juice

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Respite from the Cold

   It's been stupid cold here in NC and we recently got about 4" of snow. Morning temps in the teens and highs mid to upper 30s. Not my favorite kind of weather (I left NY to get away from it and it's warmer there!) so I haven't been inclined to Pursue lately.
  We are having a warm spell, the snow has melted and its warm enough for me to feel creative again. I have had this idea for a bowl and finally got out to the garage to work on it. It's not a totally original idea, I got the idea from a photo I had seen in a book, but I did put my own spin on it, and I'll bet that person didn't make their own cordage!
  I have such beautiful Black Walnut from a friends tree I cut down for her. It was coming down anyway so why not put the wood to good use and give it a second life. I like to combine other natural materials with my turnings.I collect stuff from where ever I go and the bark I made the cordage from was gathered while walking through the woods with a group of kids I was teaching on LI. Not sure but I think it is Basswood as Basswood has great fiber in the inner bark and makes a good rope and there is plenty of Basswood in the area I was in.
  I actually started the bowl many months ago. When you turn green wood you have to do it in two steps. First you rough turn the bowl to a basic shape and leave it to dry slowly in a paper bag filled with shavings from the bowl itself. As it dries it will warp, hopefully not more than the thickness you turned it. Also you need to be lucky it doesn't crack as it warps.After a few months it comes out of the bag and allowed to dry in the open air. Now it gets turned again to the final shape and hopefully it was dry enough not to warp anymore or crack. The cordage was made the way I described in a post awhile back. Hope you like it!