After coming across some walnut trees a few years ago, I decided to try pickling the unripe fruits, then discovered a recipe for nocino. The fruits are cut up, then steeped in vodka, sugar, lemon zest and spices for a month. It only takes a few days for the mixture to start turning black, which got me thinking; if the walnuts can stain anything in sight (hands, chopping boards, counter-tops, etc), maybe they can also dye yarn?
After the four weeks were up, I strained and bottled the mixture, then put the leftover walnuts and spices to good use. They were boiled for about an hour, then alum-mordanted yarn was added. I didn’t bother weighing or measuring as it seemed futile. The walnuts were added to the original mixture by number, not weight, and there was naturally some difference in size.
The yarn was heated for another hour, then left overnight before rinsing. The smell was like Christmas cake from the start of the process to the very end, and one year later the yarn still smells yummy. I might try making something with it if I can bear to stop smelling it.
And the colour? A deep, honey-brown… the colour of Christmas cake mixture in the mixing bowl, when it’s just ripe for dipping the finger in for a taste… The resulting liqueur is pretty good, I have to say. Viscous and deep black-green with just the right amount of bitterness. It’s best left for a year to mature, and has now become a yearly ritual.