Juglans regia, feuilles de noyer, Walnussblätter, hojas de nogal, duilleoga gallchnó
It’s the time of year when I remind myself that if I don’t go and pick some green walnuts soon, they’ll be too hard to cut for nocino. Only last week we found two more “wild” trees while out walking doggie and another one on the way back from harvesting, so now that makes seven. Sounds like the making of a poem or song.
I also gathered enough leaves to experiment with dyeing. The results were interesting, even though at first I confused my mordanted with unmordanted samples. The unmordanted yarn was clearly “marked”, but produced slightly lighter shades. Ethel Mairet wrote that mordanted yarns produce a “brighter and richer colour”. I’ll definitely try again, and also with dried leaves.
From the top: unmordanted, mordanted, unmordanted + alkaline modifier, mordanted + alkaline modifier, unmordanted + acid modifier, mordanted + acid modifier.
The alkaline (bicarb) brought out more brown, whereas the acid (vinegar) brought out a redder tone.
When the leaves were simmering, they smelled surprisingly like rhubarb leaves and did not take long to yield their colour into the water.
And the nuts? They’re already turning the vodka dark and bitter. After steeping for a month or so, the liquor will be strained and bottled and ready to drink this time next year. Well worth the wait!
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.