Shop Update Nov. 1 – New Yarn!

There are so many things in tomorrow’s shop update (11/1 at 8 pm Eastern) that I’ve considered hoarding for myself. These two batts, for example, keep trying to convince me that want to jump on my wheel right now and be plied together. It’s the blue silk that’s killing me, and I’m always a sucker for brown.

 

Both these batts have wool that was dyed with walnuts foraged from around our farm. Dusty Cowboy (left) also includes acid dyes, but Walnuts and White (right) is all naturally dyed browns mixed with undyed wool and silk noil.

There are three green colorways that feature different moods and a variety of textures. Extra Sprinkles (left) evokes vibrant frosting colors and has loads of pink silk noil. White Fir (top right) is muted, clear blues and greens with deep blue and green sari silk. Brine (lower right) has a base of mucky, swampy green blended with sea foam and periwinkle blue.

 

Peaches, plums, and vibrant purples have made it to the update as well! (Clockwise from the set of minis) Walnut Palette is walnut brown with warm autumn shades. Gentle is a base of light gray with coral, sea foam, and periwinkle. Clay is a gradient from soft yellow to brick red. Vibrant purple Mountains Majesty has magenta sari silk. Wine Grapes may be my favorite from the update with a moody, melancholy purple and deep reds. Finally, Conch Shell is a swirl of peach and coral. Let me know if you can hear the ocean when you hold it to your ear!

 

The last batt I have to share is the first colorway I carded for the update, and the only one I planned before I started dying: Silver and Gold. It has red and green sari silk and lots of sparkle. You can’t do a colorway called “Silver and Gold” and leave out the sparkle! There are rules!!

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There will be braids in the update as well – primarily in Superwash Targhee. I started dying outlandish, lively colors and couldn’t stop!

 

These vibrant tones may have been dyed to balance out the piles of walnut-dyed yarn I was previously working with. I’ve been wanting to dye yarn with farm-grown and foraged materials for a while, but wasn’t inspired by standard, widely-available yarn bases. It was really exciting to find Indie Undyed, which offers yarn in unique wools and has no minimum for wholesale ordering. They also sell retail, if you’re looking to do some dying for personal use.

The first yarns I’ll have available are walnut dyed gradients in Aran weight Shetland wool (left), and DK weight Corriedale wool (right).

 

There will also be a few skeins of Whitefaced Woodland yarn, dyed in solid browns. It is a woolen spun, 3-ply, and though it is classified as DK weight, it seems thin enough to make socks. Because Whitefaced Woodland doesn’t felt, and is a more toothy wool, socks are an excellent application for this rare breed. There will be two shades of brown available.

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The shop update is Wednesday, November 1 at 8 pm Eastern. All items will be available at KnitSpinFarm.etsy.com.

Now, I’m going to  head out into the cold sunshine to collect the last of the walnuts for the year and document how I turn them into dye for an upcoming blog post. See you soon!

J.

Walnuts!

Our walnut trees produce a large number…like, an insanely large number…of green-husked walnuts the size of an overlarge golf ball.

IMGP3231Our old farm includes a stand of tall, mature black walnut trees. I don’t know when in the 150 year history of our farm they were planted, or what the people who planted them hoped they’d become…but I love the trees and am so grateful to the previous owners who had the foresight and patience to give us this gift.

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When we first moved to our farm, the acre of grass around the trees had been mowed regularly, and the stand was very park-like. We’d get frequent visits from local logging companies asking if we wanted to sell the trees. Mature black walnut trees can be turned into big bucks and our little forest was very inviting. When we looked up the value of the trees online, we were tempted to allow some selective harvesting – after all, our old farmhouse needed (and, ten years later, still needs) a lot of expensive attention. Instead, we decided to wait and think of our little walnut grove as a long-term savings account.

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We didn’t mow the grass around the trees. Neither Bill nor I have any affinity for grass or the disruptive noise and energy of lawnmowers, so our walnut forest started producing acres of black raspberry bushes, and we’d spend sticky summer afternoons among thorny vines acquiring scratches and gallons of tart berries. Walnut trees have a chemical called juglone in their branches, leaves, and roots. Juglone is quite mean to many plants which can’t grow under or near walnut trees as a result. Black raspberries don’t care about juglone, however, and the walnut trees provided a safe space for the raspberries to flourish.

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After a few years of growth, we put up a ring of electric fence around our walnuts, and let our sheep, goats, and lambs in to graze. They demolished all the vegetation they could find and the once impenetrable tangle of raspberry vines has become a cropped carpet of grass and weeds again. Goats love raspberry leaves but have little understanding of sustainable harvests.

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Our walnut trees produce a large number…like, an insanely large number…of green-husked walnuts the size of an overlarge golf ball. Inside the husk is an impossibly hard shell which protects the walnut morsels inside, and never – ever – decomposes.

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Red squirrels love walnuts like goats love raspberry leaves. Every autumn the small chipmunk-like rodents collect the nuts for their winter stores, creating huge piles of hard shells in my garage, woodshed, and, I assume, attic. When we pulled out the 1970s era plastic shower form in our bathroom a few years ago, there was a mass of holey walnut shells between it and the wall. The squirrels presumably gained access to the dark corners of our bathroom through the small gap around the shower drain leading into the basement.

If it sounds like these walnut trees are a burden (did I mention the ankle-twisting mine field of nuts I cross 8 times a day to get to the barn, or the thunderous clanks of nuts hitting the metal woodshed roof, or how scary it is to walk under a tree during strong autumn winds, or how the red squirrels have learned to use the nuts as projectile weapons?), I assure you they are not.

Behold:

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Black walnuts produce glorious wash-fast, light-fast natural dyes. You can dye wool, cotton, and your fingers without a mordant and even without applying heat. Walnut dye is one of the simplest, foolproof natural dyes available and can produce a range of delicious tans and browns. You can just throw a bunch of walnuts in a pot of water and add your wool. Wait a few hours or a few days, and pull the fiber out. Rinse (and rinse), and you’re done!

Adding a little more sophistication to the process will give you more repeatable or dynamic results – and I’ll write more about that next time!