Grackle & Sun

Archive for the tag “walnut stain”

At the Burrow DyeTable # 7: Lychee LOSE & Walnut WIN

This whole dyeing thing never ceases to amaze me.  Just when I think maybe I’ve figured something out, the dyepot decides to teach me a lesson.

Call me grasshopper.

Back in May when I started the monster avocado pit extraction, I made another little experimental extraction on the side.  One day the kiddos were eating lychees, and I looked over and saw the pile of pits on the plate and a light bulb went off in my head:  if avocado pits can dye things, maybe lychee pits can, too!  So I took the pits and stuck them in a jar and covered them with ammonia and water just like I did for the avocado pits.  And you know what happened?  Let me show you…

Dye Notes:

Dyestuff:  Lychee

Part used:  Pits

Source:  Grocery store/Asian market

Yarn:  Lion Brand Fisherman’s Wool mordanted in 8% aluminum potassium sulfate and 7% cream of tartar

Ratio of dyestuff to fiber:  I used 18 lychee pits, which weighed out to roughly 54g.  The little skein of yarn was around 46g.  So I had slightly better than a 1:1 ratio, bonus points to the dyestuff.

Extraction method:  I left the pits whole and put them in a jar with a 1:1 ratio of water to ammonia.  Started getting colour pretty fast.

This is just on day two.  I added more pits over the next few days.

The extraction went from this clear red to couldn’t-see-through-it brown in under a month:

Total extraction time, approximately 5 months.  I occasionally opened up the jar and shook it up to oxygenate the solution.  I’ve read that it helps other extractions, so I figured why not.  It never molded or got funky.  Just got darker and darker.

Dyebath:  So the pH of the lychee dye liquor was 9.8.  The pH of my tap water is 8.8.  Together they made a pH at room temperature of 9.1.  I didn’t measure out the amount of water since it’s not supposed to effect saturation of the dye, but I’d guess about a gallon to a gallon and a half of tapwater to the one jar (maybe 12 oz) of dye liquor.   I added the yarn and brought it up to a temperature window of 185-200F for an hour.  At this temp, the pH was 6.6.  Isn’t it amazing how much some of these solutions drop when heated?  Maybe it’s not.  I’m not a chemist, so I don’t know why it happens or if it effects the dye results, but I’d like to know.  When I’ve got more time on my hands, I’m going to try to sort this out.  Maybe someone’s done some research on it already…  I did not add the actual pits to the dyebath since the dye liquor was so strong already.

I left the yarn to cool overnight.  Only that turned into 2 nights.  And when I checked on it, I was surprised by the utter lack of saturation of any good colour.  Hmmmm.

So I decided to chop up the lychee pits, toss them in pantyhose and add the to the dyebath.  I reheated the whole shebang again for another hour and left  it overnight to cool one more time.


Nothing.  Zilch.  Next to no colour at all.  WTH?

Rinsed and awaiting my disapproval.

Lesson learned?  Just because you have a super saturated extraction doesn’t mean it will dye anything.  Maybe I did something wrong?  Maybe some dyestuffs just don’t dye well.  Maybe this would have worked on silk or hemp better than wool?  I don’t know, but I’d like to find out.  I know that this lychee thing can work.  I just have to figure out how…  But listen, we can’t end on a lame bummer dye job.  Besides this wasn’t a total FAIL, because the yarn was pretty much ready to overdye immediately.  So overdye I did.

On to Walnut WIN!

The last time I tried dyeing with walnuts wasn’t so successful.  I didn’t realize that though the nuts and shells will give off colour,  it’s the green hulls that do the real dyeing.  It took a failed dyebatch to learn that lesson.  But learn it I did, and then I waited patiently for a new batch of walnuts to fall.  Every autumn, my Gran asks for help clearing her yard of the millionty walnuts that fall from her neighbor’s tree.  Usually she just chucks them back into her neighbor’s yard (which makes me grin), but this year I was only too happy to help.  I took home two 5 gallon buckets, two 2 gallon bucket, and 3 trash bags full of walnuts.  That’s a lotta nuts.  I made the mistake of setting them outside until I could soak them.  We’ve got very, very ballsy squirrels in the city.  They helped themselves to quite a few of the nuts, tearing right into the trash bags to get them.  So much so, that I finally made a peace offering and emptied the remains of the 3 trash bags under the tree where our squirrel family lives.  I figured, they’ve got to survive the winter.  I just need some dye to play with.  No contest.  I did keep the two 5 gallon buckets and filled them with water.  After the squirrels took all the nuts under the tree—ALL OF THEM—they actually started taking walnuts out of the water in the big buckets.  So I replenished those with what was left in the 2 gallon buckets and then covered them.  I don’t know if it’ll be squirrel proof, what is?  But it seems to have slowed them down.  Enough for me to get one batch of dye, anyway.

Dye Notes:

Dyestuff:  Black Walnut (juglans nigra)

Part used:  Green hulls

Source:  The Haggencrone’s yard

Yarn:  Lion Brand Fisherman’s Wool mordanted with 8% aluminum potassium sulfate and 7% cream of tartar

Ratio of dyestuff to fiber:  No clue.  I just poured about a gallon of the dye liquor out of the bucket.  Again, it’s about a 46g hank of wool yarn.

Extraction method:  This is a pretty fresh batch of walnut juice.  It’s only been soaking in water for about a week or so.  Doesn’t take long to get good colour of of the hulls.  I’m told, though, that letting it all mold and ferment just makes for richer, darker browns.  It’ll be interesting to see what I get as time goes by.

Could totally do some scrying in this pot.

Dyebath:  The pH of the dyebath at room temp was 6.2.  I heated the dyebath to a temperature window between 185-200F.  The pH at 198F was 5.9.  I held the dyebath in this temperature window for just over an hour and then let the yarn cool in the bath overnight.

The Results?

Mad awesome brown.  Here it is fresh from the dyepot, rinsed and hanging to dry:

And here it is after drying:

This looks a smidge brighter since it’s in full sun.  It’s actually a little darker than this.  I’m really pleased with the results.  I’ll do a lightfastness test, but anticipate that it’ll hold up pretty well.  I opted not to modify with iron, because I really like the colour as is, but I would like to play around with some iron in the dyepot and as an afterdip.  Now I have to figure out what to knit…

Live happy, dye happy!

Paper Floor

So, we had this great idea to inexpensively replace our crap kitchen floor with an awesome paper floor.  We like to do home renovation projects, and since we’ve done everything else in our house ourselves, we figured we could roll up our sleeves and give this a try.  If it worked, great, if not, we were only out a little dosh and a lotta time.  Cue foreshadowing…

We used this really awesome tutorial from Lovely Crafty Home.  She’s taken the time to put together a very helpful guide for doing this technique, and the floors in her house look amazing.  It’s really brilliant.  We followed all the instructions as per the tutorial.

Here is our paper floor journey in pictures:

Removing the crap press-on fake linoleum tiles AND the real linoleum to which they were irrevocably glued.

Seriously jacked up hardwood. :(

First Layer.

Second Layer.

Applying dark walnut stain. Actually, the easiest part of this whole process.

Husband is a rock star.

Look how beautiful!

So freaking excited! Hurry up and DRY, stain!

On with the poly. This is where it all went downhill…

Ok.  So are you with me so far?  Researched and read all the interwebs.  Found awesome tutorial.  Followed all instructions.  Used all the recommended products.  The only divergence at this point is that we did 2 layers of paper, because it was necessary to get a smooth paper layer and not see the wood planks underneath, and we waited longer before polying so that the stain would dry as much as possible.  Until this point, everything went BEAUTIFULLY.  It took approximately 16 hours to do both layers of the floor, and probably another 2 hours to stain, but it all went smoothly and according to plan.

This is where I should have listened to my gut.

Although the tutorial says to put the poly on with a sponge applicator, we never should have put the poly on with the sponge pad applicator.  I know that many people have done many floors in their houses and had great results with this.  I know that it can work.  BUT:  I’ve poly’d a time or two in my day.  I’ve never had a problem applying poly except for the 2 times when I listened to others’ advice on how to do it—once when I was told to rub it on with a rag (am having to completely redo all the woodwork in my dining room because of that bit of advice), and this time when I was told to put it on with a sponge pad.  Never, ever again.  Brush that shit on, people!  I knew we should have brushed it on.  I knew it, I knew it, I knew it.  I cannot kick myself enough times for how dumb I feel for not listening to my gut on this one.  Why?  Because this happened:

See the haze? Unhappy poly.

The sun is also exclaiming it’s disappointment.

One little spot that I managed to clean with denatured alcohol. However, in other areas, the denatured alcohol did absolutely nothing or made the clouding worse.

It’s really, really important to me that you all understand that I am not blaming the tutorial, which is awesome, or saying that the applicator method is wrong.  Clearly it works really well for some people.  What I’m saying is, if in doubt, use a brush.  It’s the best way to totally control the coverage.  This happened within an hour of putting on the first coat of poly.  I think that our particular issue was due to putting the poly on too thin.  The tutorial really stresses putting it on super thin.   I think that’s because usually when people jack up poly, it’s because they put it on too thick.  But too thin can also be a problem, because the poly dries faster than all the moisture can escape it.  There were a few areas where it came out clear, and that’s where it went on with an appropriate thickness. The next day I spent an hour at Home Depot talking with their floor expert guy and also on the phone with the rep for the poly that we used.  Both of them said that they were surprised the method worked at all because we used a water-based glue + an oil stain + a water-based poly.  All big no-no’s apparently.  They also agreed that the ashy haze was probably due to it being too thin and that using a brush would have worked better.  Neither of them liked the applicator pads.  Again, clearly it can work, because it has done so beautifully for many people.  However, for those of you for whom this technique did not work, it’s not a total surprise.

The sad part is that there was nothing to do to fix it.  I read through all the comments on both the tutorial and everywhere on the internet that I could.  Others have had this problem.  Some tried sanding it off.  I tried, but it just tore at the paper.  One woman who had the same “too thin” problem, was able to successfully remove the entire thing with denatured alcohol.  I tried, but it only helped in a couple spots and made others worse.  Everyone else just had to re-lay the whole floor from scratch.

The good news is this:  It’s a really cool technique and is gorgeous when done right.  If I were to do it again, I would buff the floor with beeswax or butcher’s wax instead of polying it.  I think that would work well.  Also, this floor is in the kitchen of a family with two kids and a big dog.  Even though it has only one half-assed coat of poly, after over a month, it doesn’t have so much as a scratch on it.  It is still perfectly intact.  I’m really impressed with how durable it’s been.  And honestly, before the ruined poly, I thought it was the prettiest floor I’d ever seen—just like burnished antique leather.  So pretty that I’d be tempted to try to redo the whole thing… except that I know I’d be totally heartbroken if it failed again.   For now, I think it’s just going to become the fancy failed underlayment for a new floor.

Total bonus?  Husband and I got to spend a lot of time together.  It was fun, and we learned a lot.  I don’t regret trying this floor at all.  I know that at some point we’ll try it again.  Next time it will work.  :D

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