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Dyeing with Black Walnut Hulls
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1. Do we dye our baskets before or
after we weave them?
If your baskets are small and you want them to be all one color, it's easiest to
weave the basket first. Then mix your dye in a kitchen pail or USG-type bucket.
Immerse the basket for the number of desired minutes. This is without a doubt
the easiest way to go.
If you want to combine colors, naturally you're going to dye the reed separately
and weave the colors as needed. Furthermore, if you're weaving a large
basket, the easiest thing to do is to pre-dye the reed. Set the dye color with a
glug or two of vinegar in the final rinse. If it's a particularly rich color, as
you pick up a reed weaver to weave, wipe the reed with a cloth to remove excess
2. How do I make my basket pattern
There ARE formulas for this. I personally don't use a formula. I use a tape
measure to estimate the spoke length as it's going to run from the top,
down the side, across the bottom, up the side again. Add extra length for
cutting and tucking. Then you need to figure out the number of spokes. VERY
IMPORTANT: you need an odd number of spokes if a centered handle or D-handle is
going to be involved. Divide the desired diameter of the basket by the spoke
width plus space between spokes. For example, a 12" square base. 12" divided by
1/2" spoke + 1/4" space. 12 divided by 3/4"= 16 spokes.
3. How do I dye with black walnut hulls?
If you're one of the lucky ones with a black walnut tree in your yard, you need
to get a plastic trash can to keep your brew in. No need to hull the nuts. The
green part is going to produce the dye. Put the nuts in a nylon stocking, mesh
onion bag, burlap sack or even an old pillow case. Tie with a strong cord, and
tie this cord to the handle of the trash barrel. Cover with water and let soak
till you have a nice brown dye bath. Maybe a week. Maybe less. Experiment with
it. The bag should keep the dye from getting too messy, but if it still gets
chunks of hull, strain out the pieces. Place the basket in the dye until color
is as desired. You can use it over and over again. Add more hulls as needed. Add
vinegar ( OR ammonia) to keep the mold down. Keep the can covered
unless you have a bizarre sense of humor when it comes to the neighborhood
raccoons- who are always looking for a swimming hole.
5. Can we use wood stains for baskets?
There are so many "real" basket dyes and stains out there now, that you don't
have to. Wood dyes will be much drier. But if you just can't resist that thrifty
streak, mix your old wood dye with boiled linseed oil (No, don't boil the
linseed oil.) and you'll have a very decent stain that you can paint on, or pour
over, or even spray on. Ratio is up to the individual, but start with 2:1. Stain
to Boiled Linseed Oil.