Steely Seamstress

Sewing for life

#1Year1Outfit – Dyeing with Walnut Shells


It’s nearly November and I’ve realised I haven’t made much for #1Year1Outfit. I had really been hoping to have some Bristol cloth by now, but it isn’t in production yet. So I’ve decided to have another look at knitting. I’m really hoping I can remember how to knit – it’s been such an age since I picked up my knitting needles.

Knitting is still mostly a mystery to me. For this reason, I have made some unadventurous choices for my second make. I’ve bought some more Blue-faced Leicester wool, which I used previously for my scarf. The wool is 100% British and I bought it at Wool in Bath, which is a great shop for browsing, advice and general wool-fondling. I bought two skeins (200g wool in total), which Laura in Wool reckoned I needed for my project.

For the dye bath, I collected walnut shells. The Natural Dyeing book from the library (an ancient tome from the 1970s), just mentions dyeing with walnut husks for a deep brown, but I only had the shells. However, a little look on the internet, confirmed that others had experimented with walnut shells and got a pleasing coffee colour. Walnuts contain tannin, nature’s own mordant, so I didn’t need to mordant the wool before dyeing.

Walnut Shells

First of all, I boiled the shells for about an hour. With relief, I noticed that walnuts give off a very pleasant smell, much better than the disgusting dock leaves. To dye the wool, I just added it to the dye bath and boiled for another hour. There was a little too much wool for one saucepan, so I had to split the dye and wool between two saucepans. I think the two skeins are slightly different shades, but I’m not sure it is that noticeable.

Walnut dyed wool

I’m planning to make a shrug with the wool from this Circular Shrug pattern I found on Ravelry. I hope this is a suitable next step as far as knitting is concerned. I’m keen to make an item of clothing, rather than an accessory and the pattern seems quite simple. There are a few projects that have been made with this pattern and one poster comments about “how boring it was to knit”. This sounds good to me; if it was boring for an experienced knitter, it might be easy for a beginner! The pattern though does extend my knitting repertoire, requiring both rib stitch and mock rib stitch. I decided to make up a swatch to calculate my gauge and get familiar with mock rib stitch. There seem to be some variations with mock rib stitch and I decided to use this, which seemed the simplest:

Row 1: *K1 P1*, repeat from *

Row 2: P across all stitches


Now on with the serious knitting……


Author: steelyseamstress

Sewing a new wardrobe

3 thoughts on “#1Year1Outfit – Dyeing with Walnut Shells

  1. I’m finding knitting quite hard but I think I will take it up when 1year1outfit is over.
    I like the idea of dyeing with walnut shells – coffee is a good colour but obviously we can’t use it…

    • Yes, I’m finding knitting a challenge. I’m soooo slow and I can see that my knitting abilities are nowhere near my skill at sewing. But my rib stitch is coming along and I even managed to fix some dropped stitches today (big achievement). I’m looking forward to making some lovely cosy wool sweaters and cardigans.

  2. Pingback: #1Year1Outfit – Walnut Circular Shrug | Steely Seamstress

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